Permafrost is no longer permanent; our methods need rethinking.

This event happened in 2017; read the final report

It is clear that a single research group, government agency or industry cannot tackle the challenges presented by widespread and persistent thaw of permafrost alone. A pan-Canadian network could help consolidate science, local knowledge and learning, and professional practice so that it provides relevant information at regional and national scales to wider audiences.

Towards a Canadian Permafrost Network

The workshop was held on February 14 & 15, 2017 (Report, Image Gallery) to investigate how the range of stakeholders concerned can work together to address the big challenges and opportunities in our community. This workshop was based on a preparation survey, cross-checked with previous permafrost workshops in Canada, that highlighted eight focus areas for discussion and action.

A diverse community of almost 60 individuals met at Carleton University, representing Federal, Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut Governments, researchers from Canadian universities, and the private sector. The workshop objectives were to gain a shared understanding of what a Canadian permafrost network would work towards and to provide opportunities for people to network and build relationships. We wanted to find out what was needed to add value – rather than adding control. Through moderated discussions, the workshop provided concrete outcomes on the development of a permafrost network for Canada.

The network came up with an initial purpose, “To advance knowledge about changing permafrost environments”. To address the broad membership and geographic distance, it was proposed that there should be a Secretariat in the Ottawa Region, likely at Carleton University, in addition to strong presence in the territories. At a minimum, the workshop participants felt that the network needed diverse membership, a director and/or paid coordinator, a website, a clear vision to help grow the network and to link with other organizations. Beyond these baseline activities, attendees envisioned the network having a multifaceted presence, including lobbying, providing education and outreach and data storage/sharing services.

Next steps towards a Permafrost Network for Canada

  • The workshop lead to a Preliminary Application for the NSERC Permafrost Partnership Network for Canada, that has been submitted to NSERC for a Strategic Partnership Grant for Networks by Carleton University (PI: S. Gruber) in April 2017. This initiative distilled the big research questions and formed concrete avenues for partnerships with Canadian organizations.
  • The next meeting of the Network is planned for the Northwest Territories Geoscience Forum in November 2017.

This initiative builds on the results of previous workshops and projects including:

Initiators and hosts: S. Gruber, C. Burn & P. Pulsifer, Carleton University; J. McKenzie, McGill University; M. Allard, Université Laval; S. Kokelj, Northwest Territories Geological Survey; A. Lewkowicz, University of Ottawa; J. Melton, Environment and Climate Change Canada; S. Smith & S. Wolfe, Geological Survey of Canada.

The workshop and dialogue have been supported by Polar Knowledge Canada, Carleton University,
and the Trottier Institute for Science and Public Policy