Technical and Consulting Services.

Surface Search Inc. provides shallow geophysical surveying and data analysis services for a wide variety of industry groups. We are experienced in acquiring geophysical data using multiple surface geophysics methodologies. Our surveys are typically designed to image/map subsurface features from only a few centimetres up to hundreds of metres in depth.

Geotechnical Site Investigations

Surface Search Inc. provides shallow geophysical surveying and data analysis services for geotechnical and civil engineers.

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Pipeline Design Engineering

For proposed pipeline construction projects, Surface Search Inc. offers shallow geophysical surveying.

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Environmental Investigations

shallow geophysics to detect, delineate and map a wide variety anthroprogenic (man-made) subsurface features.

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Shallow Exploration

Offering several deeper penetrating (e.g. 50-250m), yet still “shallow” geophysical methodologies for the exploration of economic resources.

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Non-Destructive Testing

Offering a variety of geophysical methodologies to measure subsurface material properties or to scan existing infrastructure.

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Services with Accuracy.

Shallow Geophysical Survey.

Geophysical surveys represent environmentally non-destructive means to explore ground conditions over broad areas and provide contiguous subsurface information in 2 or 3-dimensions.

Hidden Geo-Hazards Revealed.

Users of shallow geophysics obtain the advantage of being able to detect and map specific targets of interest to an investigation that may otherwise be missed altogether by a borehole drilling program.


  • Depth to Bedrock Surveying and Mapping
  • Soil Sequence Stratigraphy Imaging and Mapping (clay, silt, sand, gravel, cobbles & boulders)
  • In-Situ Material Properties Testing (eg. shear-wave analysis, electrical resistivity, rock rippability)
  • 3-D Subsurface Imaging and Mapping
  • Buried Object Detection
  • Void Detection / Imaging
  • Shallow Oil/Gas Exploration
  • Groundwater Exploration
  • Shallow Marine Surveying and Sub-Bottom Profiling
  • Lake/River Bathymetry, Ice Thickness

Surface Search Inc. provides shallow geophysical surveying and data analysis services for a wide variety of industry groups. We are experienced in acquiring geophysical data using multiple surface geophysics methodologies. Our surveys are typically designed to image/map subsurface features from only a few centimetres up to hundreds of metres in depth.

A comprehensive understanding of what lies beneath the surface within the confines of your project area matters. Encountering unforeseen subsurface features can be detrimental to your overall project budget and completion schedule. Shallow geophysics helps to increase your preparedness by providing the capacity to investigate, detect and map mission critical subsurface features throughout a project area, well beyond what can be inferred from borehole drilling programs alone.

2D & 3D Underground Vision

Shallow geophysics enables users to visualize underground features in-between and beyond borehole locations. Where detailed information is required, surveys can be completed over gridded layouts to produce 3-Dimensional views of subterranean features.

Hidden Geo-Hazards Revealed

Users of shallow geophysics obtain the advantage of being able to detect and map specific targets of interest to an investigation that may otherwise be missed altogether by a borehole drilling program.

Investigation Stealth & Portability

Survey methodologies used for shallow geophysical investigations are typically hand-portable and environmentally non-destructive. Often geophysical survey data can be acquired over areas that are either not feasible or simply too expensive for a drill rig to access.

Value Per Data Sample

Whereas borehole drilling programs may complete one or two holes in day, surface geophysics is capable of providing 100’s or even 1000’s of linear horizontal metres of detailed sampling of the physical properties of the ground within the same time frame.

Our Methods

Electrical Resistivity Tomography (ERT)Electrical Resistivity Tomography (ERT) is an advanced geophysics method used to determine the subsurface’s resistivity distribution by making measurements on the ground surface. ERT data are rapidly collected with an automated multi-electrode resistivity meter. ERT profiles consist of a modeled cross-sectional (2-D) plot of resistivity (Ω·m) versus depth. ERT interpretations, supported by borehole data or alternate geophysical data, accurately represent the geometry and lithology and/or hydrology and/or petrology of subsurface geologic formations.

ERT measures resistivity. Resistivity, measured in Ω·m, is the mathematical inverse of conductivity. It is a bulk physical property of materials that describes how difficult it is to pass an electrical current through the material. Resistivity measurements can be made with either an alternating current (AC) or a direct current (DC). As resistivity measurements are frequency dependent, care must be taken when comparing resistivity values collected using different techniques.

Clay materials, metallic oxides, and sulfide minerals are the only common sedimentary materials that can carry significant electrical current through the material itself. As such, the resistivity of most near surface sedimentary materials is primarily controlled by the quantity and chemistry of the pore fluids within the material. Any particular material can have a broad range of resistivity responses that is dependent on the level of saturation, the concentration of ions, the presence of organic fluids (such as non-aqueous phase liquids, NAPLs), faulting, jointing, weathering, etc.

The general principals that ERT is based on have been in use by geophysicists for almost a century. Recent advances to field equipment and data processing procedures have made rapid 2D surveys routine and 3D surveys possible. Old-style 1D resistivity surveys are still common and are useful on many occasions, but encounter interpretation problems in areas of complex 2D or 3D geology.

