Fieldwork report: Galina Jonat, Hannah Macdonell, Emilie Stewart-Jones and Stephan Gruber

Galina, Hannah, Emilie and Stephan spent a couple of weeks in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories (NWT), reading out data and exchanging ground and rock temperature loggers, soil moisture sensors and tilt loggers for measuring ground subsidence. A highlight was using a metal detector to find temperature loggers hiding just below the ground surface, installed nearly five years ago. In mid-August, we hopped on a floatplane heading to KDI, an exploration camp, approximately 300 km northeast of Yellowknife. Here, we read out and exchanged loggers for a network of around 80 soil and 10 rock near surface temperature loggers, and 12 thermistor strings installed in boreholes. We spent our days in the field and our evenings back at camp organizing the collected data, soldering new batteries into loggers and of course enjoying the camp cook’s wonderful food.

Going out in the field this summer and collecting data from a number of different locations offered us valuable learning opportunities. We experienced periglacial features in person; jumping across the wet troughs of ice-wedge polygons, enjoying the easy walking of an esker, and using the edge of a solifluction lobe as a seat. We became acquainted with the different types of tundra vegetation, learning to identify common northern plants like dwarf birch and to recognize Labrador tea by its earthy smell. We are now especially well versed in the identification of cloudberries and blueberries, yum yum! The fluffy mosses were a favourite stop for well-deserved naps whereas the thick willows teeming with black flies were an unpopular route choice. On our third day at KDI, we were met by a large muskox herd, roaming the vast rolling landscape, seemingly unbothered by our presence. It was a fascinating sight! A lone curious muskox did however follow us around at a distance, causing us to reschedule some of our maintenance work.

The data we collected in the field will support a number of research projects in NSERC PermafrostNet. Ground temperature data will be used to test permafrost models and give insight into permafrost changes in the Canadian North, supplementing the data that we have available from Lac de Gras, NWT. 

Successful fieldwork wouldn’t be possible without the amazing support of northern organizations such as the Northwest Territories Geological Survey (NTGS), Aurora Geosciences and Kennedy Diamonds Inc. (KDI). The NTGS was welcoming and allowed us to use their office as a home base for storage and essential equipment servicing, and gave us the chance to learn from local employees. The staff at the KDI camp was always accommodating and supportive of our work.

We would like to acknowledge our fieldwork activities took place in Chief Drygeese territory. From time immemorial, it has been the traditional land of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, and more recently, the homeland of the North Slave Métis Alliance. We respect the histories, languages, and cultures of First Nations, Métis, Inuit, and all First Peoples of Canada, whose presence continues to enrich our vibrant community.

YKDFN: Chief Drygeese Territories (1900 & 1920, Treaty 8) (Link 1)


Compendium of Permafrost Reports: Northern Transportation Adaptation Initiative (NTAI) 2011-2021.

“Climate change follows from increases in the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases (GHGs) such as carbon dioxide and methane. The concentration of these gases in the atmosphere was about 280 parts per million (ppm) before the Industrial Revolution and rose to 315 ppm by 1958. The value is now 418 ppm. There is no prospect of this concentration declining in the next 1,000 years, and it may well increase substantially before it stabilizes. It will take several decades to establish a carbon-neutral economy. Effective adaptation is going to be important if we are to maintain functioning overland transportation infrastructure, especially in permafrost regions.”

Christopher Burn, Carleton University

In practical terms, the climate change we are experiencing is irreversible. Now, a collection of 61 reports concerning the changing permafrost environment have been submitted to Transport Canada and expertly summarized in an important compendium.

The Northern Transportation Adaptation Initiative (NTAI) is a federal program designed to increase the capacity to adapt to climate change. Since 2011, NTAI has supported a wide range of research projects associated with highways and airports in northern Canada.

The compendium provides a comprehensive overview of permafrost research projects supported by the NTAI program from 2011 to 2021. The reports have been summarized and organized to provide convenient access to permafrost knowledge gained over the last decade. This an extremely important collection of research for the scientific and engineering communities, governments, industries, policy makers, students, and general public.

Stockton, E.J., Burn, C.R., Humphries, J., Andersen, T.S., Schetselaar, A.B., and Jardine, P.A. (eds.) 2021. Compendium of Permafrost Reports: Northern Transportation Adaptation Initiative (NTAI) 2011-2021. Carleton University, Ottawa, ON. DOI: 10.52381/CPR.NTAI.2021.
https://carleton.ca/permafrost/wp-content/uploads/NTAI_Compendium_Final_12.7.21.pdf

You can download the report here.

