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NSERC funds PermafrostNet as a Strategic Partnership Network!

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) will provide more than $5 million over five years to fund PermafrostNet, a Canadian research network of 12 universities, including Laurentian University, and more than 40 partner organizations. “The network focuses on permafrost degradation to determine where, when, and how permafrost thaw is occurring and what are the consequences of this thaw for northern infrastructure and northerners across the Canadian North” says Dr. Pascale Roy-Leveillee of the Laurentian University Permafrost Research Laboratory, one of the Network co-principal investigators.

Permafrost underlies more than one-third of the Canadian land surface and nearly all of it will experience thaw during the 21st century. The resulting disruption to natural and human systems will influence the lives of northerners and access to natural resources.

The network research will focus on 5 themes: 1) characterization of permafrost, to fill important gaps in our knowledge of Canadian permafrost extent and characteristics (11 students); 2) monitoring, to ensure we have the means to detect and quantify change in permafrost conditions (8 students); 3) prediction, to improve simulations of changing permafrost and integration with Global Climate Models, and to insure stakeholders can use the model outputs (8 students); 4) hazards, to understand what impacts the observed and predicted permafrost degradation can have on infrastructure, environmental resources, ecosystems and health (9 students); 5) adaptation to permafrost degradation, to support northerners as they prepare for and deal with permafrost thaw and its consequences (9 students).

“The network has the research capacity that no single group or agency can provide and can transform knowledge and practice on a national scale to position Canada as a leader in permafrost research” Indicates Dr. Stephan Gruber, the PermafrostNet Lead, who is professor and Canada Research Chair in Climate Change Impacts/Adaptation in Northern Canada at Carleton University.

The objective of the highly competitive NSERC Strategic Partnership Grants for Networks is to increase research and training in targeted areas, contributing to a better quality of life in Canada. Only two networks were funded this year across Canada

Working towards a Canadian Permafrost Network, in Whitehorse

 

Some of the people who attended the Permafrost Research Network meeting in Whitehorse

 

Pascale (and Florent) travelled from Churchill to Whitehorse on October 12-14 to participate in the writing of a Strategic Network Grant application focused on permafrost.

Permafrost researchers from across the country are joining efforts with government, community, and industry partners to propose a network that will align permafrost research with decision-making, help fill geographical knowledge gaps in the Canadian North, train the next generation of experts, and  position Canada as a leader in permafrost science.

The meeting was a dynamic and productive event, where new connections were made and existing ones solidified, and where good progress was made towards a network of fruitful collaborations reaching for common goals. All in all an exciting week-end!

 

Hard at work during a break out session

Adam wins a Weston WCS-Canada fellowship in northern conservation

Sam Hunter and Adam Kirkwood extract a permafrost cores from a palsa in Polar Bear Park

Sam Hunter and Adam Kirkwood extract a permafrost cores from a palsa in Polar Bear Park, Ontario.

Adam Kirkwood won a Weston Wildlife Conservation Society-Canada Fellowship for his M.Sc. project on The significance and vulnerability of carbon and mercury stores frozen in palsa mires of the Ontario Far North. He will be working on cores extracted from intact, partially degraded, and degraded palsas extending along a latitudinal gradient between Peawanuck and Attawapiskat. Adam will 1) characterize the microbial community in the cores with eDNA (targeting methanogens, SRB and Hg methylation genes with sequencing and qPCR); 2) incubate the samples to assess greenhouse gas production potential; and 3) analyzed them for total mercury and methyl mercury content.

This project is a collaboration with researchers from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, who have equipped the palsa gradient with climate stations, permafrost monitoring stations, and flux towers, and with the BIOTRON Institute for Experimental Climate Change Research at Western University, and the Vale Living with Lakes Center at Laurentian University.

Field work on a palsa

Adam Kirkwood, Mark Crofts, and Benoit Hamel take field notes and package a permafrost core before leaving a site.

Adam’s project directly addresses concerns and priorities identified by the Muskegowuk Council, which has given its support to the project, and we look forward to sharing information with Muskegowuk communities. A poster in Cree and English (Greenhouse gas emissions from thawing permafrost in Polar Bear Provincial Park – ᑲᑎᑭᑌᐠ ᐱᑐᐡ ᑲᑎᑭᐠ ᐁ ᐃᔑ ᑭᔑᑲᐠ) with information on some aspects of this project was presented earlier this year at the Muskegowuk Climate Summit.