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2008 Research Grant Recipient

Nicholas Arkell, Heather Cray, Allison Cassidy and Michael Angelopoulos

In May 2008, we received $2000 from the RCGS to conduct permafrost research on Herschel Island, Yukon Territory. We are greatly appreciative of your financial support, and as a result, it is our pleasure to share our exciting results with you! We’ve attached a poster highlighting our key findings and captivating illustrations. Below is a short summary of our project, which we presented at the 2008 Arctic Change Conference in Quebec City.

— Michael Angelopoulos

Herschel Island is located 3 kilometres off the mainland of the Yukon coast in the Canadian Beaufort Sea. It is underlain by ice-rich continuous permafrost subject to dramatic landscape changes related to thermokarst and coastal erosion. Large bodies of almost pure ground ice, often several metres thick and extending for hundreds of metres laterally, are common. When massive ice becomes exposed, large retrogressive thaw slumps and landslides frequently develop, and erosion is intensified. Recent studies indicate that these changes may be increasing. As part of an IPY project entitled the Vulnerability of ice-cored environments, the attached poster reports the preliminary findings of a 2008 field program by a research team from McGill University. Included are (1) detailed observations on permafrost stratigraphy and ice contents, (2) GPR mapping of ground ice distribution, (3) biogeographical analysis of revegetation patterns for disturbed surfaces and (4) a survey of thermokarst activity for the island. The data presented focuses on 2 areas of thermokarst activity where slump retreat rates average 10-15 metres per year.  Analyses of coastal processes indicate coastal retreat rates of 0.5 to 1.0 metres per year. The results have been incorporated into a GIS that helps characterize both the spatial pattern and rates of change.

Reference: Pollard, W.H., Angelopoulos, M., Cassidy, A., Cray, H., Arkell, N. and Couture, N.J. (2008). Biophysical changes related to coastal thermokarst on Herschel Island, western Canadian Arctic. Arctic Change Conference, 9-12 December 2008, Quebec City, Quebec.


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