UNIS launches permafrost course

Fieldwork Adventdalen Svalbard

Top image: Inspecting permafrost in Svalbard. Photo: Graham Gilbert/UNIS. 

Through this summer course in Svalbard, students can learn about permafrost and how it relates to geotechnical challenges and geo-hazards.

7 February 2020
Text: Ronny Setså, Geoforskning.no

The University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS) has launched a new summer course for master’s students. The theme is permafrost and what challenges the presence of it can pose in terms of constructions and geo hazards.

The course is called Geohazards and geotechnics in high Arctic permafrost regions (AG-352) and lasts from June 2 to July 3. The deadline for applications is 15 February 2020.

We have asked course leader Graham Gilbert, adjunct associate professor at UNIS and project advisor at the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute (NGI), five questions about the course:

What distinguishes this course from the other summer courses at UNIS?
AG-352 is an interdisciplinary course that brings together students from geosciences and engineering studies. The course focuses on applying permafrost research to challenges associated with geotechnics and natural hazards. Several of the courses are about observing and monitoring changes in the Arctic, but in this course the students will also develop skills and solutions.

The course is associated with the Frozen Canoes project. Tell us about this.
Frozen Canoes is collaboration between Norway and Canada and deals with studies of landscape and infrastructure dynamics in cold (frozen) environments undergoing climate change (Canada, Norway and Svalbard). The project is educational and research collaboration for engineers and researchers in areas that have permanent permafrost, discontinuous permafrost or seasonal frozen ground. The specific goal is to develop synergistic approaches to understand frozen ground and the sustainability of infrastructure built upon it.

What are the key geotechnical challenges and hazards in permafrost areas, including Longyearbyen?
The challenges are related to thawing of the permafrost and melting of ice on the ground. Heating can cause changes in the ground conditions. In flat areas, thawing of the permafrost can cause problems (such as settling damages) for building foundations, roads and airports. In slopes, thawing ice and permafrost can contribute to landslides. Water management in settlements built on permafrost is also an increasing challenge.

Why should our young readers consider applying for the course?
The skills that students learn in this course are in demand. Changes in climate and technology have made the Arctic more accessible. Transport, utilization of natural resources and tourism are growing in the northern areas, and the Arctic will remain a focus area in the future in terms of research and engineering.

What do the students learn in the course? And will there be fieldwork?
Students will learn about permafrost, landslides and geotechnical aspects in Arctic regions. One of the objectives of the course is to teach students state-of-the-art methods for field studies. Over the five week long course, we aim to spend more time in the field than in the classroom.

More information: AG-352 course page

This article was first published in Norwegian on geoforskning.no: https://geoforskning.no/studenter/2208-lanserer-permafrostkurs

Longyearbyen in summer. Photo: Graham Gilbert/UNIS.


Fieldowrk in Adventdalen. Photo: Graham Gilbert/UNIS.
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