Appel aux évaluations d’experts ! La carte des conditions de la glace de sol. Call for experts – The Ground Ice Map of Canada

“Ground ice maps will ever only be as good as the data behind them.”

Michel Paquette, NSERC PermafrostNet Post-doctoral Fellow, Université de Montréal

Appel aux évaluations d’experts !

Nous cherchons à obtenir les commentaires et la validation des experts de la communauté canadienne du pergélisol sur la récente carte de la glace de sol du Canada.

La carte des conditions de la glace de sol (ground ice map of Canada – GIMC) (Geological Survey of Canada, Open File 8713) présente une nouvelle cartographie à l’échelle nationale des conditions de glace de sol au Canada. L’évaluation du GIMC s’inscrit dans le cadre des efforts continus visant à fournir un retour d’information général et à évaluer des domaines spécifiques du GIMC, ce qui contribuera à la production de la première version de la carte de base du potentiel de glace de sol et des conditions géotechniques du pergélisol au Canada (GRIPv1) par PermafrostNet du CRSNG. Nous aimerions connaître votre avis d’expert sur l’exactitude de la GIMC actuelle. Votre expertise est précieuse, car les connaissances sur la glace de sol sont plutôt rares; elles dépendent fortement des connaissances du terrain et sont donc dispersées dans toute la communauté du pergélisol.

Nous aimerions connaître votre avis d’expert. Veuillez visiter notre page web pour plus d’informations et pour accéder à notre questionnaire – GIMC page web.

Call for expert evaluations!

We are looking to get expert feedback and validation from the Canadian permafrost community on the recent ground ice map of Canada.

The Ground Ice Map of Canada (GIMC) (Geological Survey of Canada, Open File 8713) presents new national-scale mapping of ground ice conditions in Canada. Evaluation of the GIMC is part of the ongoing efforts to provide general feedback, and evaluate specific areas of the GIMC, which will inform the production of the first version of the Ground Ice Potential and geotechnical permafrost base map of Canada (GRIPv1) by NSERC PermafrostNet.

We would like expert opinions on the accuracy of the current GIMC. Expertise is highly valued, as knowledge on ground ice is quite rare and highly site dependent, and therefore scattered all across the permafrost community.

Read more about it on our GIMC page.

Post-Doctoral Fellowship synthesizing observations to develop a responsive monitoring network.

Posted: July 13, 2021
Anticipated start:  January 2022
Supervisory team: Trevor Lantz (University of Victoria) and Stephan Gruber (Carleton University)

NSERC PermafrostNet is seeking a postdoctoral researcher to lead cross-scale synthesis activities exploring the determinants of thaw sensitivity in the Canadian Arctic.

Network research utilizing: ground-based measurements, terrain mapping, Indigenous knowledge, remote sensing, and modelling, offer a range of novel synthesis opportunities.

We welcome applications from researchers from a range of disciplines including, but not limited to: permafrost science, landscape ecology, geomatics, physical geography, and geology. The successful candidate will work with network partners to identify best practices for detecting and quantifying permafrost change in a variety of contexts. 

This is a two-year position with an opportunity for a one-year extension. This position is based at the University of Victoria, and will also involve travel to work with our partners and with the group at Carleton University. 

The annual stipend for this position is $58,000 plus benefits. Support for travel to conferences is available for the duration of the project. 

The University of Victoria and NSERC PermafrostNet are strongly committed to fostering diversity as a source of excellence, cultural enrichment, and social strength. We welcome those who would contribute to further diversification including, but not limited to women; visible minorities; First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples; persons with disabilities; and persons of any sexual orientation or gender identity and expressions.

To apply, please send a letter describing your qualifications and specific interests, a complete CV, and the contact information of three references to Dr. Trevor Lantz (tlantz@uvic.ca). Questions can be directed to Dr. Trevor Lantz or Dr. Stephan Gruber (Stephan.Gruber@carleton.ca). The deadline for applications is August 16, 2021.

Northern Transportation Adaptation Initiative (NTAI) Program Report

“The NTAI’s focus on climate change was distinctive and forward looking at the time. Now it is recognised as integral to long-term management of transportation infrastructure.”

Christopher Burn, Carleton University

Transport Canada’s Northern Transportation Adaptation Initiative (NTAI) is the first organized national program in Canada to address northern transportation infrastructure stability in anticipation of climate change. From 2011 to 2021, NTAI has helped northern agencies to prepare for challenges anticipated from climate change for transportation infrastructure built in the permafrost environment. 