Ground Penetrating RadarGround Penetrating Radar (GPR) is a general term to describe methods that use radio waves to probe subsurface objects or geologic features. GPR is a non-invasive electromagnetic (EM) geophysical technique for subsurface exploration and characterization. Using radar principals, GPR systems transmit impulse electromagnetic energy (i.e. radio waves) into the ground and detect echoes, or reflected wave front energy at surface. This process is somewhat similar to p-wave seismic reflection methods and theoretical similarities exist between the kinematic properties of elastic and electromagnetic wave propagation.

The concept of using radio waves to probe the subsurface is not new and the GPR method evolved from research projects conducted in the Arctic and Antarctic during the late 1950’s where Radio Echo Sounding (RES) techniques were used to determine the depth of ice sheets and glaciers (Bogordsky et al. 1969). The use of radar to provide subsurface ground information began in earnest in the 1970’s as research activity associated with the Apollo 17 Lunar sounder experiments led to many articles being written on theory and feasibility of the GPR technique. The first practical applications of GPR focused on permafrost soil applications (Annan and Davis 1976) and, as the knowledge base for the strengths and weakness’ of GPR became better understood, so did the diversity of the ground conditions and applications for where it was used (Ulriksen 1982).

Today, ground penetrating radar is one of the more commonly used geophysical devices for obtaining shallow ground information. GPR data is relatively quick and inexpensive compared with other methods. Obtained results provide location and depth information for detected/interpreted subsurface features. GPR has the highest resolution of any geophysical method for imaging the subsurface, with centimetre scale resolution sometimes possible.

Induced PolarizationInduced Polarization (IP) is a geophysical method used extensively in mineral exploration and mine operations. The IP survey is very similar to electrical resistivity tomography (ERT). Resistivity and IP methods are often applied on the ground surface using multiple four-electrode sites. In an IP survey, in addition to resistivity measurement, capacitive properties of the subsurface materials are determined as well. As a result, IP surveys provide additional information about the spatial variation in lithology and grain-surface chemistry.

IP survey can be made in time-domain and frequency-domain mode. In time domain Induced polarization method, voltage decay is observed as a function of time after the injected current is switched off. In frequency-domain Induced polarization mode, an alternating current is injected into the ground with variable frequencies. Voltage phase-shifts are measured to evaluate impedance spectrum at different injection frequencies, which is commonly referred to as spectral IP.

IP method is one of the most widely used techniques in mineral exploration and mining industry and it has other applications in hydrogeophysical surveys, environmental investigations and geotechnical engineering projects.

Seismic ReflectionSeismic Reflection (both on-shore and marine) is the most common geophysical methodology used for oil and gas exploration and exhibits the highest degree of technical sophistication in terms of both data acquisition and signal processing capabilities. Seismic reflection surveys provide either 2 or 3 dimensional imagery of stratigraphic boundaries and geologic structure (e.g. faults, stratigraphic layering, folding) at depths ranging from 100’s of metres to several kilometres in depth.

Seismic reflections occur at boundaries in rock densities which give rise to “reflected” acoustic energy. For shallow ground exploration, seismic reflection can be an effective method in profiling upper bedrock surface depths as well as deeper litho-stratigraphic features. Compared with other shallow geophysical methods however (e.g. GPR, ERT, SR), Seismic Reflection surveys tend to be more expensive because of comparatively higher equipment and labor requirements.

When required, Surface Search Inc. subcontracts conventional seismic data acquisition and signal processing companies to collect Seismic Reflection data on behalf of our clients. We offer full signal analysis and interpretation services for seismic reflection surveys.

Sub-Bottom Marine ProfilersSub-bottom marine profiler (SBP) is a geophysical method which is specifically designed to detect and characterize layers of sediment or rock beneath a body of water. SBP provides continuous seismic reflection profiles in real time by the use of an acoustic wave generating source and an array of hydrophones to receive the energy reflected by the various interfaces.

Sub-bottom profilers are typically used in geological and geophysical exploration surveys, marine construction projects, and route surveys for pipeline laying projects.

Frequency/Time Domain ElectromagneticsElectromagnetic (EM) surveys consist of using either time-domain or frequency-domain electromagnetic field generating systems to measure and map changes in the electrical/magnetic properties of the shallow subsurface. For shallow site investigations EM methods are commonly used to map variations in either soil properties or to detect and map the location of buried man-made objects or altered ground. Applications range from mapping the lateral extent of contaminated soils to locating underground features such as storage tanks, drums, pipelines and utilities.

Looking for a Solution.

A comprehensive understanding of what lies beneath the surface within the confines of your project area matters. Encountering unforeseen subsurface features can be detrimental to your overall project budget and completion schedule. Shallow geophysics helps to increase your preparedness by providing the capacity to investigate, detect and map mission critical subsurface features throughout a project area, well beyond what can be inferred from borehole drilling programs alone.