Workshops & Meetings

RATIC meets T-MOSAiC: Sharing Best Practices in Research on Infrastructure in the Arctic

21 March 2021 | 15:30–18:30 GMT

Speakers and Abstracts

Monitoring of infrastructure across the Arctic with Sentinel-1 and -2

Annett Bartsch | b.geos & Austrian Polar Research Institute, Vienna, Austria

Assessment of infrastructure with respect to permafrost thaw and environmental impacts across the entire Arctic requires its consistent detection as a first step. Comparably high spatial resolution satellite data and spatially consistent coverage are needed to (1) be able to detect relevant objects and (2) to cover large areas. Here, we review recent progress in monitoring the land surface close to Arctic coasts (focus region of HORIZON2020 Nunataryuk), specifically the distribution of human impacted areas including transportation infrastructure beyond of what is represented in databases such as OpenStreetMap.

The analysis is based on Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2. Both offer 10m nominal resolution for specific bands and modes and are freely available across the entire Arctic. The multi-spectral information from Sentinel-2 is not only of value for discrimination of tundra types, but also non-vegetated area. The Synthetic Aperture Radar mission Sentinel-1 provides added value through representation of land surface structure features. A combination of both allows significantly improved characterization of landcover and land use over larger areas. The dataset forms the basis for subsequent analyses of environmental change in the proximity of transport infrastructure.

The type of information that can be derived will be discussed. Further on, permafrost change information provided through the ESA CCI+ Permafrost project is combined with the new maps. The CCI+ Permafrost datasets cover 1997-2018 (annual values) for ground temperature, active layer thickness and permafrost fraction with 1 km gridding for the entire northern hemisphere.

Community-led Perspectives on Infrastructure Design for Food Sovereignty: A Reflective Learning Experience with Inuit Communities in Canada

Ranjan Datta | Mount Royal University, Alberta, Canada

This presentation is responding to reconciling Inuit food sovereignty and community-led infrastructure development in Arctic Canada. In this presentation, I will share my reflective learning experience, how recent infrastructure development (and interpretation) is challenging to Inuit food sovereignty sources; and what is at stake in processes such as hunting consultation, impact assessment, regulatory hearings, approvals (including negotiation of benefits), monitoring? and what reformed processes can build Inuit community capacity and supports robust community decisions on their infrastructure? I hope my learning experience may assist infrastructure policymakers and communities in guiding future consultations and impacts assessment guidelines and infrastructure development planning initiatives. Focusing on Indigenous relational research methodology, I had learning opportunities from Inuit Elders, Knowledge-keepers, youths and non-Indigenous scholars on an Inuit understanding of infrastructure development and the connectivity between infrastructure development and food sovereignty sustainability-related to the interactions and inter-dependencies with health security, Inuit environmental and cultural value protection. Inuit knowledge-ways have much to offer to support the resiliency of infrastructure in Inuit communities, an intercultural reconceptualization of research methodologies, environmental sustainability, and educational programs that support Inuit communities. The framework may also be used in other Inuit communities to support food sovereignty and community-led infrastructure design, providing an approach that promotes the participation of Elders, youth, diverse community members, academics, and policymakers.

Understanding the Changing Natural-Built Landscape in an Arctic Community: An Integrated Sensor Network in Utqiaġvik, Alaska

Howard Epstein, Leena Cho, Claire Griffin, Matthew Jull, Luis Felipe Rosado Murillo, and Caitlin Wylie | University of Virginia, USA

Arctic communities face many challenges as they grow and develop in the context of a rapidly changing environment. These challenges include coastal erosion, permafrost thaw, and ecosystem change. Arctic cities need to prepare for critical decisions in the future, which traditional scientific approaches alone are unable to address adequately. Instead, an interdisciplinary, community-based approach is necessary. This project is developing and deploying a network of environmental sensors collecting continuous information over a five-year period in terrestrial and aquatic locations within the community of Utqiaġvik. Community members are deeply involved in the planning process for placement of the sensors, ongoing maintenance, and interpretation of the data. The sensor network yields an unprecedented dataset for examining the interactive effects of the natural and built environments. This research investigates two essential challenges for the Arctic city of Utqiaġvik, Alaska: i) the impacts of existing community infrastructure practices on the surrounding tundra, coastal, and lagoon landscapes within and around the city, and ii) the impacts of a changing environment on the design and future planning of community infrastructure and buildings. The project has four broad objectives: 1) Community members and scientists are working together to plan and deploy the integrated sensor network; 2) Environmental data are being used to assess how the infrastructure of the city interacts with the surrounding air, ground, and water: 3) This knowledge is informing management of infrastructure and planning initiatives for Utqiagvik and is useful for other Arctic communities as well; and 4) The process of co-production of knowledge among researchers and community members is being studied to better understand how these relationships can successfully build and maintain equitable sharing of knowledge and benefits for the residents of Utqiaġvik.

