The Permafrost/Active Layer Monitoring Program is a research project that keeps track of and monitors ground temperature and the active layer depth at Arctic communities. This is one of the important missions for the education and outreach project of the Thematic Network on Permafrost. Information from this research helps us understand climate change and its effects on the natural environment and local ecosystems, and the data we record now will be the starting point for what we will learn in the future.
We hope to collect data for many years in order to track how permafrost and the active layer change over time. For the past ten years, we have been developing permafrost boreholes, active layer watching (frost tubes) and ice cellar monitoring in communities in Russia, the US, Canada and other Arctic countries, in total in over 400 communities. To gather data, we set up monitoring sites near communities and schools throughout Siberia and in other countries with permafrost, and students and teachers in local schools participate by reading measurements at the monitoring sites and recording the data. They can compare data online with schools in other villages and towns, and discuss what they have learned. Classroom lessons on permafrost have been developed for students at all grade levels, and we also delivered the first data archive book "Permafrost in Our Time" (Yoshikawa 2013) to the communities and schools.
Since 2012, we have visited 87 Siberian schools, covering most of the eastern and some western Siberian regions including Sakha (Yakutia), Sakhalin, Kamchatka, Magadan, Chukotka and Yamal, and given lectures and met with over 7,000 students and 300 teachers in Siberia. Through this project, students from remote areas can learn more about the permafrost. During the school year the students, under the guidance of their teacher, measure the depth of soil freezing in the frost tube on the schoolyard. They get to participate in permafrost scientific research, get hands-on scientific experience at the measuring sites, and see the connection between science and research, which expands their horizons and helps form their scientific worldview. One of our Permafrost Thematic Network leading universities, North-Eastern Federal University, has made tremendous efforts to make this project happen and to establish connection with remote indigenous communities and schools together with the Russian Academy of Sciences Permafrost Institute, Yakutsk and Russian Academy of Sciences Sergeev Institute of Environmental Geoscience.
In some schools, we also found particular interest towards cryogenic phenomena: the study of icings in Kultuk, the mudflow dam erected after 1971 in Sludyanka, the searching of ice caves near Verkholensk, daily weather observations from 1981 onwards by a teacher of geography in Butakovo around the Baikal Lake region, to name a few. Teachers and students in Yakutsk Public School No. 14 worked to promote knowledge on permafrost, developing the project "Kingdom of Permafrost" which includes the history of permafrost study, observations and communication with scientists. Many high school students have also visited the underground laboratory at the Permafrost Institute. In addition, the first award of the international project "Frost Tube in Russian Schools" was received by students and their head teacher from Novy Urengoy at the Yamal Second Environmental Forum.
The data on the measurement of soil freezing and thawing in Siberian schools are available on the project website at www.uaf.edu/permafrost. Our network of schools is also online at permafrost.edublogs.org, created for communication between students and teachers from different towns and cities of Siberia.
[Read the article in the Shared Voices magazine here.]