GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Two University of North Dakota professors are studying the long-term impact of man camps on the landscape in western North Dakota’s oil patch.

Professors William Caraher and Bret Weber said they imagine that long after the oil boom ends and the workers leave, sprawling patches of leveled gravel and hints of blue tarp or a few grommets may be the only remnants of the hastily patched-together housing.

Since April, the two professors have twice taken a small team to the oil patch to study the “signature” a man camp leaves on the landscape.

“These man camps are only going to be there for 20 or 30 years, depending on labor needs,” Caraher said. “What’s it going to look like in 300 or 500 years?”

The team has studied 30 camps in five cities so far, and has broken them down into three types.

Camps that are located closer to cities and offer comfortable living, good food and clean rooms likely won’t leave much of a footprint on the landscape because they’re designed to be completely portable, Caraher said.

The second kind of camp is RV parks, while the third type features people living in tents or broken-down campers. Those two kinds of camps might leave more of an impact on the land, partly because of discarded objects, the researchers said.

Caraher and Weber plan to visit the camps several more times, thanks to a grant from the Institute of Energy Studies at UND.

“We’ll continue off and on as long as the oil boom continues to make it interesting, and certainly if the boom busts,” Caraher said.