Arctic Active Layer Monitoring for Infrastructure Management

Thomas Ingeman-Nielson*1, Johanna Scheer1, Sonia Tomaskovicova1, Rafael Caduff2, Eva Mätzler3, Tazio Strozzi2, Penelope How3

As many other settlements across the Arctic, Greenland settlments are struggling with construction and maintenance of infrastructure on permafrost soils. As part of our project Arctic Active Layer Monitoring for Infrastructure Management, we have conducted stakeholder consultations in Greenland, where it was pointed out repeatedly that some of the major issues are that information on subsurface properties are either not available or difficult to access, and that targeted site investigations are expensive and difficult to conduct due to lack of equipment and trained personnel in most parts of Greenland. We have therefore made it a key point of the project to produce useful and accessible information to support decision-making, by producing maps that indicate subsurface properties in terms of frost susceptibility and observed seasonal surface deformations.

We use satellite based interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) to quantify ground surface displacements at very high accuracy and good spatial and temporal coverage, and explore a methodology combining InSAR measurements with ground-truth information to map active layer activity and trends. Amplitude maps of seasonal ground surface displacement are derived from InSAR data covering the thawing seasons from 2015 to 2020. The amplitudes are then correlated with in-situ active layer thickness measurements to give a qualitative measure of the frost susceptibility of the soils. To support these maps, existing paper archives of borehole logs have been digitized, and information on main soil components (clay, silt, sand) extracted and presented on categorical maps (fines / no fines).
In this talk we present the current state of the project, and discuss our experiences in working with local stakeholders.

  1. Department of Civil Engineering, Technical University of Denmark, Kongens Lyngby, Denmark
  2. Gamma Remote Sensing, Gümligen, Switzerland
  3. Asiaq, Greenland Survey, Nuuk, Greenland

Combining remote sensing and participatory mapping: experience from Informal Roads project

Vera Kuklina | George Washington University, Washington, D.C., USA

The project Informal Roads: The Impact of Undocumented Transportation Pathways on Remote Communities in Siberia is aimed to address the interrelated research questions on environmental, social, economic, and cultural impact of the development, maintenance, and use of “informal roads”. The project has an interdisciplinary character and involves landscape, permafrost, and remote sensing scientists, cartographer, human geographers and a social anthropologist. To implement the project, we combine data from field research (interviews, in-situ landscape and participant observations, and participatory mapping) and remote sensing analysis (Landsat, WorldView-3 and Corona images). In particular, during the fieldwork, we have looked at the satellite images of the hunting grounds of the respondents while conducting interviews about the effects of informal roads on their traditional activities and mapped together the roads that have not existed at the official maps. Respondents identified proximate location of new and old infrastructure objects and which roads have been actively used by not only local communities, but also outsiders – workers of extractive industries and recreational travelers. One of the implications of this mapping is related to understanding of wildfires development. Comparing map of informal roads with the map of wildfires we estimate the relationship with the infrastructural development and areas of fire ignition, expansion, and barriers to its spreading. With the climate change researchers note increase in wildfires, however, we argue that infrastructural development is another very important factor in their expansion. Absence of informal roads and other extractive infrastructure objects on official maps diminishes the role of infrastructural development on such disturbances as wildfires. Therefore, knowledge of remote communities significantly improves understanding of direct and indirect impact of infrastructural development. Combination with remote sensing allows to bring new arguments for negotiations extractive companies on their benefit sharing and negative impact compensation.