The NTAI contributed to several important developments in our understanding of climate change impacts on infrastructure and potential strategies to manage these effects. When the NTAI was conceived, the primary risk to the transportation network was considered to be from thawing and loss of embankment integrity. The research conducted through the program identified a range of other geohazards, especially derived from a more active hydrologic regime and from thermokarst development close to infrastructure. 

Following the 2021 NTAI Annual Network Meeting Emma Stockton, Christopher Burn and Jen Humphries have compiled a special 24 page report on Transport Canada’s NTAI Program. You can download the report here.

“The NTAI has played a unique role in Transport Canada’s climate change agenda, influencing the way the department designs and implements programs, and helping to inform funding decisions. Northern jurisdictions own much of the transportation infrastructure in Arctic regions, and their active involvement in this program has helped target permafrost research to areas of most pressing need, ensuring the program’s continued relevance. Overall, the NTAI is a great example of how research/industry/government collaboration can drive policy change and action to enhance the climate resilience of transportation systems in Canada’s permafrost regions.”

Maxine Bilodeau, Director of Climate Change Adaptation & Planning for Transport Canada

PhD in permafrost thaw and its impacts on communities in the Western Arctic.

Posted: October 16, 2020
Anticipated start:  January 2021 or September 2021
Supervisory team: Dr. Trevor Lantz

The Arctic Landscape Ecology Lab at the University of Victoria is seeking a PhD student to join a team of researchers exploring permafrost thaw and its impacts on communities in the Western Arctic.

Permafrost landscapes are undergoing changes that affect ecosystems, local livelihoods, and infrastructure. To understand the impacts of these changes and place them in a longer-term context we are collaborating with land users from Inuvialuit and Gwich’in communities. Specific objectives include documenting: 1) traditional knowledge related to permafrost, 2) the historical range of variation in permafrost conditions, and 3) local observations of anomalous permafrost conditions. The student that takes on this PhD project will also contribute to the development of an observer-driven permafrost monitoring program.

Interested applicants should hold a graduate degree (MA/MSc) in indigenous studies, anthropology, geography, or related field, and have experience conducting and analysing semi-structured interviews. Applicants must be self-motivated, have strong communication skills, the ability to manage multiple tasks, and be willing to travel to remote locations, potentially for extended periods. Preference will be given to students with previous experience in northern communities and a background in GIS.

Stipend funding of $21,000 per year is guaranteed for four years and support for travel to communities in the Western Canadian Arctic is also in place.

This research project is part of NSERC PermafrostNet, a multi-sectorial research network of twelve Canadian universities and more than 40 partner organisations. As a member of the network, the successful applicant will have opportunities to engage with government (provincial, federal, indigenous), industry, and international partners, as well as graduate students and researchers from across Canada.  

The Arctic Landscape Ecology Lab and NSERC PermafrostNet are strongly committed to fostering diversity as a source of excellence, cultural enrichment, and social strength. We welcome those who would contribute to further diversification including, but not limited to women; visible minorities; First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples; persons with disabilities; and persons of any sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.

The student will be supervised by Dr. Trevor Lantz and based in the School of Environmental Studies at the University of Victoria. To apply, please email a summary of your qualifications and interest in this project, along with a CV, and unofficial transcripts to Dr. Trevor Lantz (tlantz@uvic.ca). The deadline for applications is November 2, 2020.

The 2020 NSERC PermafrostNet Data Hackathon

“The event was a great opportunity to meet some of the new network personnel and work together to make progress on some of their data-related challenges. As PermafrostNet continues to develop I hope we can have more events like this.”

Nick Brown, NSERC PermafrostNet Data Scientist

The first NSERC PermafrostNet Data Hackathon was held on August 19th, 2020, with fifteen researchers and data scientists getting together on Zoom to share best practices and discuss their latest challenges with data and coding.

PermafrostNet Hackathon Zoom

The event was organized to support members of the network in creating metadata records and publishing datasets.

The event was kicked off with a presentation by Nick Brown (NSERC PermafrostNet Data Scientist), who outlined the plan for the days activities and presented an introduction to the resources available through NSERC PermafrostNet. You can download the Hackathon presentation here.

The day was broken up into sessions for group work in breakout rooms, discussions and Q+A opportunities for the participants. There was plenty of opportunity for everyone to network and talk with new members of the network and experienced researchers about the varied data challenges they faced. Many of the participants were new members to NSERC PermafrostNet, and in some cases permafrost data work. It was this opportunity to find people to share data issues and ask questions that was found to be the most valuable aspect of the Hackathon by the participants.

You can take a look at the day’s schedule and further details about the event on our 2020 Hackathon page.

