Long-Term Circumpolar Permafrost Monitoring

What Are They Doing?

Permafrost is any part of the ground (soil, rock, ice, humus) that remains at or below freezing for more than one year. The research team studied the active layer of the permafrost, the layer of the ground between the surface and the permafrost that freezes each winter and thaws each summer. They visited numerous research sites, and at each site, they collected data on the soil and air temperature, soil moisture content, and active layer depth and changes. Observational data from each site included noting changes in landscape and vegetation.

The research sites they visited are part of the Circumpolar Active Layer Monitoring Network (CALM) – a network of 168 sites to observe and measure changes in permafrost. CALM was established in the early 1990’s and strives to collect a long-term record of permafrost data, which can be used to show how changes in arctic climate are affecting frozen ground and assist in climate models.

Warming temperatures in the polar regions could lead to a thicker active layer. This in turn can change the moisture and plant communities on the soil surface, and lead to damaged roads and structures where people live on permafrost. Thawing permafrost also releases greenhouse gasses, such as methane and carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere.

Where Are They?

The team met up in Anchorage, Alaska for training, and then traveled to Fairbanks, Alaska where they traveled via pick-up truck to field sites along the Dalton Highway, a remote 400-mile road that crosses the North Slope of Alaska.

The team spent some time working at Toolik Field Station, located in the foothills of the Brooks Range in northern Alaska. Toolik Field Station is managed by the University of Alaska Fairbanks and has hosted hundreds of researchers and students each summer since 1975.

They also worked out of Deadhorse, a small town on the North Slope of Alaska. The town consists mainly of facilities for the workers and companies that operate at the nearby Prudhoe Bay oil fields.

The team also visited research sites near Barrow, Alaska. Barrow is located on Alaska’s North Slope near the shoreline of the Arctic Ocean. Barrow is a small community of approximately 4,500 people, primarily inhabited by Inupiat Eskimos, and is not accessible by road.

Expedition Map

Journals

50 Years of Geomorphology
During the decades that Dr. Jesse Walker has been performing research, technology has taken leaps and bounds. The satellite images that depict the Colville River Delta were not available in his first years or research… neither were the DGPS units, LIDAR, much less cell phones that we used in the field this August. On Sunday, November 7th, I visited Dr. Jesse Walker, professor emeritus in the Department of Geography and Anthropology at LSU. Dr. Walker has conducted geomorphology research along the Colville River in Alaska’s North Slope for over 50 years. His seminal trips to the Arctic took...
Classroom Flag
Temperatures are cooling off in New Orleans, a sign that the first grading period is drawing near, and that it's been over a month since my return from the Arctic. It is remarkable how frequently my time in the tundra finds relevant avenues into classroom conversation. Inquiries about warm blooded and cold blooded animals lead to discussing how arctic creatures conserve heat. A lunch-time question regarding fishing in Louisiana grew into an explanation of sustenance hunting on the North Slope. More formal lessons incorporating our expedition's content are slated throughout the semester and...
Muktuk
  I roused my team at 6:00 am for a live chat with my classroom back in New Orleans. Ms. Sledge, my stellar substitute, and Mr. Inocian, my Schwarz tech guru, helped square away 2nd period for a phone conversation and PowerPoint presentation with Fritz, Dima, Kelsey, and I. I appreciate each of my team members for rising early to share a bit of our research with those back home. We managed an encore of the presentation later in the day, during which my students were particularly impressed with the price tag of the LIDAR equipment ($250,000) and that of a bag of Tostitos here in Barrow...
Barrow Blue
  My final day in Barrow did not see much idle time. Fritz and I hit the field early, in an effort to install a data-logging tripod at our CALM grid. Alas, we were met by road closures, and had to leave the task in the capable hands of BASC staff members for a later date. I drove Fritz, Dima, and Kelsey to the airport where their plane barely beat the fog out of town. The three researchers will head to Nome, Alaska for a few more days of probing and data logging before returning home. After the drop-off, I returned to yesterday’s meat cellar to install the new data logger. I was...
Shop Talk
After trudging through tussocks, puddles, and muck, traversing tens of kilometers of tundra, and probing hundreds of thaw depths, my final CALM grid was visited today. As if each grid in Prudhoe, Toolik, and Barrow served as training, today's sampling in Ivotuk proved to be the most backwoods stretch of North Slope yet encountered. There are no inhabitants at Ivotuk (despite what the sign might indicate), only a few structures erected by a handful of Arctic researchers like the CALM crew. A small Cessna was required to reach our site, located about an hour and a half south of Barrow. The...

Expedition Resources

Project Information

Dates: 3 August 2010 to 22 August 2010
Location: Deadhorse, Alaska
Project Funded Title: The Circumpolar Active Layer Monitoring Network—CALM III: Long-Term Observations on the Climate-Active Layer-Permafrost System

Meet the Team

Josh Dugat's picture
Success at Schwarz Academy
New Orleans, LA
United States

Josh Dugat's scientific inquiry began at an early age in central Texas. Inadvertent experiments testing which of the trees on his family's ranch were poison oak or sumac often ended rashly, but led to many years of outdoor exploration, culminating in a degree from the University of Virginia in Environmental Science and Poetry Writing.

Mr. Dugat's love of learning led him to the Crescent City where he currently teaches science to high school scholars at Success at Schwarz Academy. The tenacity and creativity of his students make him excited to come to work each day, and honored to be their ambassador to the Arctic through PolarTREC. He is enthusiastic to explore ecological change as it relates to climate change, and cannot wait to draw parallels between Barrow, Alaska and the Bayou of Louisiana.

Anna Klene's picture
University of Montana
Missoula, MT
United States

Dr. Anna Klene is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Montana. She has been going to the North Slope of Alaska since 1996 to study the interactions between permafrost and climate. Dr. Klene and her students have been working in alpine regions as well, particularly in the northern Rockies.  She is also coordinating the Geographic Information Sciences and Technologies Certificate program at the University of Montana.

Frederick Nelson's picture
University of Delaware
Newark, DE
United States

Dr. Frederick Nelson is a Professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Delaware. Dr. Nelson has been doing research on periglacial geomorphology in northern Alaska for over thirty years. Recently he has been studying the history of science, with an emphasis on Arctic research.

Nikolay Shiklomanov's picture
George Washington University
Washington, DC
United States

Dr. Nikolay Shiklomanov is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography at George Washington University. He is originally from St. Petersburg, Russia. Dr. Shiklomanov is currently directing the Circumpolar Active-Layer Monitoring Project. This program coordinates the data gathered at 168 sites in 14 countries in the Arctic and Antarctic.

Dimitry Streletskiy's picture
George Washington University
Washington, DC
United States

Dimitry Streletskiy is a Post Doc in the Department of Geography at GWU. He is originally from Moscow, Russia. Dr. Streletskiy is working for the Circumpolar Active-Layer Monitoring Project.