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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

Entrevue à Radio-Canada, Boulevard du Pacificque

Ice wedges, degrading blackstoneLR

Thermokarst erosion in the Blackstone Uplands


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.


Summer 2016 field season in the Blackstone Uplands

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.

Nathan and Emma 2016

Clockwise from top left corner: Degrading ice wedges and thermokarst tunnels; Expanding ponds; Active-layer detachment slides; Developping beaded streams. All photos taken in the Blackstone Uplands in 2016, by Pascale Roy-Leveillee.


Presentation on carbon input from lakeshore erosion at the 11th International Conference on Permafrost in Potsdam, Germany

Group photo for the 11th ICOP, in July 2016 (Credit: Alfred-Wegener-Institut/Jan Pauls)

Group photo for the 11th ICOP, in July 2016 (Credit: Alfred-Wegener-Institut/Jan Pauls)



The eleventh International Conference on Permafrost was held from June 20th to 24th in Potsdam, Germany. The conference was well attended with nearly 800 permafrost scientists and engineers, including many young permafrost researchers.






Eroding bank of a thermokarst lake in Old Crow Flats, Yk.

Eroding bank of a thermokarst lake in Old Crow Flats, Yk.

Pascale presented on the rates of organic carbon input in thermokarst lakes due to the erosion of shorelines in a tundra area of Old Crow Flats.This topic will be addressed in an up-coming paper co-authored with Elyn Humphreys, Zoe Braul, and Chris Burn. Preliminary results indicate that, in the area examined, approximately 0.22 teragrams of organic carbon fall in thermokarst lakes every year due to the erosion of the shorelines, including approximately 0.15 teragrams of organic carbon that was previously stored in permafrost.

Goodman School of Mines invests in permafrost studies at Laurentian University

The  Goodman School of Mines announced via its executive director, Dr. Bruce Jago, that it will be making a significant investment in a new permafrost laboratory and permafrost science training at Laurentian University over a period of three years. This training aims to give students the opportunity to gain practical field-based and laboratory-based experience in permafrost science, and to graduate with cutting-edge, concrete, and marketable field and laboratory experience in permafrost assessment and monitoring.

Left to right: Dr. Elizabeth Dawes (Dean, Faculty of Arts), Nathan Romahn (student), Dr. Pascale Roy-Léveillée (Assistant Professor of geography) Krystal Siebert (student), and Dr. Bruce Jago (Executive director, Goodman School of Mines).

Laurentian University students are already directly benefiting from this support. Emma Ciric will be traveling to central Yukon this summer to investigate controls on rates of permafrost degradation in the Blackstone Uplands as part of her undergraduate thesis in Geography. Nathan Roman will be joining her for his ADVL internship, to gain practical experience working as a technician and logistics coordinator for research and monitoring activities in remote areas. Krystal Siebert is working on a GIS-based project related to permafrost degradation and organic carbon. At least two other students are scheduled to begin graduate and undergraduate theses in 2017, and we are hoping several other students will be joining our team in the coming year.

Laurentian University, with its long-standing relationship with the mining industry and its proximity to the Hudson Bay Lowlands, is in a strategic position to respond to the increasing demand for skilled permafrost technicians, consultants, and scientists resulting from increased infrastructure development in the Canadian Arctic and Subarctic.  In these regions, the ice content and temperature of underlying permafrost can be major concerns for infrastructure development, waste disposal, water contamination risk assessment, environmental monitoring, and site recovery.

The new permafrost laboratory, a new 4th year permafrost course (GEOG4256), directed studies on permafrost issues, and related undergraduate thesis projects will be housed in the School of Northern and Community Studies, within the Faculty of Arts. Graduate thesis projects will take place within the MSc Biology and the PhD Boreal Ecology programs. These courses and projects will be supervised by Dr. Pascale Roy-Léveillée, a new Laurentian University faculty member specialized in permafrost science who was appointed as assistant professor of Geography in January 2015, was appointed as adjunct professor in Biology in April 2015, and became a member of the Laurentian University Cooperative Freshwater Ecology Unit in April 2016. Dr. Roy-Léveillée is an active member of the Canadian Metis Federation and is part of a diverse and dynamic group of indigenous faculty members at Laurentian University and the University of Sudbury.