The new Laurentian University Permafrost course (GEOG4256) went well and was well attended, with 41 people registered in the class. Full time undergraduate students in the group were from a wide range of programs including Geography, Education, Environmental Sciences, Environmental Studies, Outdoor Adventure Leadership, Chemistry, Archeology, and Sports and Physical Education. A few mature students also joined the course, including people who have been involved in mining and reclamation work through careers in consulting, engineering, or geological techniques.
Everyone has been working hard to learn the basic principles that control ground thermal regime, ground ice formation, and how permafrost responds to changes in surface conditions. The course was interspersed with hands-on exercises, opportunities for lab work, and assignments aiming to familiarize students with basic tools for data analyses of ground thermal regimes or back of the envelope estimations of thaw and frost penetration in the ground. The equipment and facilities used were funded by Goodman School of Mines, who have been supporting efforts to develop a training program in permafrost science at Laurentian University.
Each student also worked on a research paper where s/he explored a topic linking their interests or expertise to an aspect of permafrost. This year’s paper topics included:
- the state of knowledge and common practices regarding building foundations, railway embankments, and frozen core dams in permafrost terrain;
- the evolution of different permafrost landforms (pingos, ice wedges polygons, thermokarst lakes, and retrogressive thaw slumps);
- the impacts of climatic change on permafrost, positive feedbacks, and methane emissions from thawing organics;
- the state of permafrost knowledge and research in different regions of Canada and the world;
- traditional knowledge and permafrost science;
- wildfires and permafrost;
- the impacts of frost heaving on the placement of artifact in relation to ground stratigraphy;
- permafrost in political discourse and in the media;
- risks and opportunities associated with methyl-hydrates;
- mercury methylation in permafrost environments;
- the integration of permafrost in the K-12 school curriculum.
Some of these projects, involved the use of GIS, remotely sensed imagery, or numerical modelling. Others included the development of scale models and experiments in the permafrost laboratory. Finally, some of the students from the Education program produced recommendations for the integration of permafrost-related topics in the Ontario K-12 curriculum, which will help train the next generation of Canadian permafrost scientists!
Erin has been hard at work, preparing “fake” permafrost cores for students to handle during the new permafrost course to begin in January 2017. The quest for appreciable ice lenses is finally bearing fruit, as Palmarolle clay from the Abitibi Clay
Belt (thanks to Etienne Perrault for shipping a bucket of it our way!) has yielded the best results so far. PVC pipes are filled with clay and are placed over a thick layer of wet sand in our freezer. Everything is carefully insulated to insure that frost penetration occurs from the top down, et… voilà!
Permafrost students of 2017, prepare to assess thaw subsidence potential…
Pascale parle pergélisol avec Jacques Dufresne, à Radio-Canada. Ils discutent de sa recherche à Old Crow Flats et d’un voyage récent dans la vallée de la rivière Blackstone, au Yukon.
*Contrairement à ce que dit Jacques Dufresne dans l’intro, Pascale n’était pas à Old Crow Flats cet été avec ses étudiants, mais dans la vallée de la Blackstone. Des résultats liés à Old Crow Flats ont été publiés récemment.
Pascale talks ‘pergélisol’ in French with Radio-Canada’s Jacques Dufresne. She discusses some of her research in Old Crow Flats and talks of her recent visit to the Blackstone Uplands, Yukon.
*Note that Pascale was not in Old Crow Flats with students this summer (unfortunately!), but in the Blackstone Uplands of central Yukon. Results from previous research in Old Crow Flats were recently published.
Pascale had a quick chat with CBC radio’s Jason Turnbull about permafrost this morning on the local show Morning North. This was part of a series called SummerU, aimed at introducing local researchers and their work to the community.
In July and August, Emma, Nathan, and Pascale visited the Blackstone Uplands, Yukon, to investigate field conditions at sites that showed signs of increased permafrost degradation between the 1950s and early 2000s. The data collected will be used for Emma’s honor thesis, as she will examine the distribution of thermokarst features in the Blackstone River valley and discuss terrain characteristics at the affected sites.
Photographs of thermokarst features in the Blackstone Uplands and some field work photos are found here, and more pictures of students hard at work in the field are found here. Nathan and Emma’s field work was made possible by funding from the Goodman School of Mines and the Northern Scientific Training Program. Thanks to the Na-Cho Nyak Dun and Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nations for allowing us to conduct field work on their traditional territories.