People about Longyearbyen as a physical framework: Experiences from a collaborative research project about uses and perceptions of the built environment of Longyearbyen, Svalbard

Alexandra Meyer1 and Liisa (Lilli) Wickström2

Longyearbyen, the largest settlement (pop. 2300) on the Svalbard archipelago, is transforming rapidly due to climate change and economic restructuring from coal mining to tourism, research, and education. Its population is international and transient, as well as highly fragmented. Wishing to contribute to a more sustainable, inclusive and participatory inhabitancy of this town on 78 degrees North, a collaboration developed between the local architect studio LPO Svalbard and an association of social science/humanities scholars (Svalbard Social Science Initiative). Together we examined how inhabitants of Longyearbyen perceive the town, how they use it, and what needs and dreams they associate with the place. The methodology included nine focus groups and collaborative qualitative analysis of the data, including the creation of maps. The ambition of the project is to make different voices heard regarding the use of and future development of the built environment of Longyearbyen, and thereby contribute to a more participatory urban development. A key aspect of the project is thus the dissemination of our findings not only to the general public but also to planners and decision-makers, through presentations and an exhibition in Longyearbyen.

In this talk we will present the project and some key findings, and discuss the process of collaboration and co-creation of knowledge between local architects and anthropologists. We will furthermore present our plans for disseminating the results and reflect on what can be learned from this project. 

  1. University of Vienna/Svalbard Social Science Initiative
  2. LPO Arkitekter, Svalbard

Application of the geotemperature modeling to indicate the danger of geocryological processes in natural and disturbed landscapes

Dmitrii Sergeev | Sergeev Institute of Environmental Geoscience RAS

The Arctic and Subarctic of Siberia are becoming important regions for the country's economy in connection with the development of various natural resources. Natural and man-made risks for infrastructure facilities are increasing under conditions of climate change, variable response of permafrost and anthropogenic transformation of geocryological conditions. New dangers are described. They are linked with poorly studied processes of transformation of saline and gas-containing sediments. These challenges make the task of developing a scientific support to adapt the technical and managerial solutions in the permafrost territories.

The topic of the project, carried out by the IEG RAS on a state assignment: “Analysis and assessment of environmental problems in the cryolithozone of Russia due to the structure and properties of frozen grounds”.

The major tasks are:

  • Study of the factors and patterns of dangerous geological processes in the area of distribution of gas-saturated permafrost with taking into account the changing climate and various technogenic pressing.
  • Development of permafrost survey methods to drawing-up the recommendations for the prevention of natural and man-made disasters.
  • Development of methods for developing the mathematical thermo-mechanical models with taking into account the characteristics, history and structure of natural and technical systems.

Permafrost science can provide the geocryological forecast as an approach for engineers, biologists, social sciences specialists. This approach is based on understanding the role of landscape’s structure and development history in the current state of the permafrost. The interpretation of the mechanism and sequence of permafrost transformation helps to predict the possibilities of future geocryological processes activation such as thermokarst or frost heaving. Geotemperature forecast can use the various climatic scenarios and demonstrates the unobvious response of permafrost to modern warming in different landscape conditions.

Implementing INFRANORTH: Engaging Communities in Research on Transport Infrastructures in the Arctic

Peter Schweitzer and Olga Povoroznyuk | University of Vienna, Austria

The role of transport infrastructures for remote communities, both indigenous and non-indigenous, of the “new Arctic” has been increasing. The challenge of the recently started ERC project INFRANORTH is to understand whether existing and planned transport infrastructures will support permanent human habitation, or whether they will strengthen a trend of substituting local residents with “temporaries”. Our overarching research question – What is the role of transport infrastructures in sustaining arctic communities? – is of urgent relevance on both theoretical and practical levels.

In addressing this question, we adopt a relational affordance perspective, which will document the material and non-material entanglements of local residents and transport infrastructures in three distinct arctic regions (Russian Arctic, North American Arctic, European Arctic). Our approach combines ethnographic fieldwork with mapping exercises and archival research. Our project team of anthropologists and geographers will use quantitative population data to upscale to the regional level, and regional patterns will be contrasted and compared to reach conclusions on the panarctic level. At the concluding stage of the project, we will use interactive scenarios to collect input and to develop and discuss decision options.