NSERC PermafrostNet Anti-Black Racism Statement

At NSERC PermafrostNet we firmly stand against racism, in solidarity with members of the Black community, as well as Indigenous Peoples and People of Colour, within our own network and beyond. We understand that strength comes from including, respecting, and celebrating diverse perspectives and backgrounds, and we are developing an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Committee to help foster a safe and inclusive environment where diverse voices are heard and valued.  As NSERC PermafrostNet progresses, the Committee will be available to hear your EDI-related concerns, and will work together to put the training and tools in place to foster an inclusive environment for the community.

NSERC PermafrostNet connects a community

Stephan Gruber

NSERC Impact Story

Until recent decades, researchers could be confident that their studies about permafrost told the tale about this frozen phenomenon, which is known to underlie one-third of Canada. Permafrost is defined as ground that has remained at a temperature of zero degrees Celsius or less for two or more years. Climate change began to show its effects, and in doing so destabilized the certainties of a generation of research.

Worrying changes to the natural landscape makes new research even more imperative. For example, thawing in the north, where mining companies used to bury by-products from their operations, means that those pits are no longer seen as reliable containers. Relatively resistant to climate in the past, in 2016 the Dempster highway in the Yukon and Northwest Territories was cut in 14 places by landslides and washouts. Incidents like these signal the need not only for further studies, but also for enhanced information sharing with researchers across disciplines.

Enter NSERC PermafrostNet, a new research network based at Carleton University and involving researchers from 12 universities and over 40 partnering organizations including those in industry, Indigenous communities and government agencies nationally and internationally. PermafrostNet was one of only two Strategic Partnership Grants for Networks awarded in 2019 by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. Awarded $5.5 million, the new network aims to boost Canada’s ability to monitor, predict and adapt to large-scale permafrost thaw. Partners and participating institutions contribute an additional $0.6 million cash and $4.4 million in-kind support.

Steve Kokelj, Permafrost Scientist at the Northwest Territories Geological Survey, says “I view the Permafrost Network to be a potential game-changer for Canadian Permafrost Research. One aspect of the network is that it will foster collaboration across a diverse community of researchers and northern stakeholders. The network can create an environment where universities, government and northern organizations work together to develop the knowledge and capacity to overcome the growing permafrost related challenges faced by northerners now and into the coming decades.”

Stephan Gruber, Canada Research Chair in Climate Change Impacts/Adaptation in Northern Canada is a principal investigator for NSERC PermafrostNet. He says that the idea for a network gained momentum at a workshop in 2017, where 60 people from different levels of government and academia across Canada gathered to assess what was needed to move forward with research and improved practice in this area.

The network has since gained support from organizations across Canada. Carolyn Relf, Director of the Yukon Geological Survey, says that “Yukon is keen to support and participate in the network’s work, as climate change adaptation is a priority for Yukon government. Permafrost degradation is impacting communities and infrastructure across the territory, and the opportunity to collaborate in this research will enhance Yukon’s capacity to map permafrost and identify susceptible areas.”

Part of the network’s mandate will be to train 24 doctoral students, 17 master’s students, four postdoctoral fellows and 16 northern research assistants, fostering the next generation of scholars, practitioners and policy makers. Today, the network involves researchers from the University of Alberta, University of Calgary, Laurentian University, Université de Montréal, University of Ottawa, Queen’s University, the Royal Military College of Canada, Simon Fraser University, University of Waterloo and the University of Victoria. Involved organizations include the Canada Nunavut Geoscience Office, Fort Severn First Nation to the Geological Survey of Canada and the Yukon government to name just a few of the 40.

Read the original story on the NSERC website.

Our new sustainable and environmentally friendly Canadian-based website

The NSERC PermafrostNet website is now powered by renewable energy, generated here in Canada, thanks to Web Hosting Canada (WHC).

Here at NSERC PermafrostNet we want to ensure that our values and ethos are applied to all aspects of our work and so we decided one of the best places to start was with our own website. Websites are hosted on servers in data centres that require considerable amounts of electricity to operate and need constant cooling to prevent overheating. In most places, this electricity is produced from fossil fuels that contribute to climate change. What we wanted to do was ensure our website was stored on Canadian servers and powered by sustainable and environmentally friendly energy. WHC data centres are powered by hydroelectric energy and the servers are temperature-controlled by outside air and water cooling technology rather than air conditioning. Furthermore, all the data is stored on Solid State Drives, which use a fraction of the power needed by traditional mechanical storage. By switching to WHC we have ensured that our data is safely secured in Canada and that we are supporting Canadian business and infrastructure, while minimizing our impact on the environment.

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