Permafrost: Secrets in Ice

Dates: July 20-31, 2015

Cost: $700

We are searching for adventurous film makers to help us reveal the hidden secrets of permafrost. Our cinematographers must have an excellent sense of adventure for we will roll-up our sleeves, get messy, and explore the surrounding Fairbanks area to learn about permafrost, engineering, and climate change.

During our two-week ASRA module, student film makers will start with an immersive two day exploration of the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL) Permafrost Tunnel in order to learn about permafrost features and their formation. Next, we will explore the Fairbanks area to identify where permafrost can be found and why permafrost exists in some locations but not in others. Film makers will also visit two active research sites, Bonanza Creek Long Term Ecological Research Program and the Carbon in Permafrost Experimental Heating Research (CiPEHR) project near Healy, to document ongoing research linking changes in permafrost stability to global carbon cycles, plant growth, and changes to the local landscape. Next we will take a floating journey on the Upper Chena River to document local permafrost features and potentially identify and collect frozen Ice Age bones that have been preserved for thousands of years in the frozen soils.

In addition to exploring the geographical, geological, and biological history of permafrost, we will also explore the challenges of building and engineering on permafrost. Film makers will use hands-on inquiry to consider the challenges of engineering on ice-rich frozen ground by building model foundations and visiting engineering successes and failures around the Fairbanks area. By the end of the two weeks, we will have produced numerous entertaining and educational videos to share with our fellow scientists that reveal the many secrets and challenges of living among permafrost.


Margaret Cysewski

Margaret was raised in Fairbanks and became fascinated with permafrost during her undergraduate in Civil Engineering at UAF. She earned her Masters in Arctic Engineering and is currently working on her PhD in Permafrost Engineering. Her research is on the history of permafrost engineering in Alaska. She has been an intern at the U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL) for several years, where she helped excavate the expansion of the Permafrost Tunnel. She gained interest in teaching about permafrost through the dozens of Permafrost Tunnel tours she has given. Margaret has always had a love of learning to fulfill her curiosity. She also loves traveling and exploring. Margaret is excited to share the hidden world of permafrost that exists all around Fairbanks.

Rebecca Finger

Rebecca is a M.S. student in the Biology and Wildlife department at UAF. Her research focuses on boreal wetland ecology and permafrost thaw cycles. Currently, much of interior Alaska is underlain with discontinuous permafrost but climate change is taking its toll on frozen soils. Increases in disturbance events, such as drought and fire, warmer air temperatures, and longer summers, have created widespread thaw of permafrost throughout Alaska. As a result, ecosystems shift from frozen spruce forests to soggy wetlands and lakes. Rebecca is monitoring these shifts by studying changes in soil conditions, plant growth, and nutrient cycles to gain a better understanding of the possible effects of climate change.

Before attending UAF, Rebecca work on a variety of science ventures, both as an undergraduate and as a technician. At George Washington University in Washington D.C., she earned a B.S. in Environmental Science, and went on to work for the USGS, the US Forest Service, the state of Colorado, and private consulting firms on various wildlife and ecology survey, monitoring, and research projects. Additionally, Rebecca can often be found running, skiing, and generally frolicking on trails throughout the Fairbanks area, with the occasional stop to pick berries, identify a rare flower, or just take in the beauty of Alaska.

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