Characterization of permafrost cores from the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Corridor, NWT, Canada

Regions: Inuvialuit Settlement Region, Gwich'in Settlement Area

Tags: physical sciences, permafrost, climate change, thermokarst

Principal Investigator: Alvarez, Alejandro (1)
Licence Number: 16684
Organization: University of Alberta
Licensed Year(s): 2020
Issued: Jan 20, 2020

Objective(s): To evaluate the geologic setting including geochemistry, and radiocarbon ages to establish a regional history of the area; to investigate the geologic setting of multiple buried ice bodies; and to develop a geologic map highlighting features at risk of future permafrost thaw.

Project Description: This licence has been issued for the scientific research application No.4610.

The objectives of this study are to: 1) evaluate the geologic setting including geochemistry, and radiocarbon ages to establish a regional history of the area; 2) investigate the geologic setting of multiple buried ice bodies; and 3) develop a geologic map along the southern Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway (ITH) highlighting features at risk of future permafrost thaw. These objectives will ultimately aid in a deeper understanding of permafrost, and susceptible the ITH is to a warming climate with thawing permafrost.

In pursuance of the objectives, the methods for this study include mapping, shallow coring, Electrical Resistivity Tomography (ERT), geochemical and geotechnical analysis. The use of preliminary mapping, satellite imagery (Landsat and Planet Labs), Digital Elevation Models (ArticDEM), and surficial geology maps of along the southern ITH corridor (km 0 to 35) will be used to select ERT and coring sites. The sites will be selected based on proximity to thermokarst features retrogressive thaw slumps, which reflect thawing massive ice bodies. Electrical Resistivity Tomography (ERT) provides a tool to map the lateral continuity of buried massive ice. ERT is will supplemented by shallow coring (2-4 meters deep) by a field-portable 2-person auger. The shallow cores will characterize the permafrost materials for the ice content.

Results from this study will better situate the understanding of climate change on future trajectories of thaw in ice-rich terrain in northern Canada.

Community Engagement for the 2020 fieldwork season will be one of the main priorities. Four objectives for community engagement are to provide research posters, deliver talks in elementary schools, offer a strong social media presence, and provide a field-day coring site with youth. Working in collaboration with the Aurora Research Institute (ARI), the research team are going to try to set up a fieldwork day for youth from Inuvik to visit one of the coring sites along the ITH Highway. A fieldwork day with young locals would help to portray this permafrost research and teach how to extract the frozen sediments from the ground. The research team plan to give a talk to elementary students, were they will be able to show lots of pictures, talk about the importance of permafrost and answer any questions. Furthermore, the team’s newly developed social media community page NCEPS (Norther Community Engagement in Permafrost Science) will be critical in the community outreach. The plan is to use Twitter (@NCEPS_NWT), Facebook (fb.com/NCEPS.NWT), and Instagram (@NCEPS_NWT) social media platforms to inform, report and keep the community updated with the research. Social media platforms will provide Facebook live events to help illustrate how scientists core permafrost; daily posts with invitations and descriptions of the coring sites; and strong use of twitter to report on daily events. Moreover, descriptive hashtags will be created to hopefully spark an online conversation and online platform to answer any questions. Lastly, posters illustrating the research will be provided at community centers and schools. The posters will talk about the permafrost research and illustrate QR codes for the NCEPS social media platforms for further information and community engagement.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from March 15, 2020 to September 30, 2020.