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Research Spending & Results

Award Detail

Doing Business As Name:University of Alaska Fairbanks Campus
  • Donald A Walker
  • (907) 474-2460
  • Yuri L Shur
  • Gary P Kofinas
  • Vladimir E Romanovsky
  • Anna Liljedahl
Award Date:09/16/2019
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 3,000,000
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 3,000,000
  • FY 2019=$3,000,000
Start Date:09/15/2019
End Date:08/31/2024
Transaction Type:Grant
Awarding Agency Code:4900
Funding Agency Code:4900
CFDA Number:47.050
Primary Program Source:040100 NSF RESEARCH & RELATED ACTIVIT
Award Title or Description:NNA Track 1: Landscape evolution and adapting to change in ice-rich permafrost systems
Federal Award ID Number:1928237
DUNS ID:615245164
Parent DUNS ID:048679567
Program:NNA-Navigating the New Arctic
Program Officer:
  • Jonathan G Wynn
  • (703) 292-4725

Awardee Location

Street:West Ridge Research Bldg 008
Awardee Cong. District:00

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:University of Alaska Fairbanks Campus
Cong. District:00

Abstract at Time of Award

Navigating the New Arctic (NNA) is one of NSF's 10 Big Ideas. NNA projects address convergence scientific challenges in the rapidly changing Arctic. The Arctic research is needed to inform the economy, security and resilience of the Nation, the larger region and the globe. NNA empowers new research partnerships from local to international scales, diversifies the next generation of Arctic researchers, and integrates the co-production of knowledge. This award fulfills part of that aim. Ice-rich permafrost is ground that is frozen all year round for two or more years and contains particularly large amounts of water that will be released upon thawing. This ice is the element of Arctic landscapes most susceptible to climate warming. Nearly 50% of the Arctic has ice-rich permafrost. For example, the upper 4-5 meters of the land along Alaska's northern coast contains an estimated 77% ice. Thawing of ice-rich permafrost affects entire arctic ecosystems and makes the ground unstable to build upon. Thus, ice-rich permafrost is conceived as having a role similar to that of a 'keystone species' in ecology, whereby if the keystone element is removed or drastically reduced, the entire system is radically changed. To better understand the intricate connections between the ice-rich permafrost and the larger arctic human-ecological system, this project is exploring how differences in climate, snow, water, level of disturbance, and time influence the accumulation and loss of ground ice in permafrost landscapes and how people and their infrastructure can adapt to changing ice-rich permafrost. The goal is to understand ice-rich permafrost at local, regional, and circumpolar scales. The project will focus in the Prudhoe Bay oilfield and the village of Point Lay, Alaska, where permafrost temperatures are changing rapidly and there are large impacts to ecosystems, industrial infrastructure, and local communities. Both areas contain excellent examples of ice-rich permafrost-related problems relevant to many other areas of Alaska and circumpolar Arctic, so the work will have broad applications elsewhere. Three ice-rich permafrost observatories are proposed: 1) a Roadside Ice-rich Permafrost Observatory in the Prudhoe Bay Oilfield; 2) a Natural Ice-rich Permafrost Observatory remote from infrastructure; and 3) a Village Ice-rich Permafrost Observatory at Point Lay. Ground-level observations of ground ice, hydrology, vegetation, and greenhouse-gas fluxes are being conducted and remote sensing is being used to measure and monitor changes from space. Much of the response to infrastructure damage caused by severe thermokarst (thaw-related subsidence of the ground surface) is repair and stabilization of existing structures. There is an immediate need to develop more strategic approaches to mitigate damage and adapt to change. Point Lay, Alaska, is experiencing some of the most severe ice-rich permafrost-related impacts of any place in the Arctic but has received relatively little research and agency attention. Researchers from the University of Alaska's Institute of Arctic Biology, Institute of Northern Engineering, and Geophysical Institute are working together with the Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC), the Point Lay community, the Regional Housing Authority, and North Slope Borough to address these issues. Wherever possible the team are using local experience with ice-rich permafrost to help develop housing strategies relevant to many arctic villages facing similar impacts. The project partners are working with local residents, government agencies, the oil industry, and the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities to develop best practices for road and house construction and related education materials. A post-doctoral student, a graduate student, and two undergraduate students will be part of the research team. The results will be communicated to circumpolar communities and the broader public and through the Rapid Arctic Transitions due to Infrastructure and Climate (RATIC) action group of the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) and the Terrestrial Multidisciplinary distributed Observatories for the Study of Arctic Connections (T-MOSAiC). This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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