Permafrost researchers in the Yukon will have access to a mobile research unit as part of the new Permafrost Institute at the YukonU Research Centre, thanks to a $400,000 donation from the Bank of Montreal.
The new mobile research unit will make it easier for scientists to study permafrost along the territory's highways and in remote communities, says Fabrice Calmels, the research chair in permafrost and geoscience at the university.
It's set to come in the form of trailer which will carry instruments for drilling, remote sensing, surveying and aerial mapping using drones.
"A lot of our work is based on field research and we work in sometimes very remote locations," Calmels said. "Carrying on research in these locations is pretty difficult."
While the university has studied permafrost for years, the dedicated institute will be the first of its kind in Canada, Calmels added.
"We have done a lot of permafrost mapping in communities. We also worked a lot around the Yukon highways," Calmels said. "So slowly, we have built expertise in these matters."
Busy summer ahead for permafrost researchers
Researchers with the Permafrost Institute have a busy summer ahead.
The upcoming field season includes collaborative studies of permafrost thaw with the Vuntut Gwtichin Government and the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations to help those governments understand what's happening to permafrost in their traditional territories.
It also includes work with Yukon Highways and Public Works and Transport Canada to develop risk assessments for the Alaska and Dempster highways. The goal is to develop alarm systems to warn road users about hazards.
Institute staff will also return to the site of a major permafrost slump in the Ibex Valley near Whitehorse. Thawing permafrost is dumping rocks, trees and mud into the Yukon River and the landslide itself is only around 50 metres from the Alaska Highway.