Since 2005, the Alberta Geological Survey (AGS) has undertaken detailed review of the near real-time data stream from a sensor network installed on the South Peak of Turtle Mountain. AGS has initiated numerous supporting studies to better understand the style and rate of movement of the slowly moving rock mass. The South Peak site has been termed the Turtle Mountain Field Laboratory, as it is intended that the data from the sensor network at the site be used by the international geotechnical research community to develop a better understanding of the mechanics of slowly moving rock masses, instrumentation for measuring these movements and the application of new technologies.
Studies of the near real-time data stream have highlighted trends corresponding with both seasonal thermal cycles and with slow, long term creep of the South Peak mass. In most cases, the instrumentation performed well during most of 2006 with some performance issues and maintenance concerns associated with meteorological conditions. In general, the trends observed highlighted very slow movement along the deep fractures to the west side of South Peak, in the order of less than a millimetre per year. During 2006, the more active portions of the peak had not yet been instrumented, but results from previous photogrammetric analyses indicated movements of many millimetres per year on the eastern and northern portions of South Peak.
Supporting studies have relied on the application of new remote sensing techniques to gather information regarding the structure and instability on Turtle Mountain in its entirety. Newly acquired light detection and ranging (LiDAR) data have enabled the generation of a high resolution, bare ground model of the mountain, which has led to new observations of potential historic and ongoing movements at other portions of Turtle Mountain. New insights from the model allow for a more refined delineation of the structures that control instability on South Peak.