The implementation of INFRANORTH will be guided by the principles of collaborative community-based research, which includes cooperation with community members, regional and local research institutions, NGOs, and local government agencies. Our fieldwork plans involve local research assistants and consultants who will be mediating community meetings, conduct an infrastructure survey and other data collection efforts. We also aim at engaging community members into the collection of documents and artefacts for the INFRANORTH participatory portal “infrastructure archives” and the follow-up exhibition project “Curating INFRANORTH”. Finally, we envision the involvement of local experts in scenario building workshops, project conference panels and workshops and the resulting joint publications.

T-MOSAiC: Progress, updates and opportunities for the RATIC Action Group

Warwick Vincent1 and João Canário2

T-MOSAIC (Terrestrial Multidisciplinary distributed Observatories for the Study of Arctic Connections) is a circumpolar project under the auspices of the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) that has been catalyzed by the large-scale IASC oceanographic project MOSAiC. The project has four objectives: Connect observations; Develop new approaches; Identify gaps and priorities; and Apply system-level concepts. The latter include connectivity, thresholds and extreme events, which are all highly relevant to Arctic infrastructure questions.

T-MOSAiC activities take place by way of 12 Action Groups, including the RATIC Arctic Infrastructure Action Group. A RATIC subgroup led by Olga Povoroznyuk (University of Vienna) has been focusing especially on Arctic roads and railways, and will run a symposium during  ASSW21 entitled Northern Roads and Railways: Social and Environmental Effects of Transport Infrastructure (conveners O. Povoroznyuk, W.F. Vincent & F. Calmels). This follows from a symposium of the same theme held at the Arctic Change conference in December 2020, and now available online as video presentations (session 1; session 2).

One of the subjects within the Arctic roads and railways theme is the importance of freshwater ecosystems on the northern landscape, and the need to consider the physical, chemical and biological impacts of transport infrastructure on these ecosystems during the environmental assessment and planning stage. For example, aquatic ecosystems were an important consideration for the positioning of the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway, Canada’s first road connecting to the Arctic Ocean. Freshwater ecosystems are also an important part of the landscape in the Baffinland road and railway development in High Arctic Canada. The planned Phase 2 of this project is resulting in controversy and discussions that illustrate the complex nexus of social, economic and biophysical issues that RATIC is addressing.

MOSAiC successfully completed its oceanographic mission across the central Arctic Ocean, from September 2019 to October 2020, and is now in the analysis and modelling phase with its huge data set. Many of these results will be of relevance to T-MOSAiC researchers, and will be highlighted in the T-MOSAiC Newsletter and website throughout 2021-2022 as they become available. One climatological link T-MOSAiC/MOSAiC linkage is the project MODAAT (Merged Observatory Data for Arctic Air Temperature), which aims to mobilize Automated Weather Station for the circumpolar Arctic, specifically for the period 2017-2020 to overlap with the MOSAiC and T-MOSAiC study periods. The aim is to build an interoperable data base that links individually authored, DOI-referenced station records, and a system based on an ERDDAP server via Nordicana D has been developed as a contribution to T-MOSAiC and as a test case in the Canadian CFI project ‘Canadian Consortium for Arctic Data Interoperability’ (CCADI).

Finally, a special issue of the scientific journal ‘Arctic Science’ is in progress for T-MOSAiC, and is open for submissions until 31 March 2022. Contributions are welcome on all of the RATIC subject areas, especially as related to any of the objectives and themes described above. Further information about this special issue is available here: T-MOSAiC Special Issue

  1. Centre d’études nordiques (CEN), Laval University, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
  2. Centro du Quimica Estrutural (CQE), University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal

Project update: Landscape change and adapting to change in ice-rich permafrost systems in Prudhoe Bay and Point Lay, Alaska

Donald A. Walker1, Amy Breen2, Billy Connor3, Ronnie Daanen4, Vanessa Stevens5, Jack Hébert5, Ben Jones6, Anja Kade1, Misha Kanevskiy7, Gary Kofinas1, Anna Liljedahl8, Dmitri Nicolsky9, Jana Peirce1, Martha Raynolds1, Vlad Romanovsky9, Yuri Shur7, Helena Bergstedt6, Emily Watson-Cook1

Ice-rich permafrost is at the center of a web of interacting ecosystem components that we call the IRP system (IRPS). Our ultimate goal is to understand IRPS at local, regional and circumpolar scales. We are particularly interested in how differences in vegetation, water, and time influence the accumulation and degradation of ground ice in IRP landscapes, and how the loss of ground ice can radically change these landscapes, their components, and the infrastructure built on them. The proposed project offers a transformative view that places IRP at the center of change to social-ecological systems in many areas of the new Arctic. Our key questions are: “How are climate change and infrastructure affecting IRPS?”, “What roles do ecosystems play in the development and degradation of IRP?”, and “How can people and their infrastructure adapt to changing IRP systems?"

There is an immediate need to develop more strategic approaches to mitigation and adaptation informed by science and engineering in collaboration with local observations, knowledge, and preferences. Much of the response to permafrost-related damage has been incremental actions driven by the necessity to repair and stabilize existing roads and structures. Our initial focus is at Prudhoe Bay and Point Lay, Alaska, where permafrost temperatures are changing rapidly with large impacts to ecosystems, infrastructure, and communities. Both areas provide excellent examples of IRP-related issues relevant to many other areas of Alaska and the Arctic. We will develop three IRP observatories: 1) Roadside IRP Observatory in the Prudhoe Bay oilfield; 2) Natural IRP Observatory remote from infrastructure; and 3) Village IRP Observatory at Point Lay. The Prudhoe Bay region has the best historical record of geoecological change within the Arctic with key legacy datasets and good collaboration between industry and science. We will revisit permanent plots and remap Prudhoe Bay vegetation and landscapes first studied in the 1970s.

Point Lay has received less research and agency attention than other climate-impacted communities, yet its thaw related issues are among the most severe. The Cold Climate Housing Research Center will work with the Regional Housing Authority, community residents, local high school students and regional planners to collaboratively produce adaptive housing strategies. A permafrost and infrastructure symposium hosted by the community will bring together US-Canadian science and engineering expertise to discuss a range of public infrastructure issues relevant to many Arctic villages. Our team’s work with the Alaska Department of Transportation will advance knowledge on IRP-related impacts to roads and industrial infrastructure and contribute to best practice guidelines for road and airport construction. Science education and training components will reach K-12, undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral students.

  1. Alaska Geobotany Center, Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks
  2. International Arctic Research Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks
  3. Arctic Infrastructure Development Center, Institute of Northern Engineering, University of Alaska Fairbanks
  4. Department of Geology and Geophysical Surveys, State of Alaska
  5. Cold Climate Housing Research Center, National Renewable Energy Laboratory
  6. Water and Environmental Research Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks
  7. Institute of Northern Engineering, University of Alaska Fairbanks
  8. Woodwell Climate Research Center
  9. Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks

ASSW Registration Info

You will need to register for ASSW 2021 business and community meetings OR the full online conference to attend the the online RATIC meeting or any of the 22 other meetings and workshops that preceed the 2021 science conference. Reduced registration rates are offered to Early Career Researchers (ECR) and Indigenous participants. (ECR include all undergraduate and graduate students and post-graduate scholars up to 5 years post-PhD.)

Joining the Meeting on Zoom

Once you have registered, you will receive a link from the ASSW organizers to create a login and profile on Brella, the conference platform. Once you are logged into Brella, you can find the link for this and alll other meetings and science sessions on the Schedules page. Shortly before the RATIC meeting is scheduled to start, a link to join the meeting will appear on the meeting page in Brella in the upper right, next to the chat link.

Use the Open Sessions Here link to join the Zoom meeting. You will be prompted for a password. This is not the same as your Brella login password. It is a separate password emailed by IASC on 18 March with the subject line "ASSW2021: Password Open Business and Community meetings." It should have gone to everyone who registered for business and community meetings or the full conference. (This same password will work for all Open Meetings at ASSW 2021.) If you have not received the email, check your spam folder. If you still don't see it, contact the ASSW Help Desk on Brella or email


Get In Touch

  • Mailing Address

    Jana Peirce, Coordinator
    Alaska Geobotany Center
    Institute of Arctic Biology
    University of Alaska
    311 Irving
    P.O. Box 757000
    Fairbanks, Alaska
    99775 USA
  • Phone

    +1 907 474-2459