Dehcho Collaborative
on Permafrost

Dehcho Ełehéh Ndéh zhı́eh Tę k’eh Eghálagenda

Overview of the Project

Climate warming and human disturbance in the Dehcho region of the Northwest Territories (NWT), Canada, has led to widespread permafrost thaw and land cover change that has disrupted the hydrological cycle and the ecosystems and human activities that depend on it.

There is a growing awareness in the Dehcho that permafrost thaw is negatively affecting the region's economy, and the health, well-being and livelihoods of its residents.

There is lack of information on permafrost distribution, evolution, and resultant landscape change trajectory in this region.

There is an urgent need to develop and mobilise knowledge on permafrost thaw in the Dehcho and elsewhere in the subarctic, develop new, practical and customised predictive tools and strategies to adapt to permafrost thaw, and to provide interactive training to decision makers and other users.

In direct response to this need, the Scotty Creek Research Station (SCRS) and the Dehcho First Nations (DFN), co-propose the Dehcho Collaborative on Permafrost (DCoP), a Dehcho-wide initiative whose overall objective is to generate a fusion of leading-edge scientific and Indigenous knowledge on permafrost, and to use it as a basis to co-develop new predictive decision support tools and innovative risk management strategies to inventory and manage permafrost and adapt to permafrost thaw.

Close consultations with Indigenous communities throughout the Dehcho, identified the urgent need for sustained community engagement based on two-way knowledge exchange to guide specific needs for improved permafrost thaw monitoring, adaptation, process understanding, and prediction. These needs collectively form DCoP's “five themes”, each with specific objectives.

Why is DCoP Needed?

The ~150,000 km2 Dehcho region in the southern NWT is one of the most rapidly warming on Earth. It is also experiencing an increase in direct human disturbance due to expanding industrial activity. Permafrost thaw in the Dehcho is widespread and occurring at unprecedented rates, evidence that this region is particularly sensitive to climate warming and disturbance due to thaw.

Permafrost thaw is disrupting the Dehcho’s land, water and therefore human activities, the patterns, rates, controls and mechanisms of permafrost thaw, and associated feedbacks and land cover transformations across the region remain poorly understood. As a result, there is an urgent need to investigate thaw-induced changes to the Dehcho’s land and water, develop and mobilise knowledge on these changes, develop predictive modelling tools, and provide interactive training to decision makers and other stakeholders.

Although there is a growing awareness throughout the Dehcho that permafrost thaw is negatively affecting the region, regulatory authorities, resource management boards, and communities are ill-equipped to respond effectively to this new and growing challenge because there exists little or no permafrost thaw monitoring, adaptation or predictive capacity in the region, and therefore no appropriate basis for decision support.

In direct response, the Dehcho First Nations (DFN) and the Scotty Creek Research Station (SCRS) co-propose the Dehcho Collaborative on Permafrost (DCoP) to improve the understanding of and ability to predict and adapt to permafrost thaw. Because livelihoods in the Dehcho are so tightly connected to “the land”, DCoP’s close collaborative approach that places Indigenous communities in leadership positions, is required to generate the new knowledge, predictive capacity and decision-support tools needed to manage the land and water resources that support Dene ways of life.

Co-Developed Questions for Research:

Close consultation with Indigenous communities throughout the Dehcho identified six broad research questions:

Q1: Where is permafrost located within the Dehcho and where is it thawing?

Q2: What is the rate and pattern of permafrost thaw?

Q3: How is permafrost thaw changing land?

Q4: What adaptation and mitigation measures can or should be taken?

Q5: How is permafrost thaw changing the flow and storage of water on the land?

Q6: What is the long-term trajectory of thaw-induced change to the land and water?

It is clear from these consultations that the concerns over permafrost thaw and its effect on the land, water and livelihoods are shared throughout the Dehcho.

Co-Developed Themes & Objectives:
Theme 1

Co-develop with Indigenous communities, new initiatives for improving the monitoring (Theme 2), adaptation (Theme 3), understanding (Theme 4), and prediction (Theme 5) of permafrost thaw and its impacts in the Dehcho.

Objective 1

Gather and synthesise the Indigenous Knowledge pertaining to permafrost and permafrost thaw in the Dehcho, and compile this information into the Permafrost Resources.

Objective 2

Gather and synthesise all new knowledge arising from Themes 2-5, and add it to the Permafrost Resources.

Objective 3

Mobilise throughout the Dehcho the Permafrost Resources assembled in O1 and O2 through community engagement in support of themes 2-5.

Theme 2

Improved Monitoring.

Objective 4

DCoP will produce permafrost probability maps as a first step toward defining the current distribution of permafrost in the Dehcho, and establish an Indigenous community-led network to monitor changes to permafrost using both conventional temperature-based and new (DCoP-developed) ice-content monitoring probes.

Objective 5

DCoP will use 2018 imagery to map the current spatial distribution of permafrost, and archived photos (1970) to assess the change in permafrost distribution over the intervening 48 year period.

Theme 3

Improved Adaptation.

Objective 6

DCoP will develop and test new knowledge-based permafrost thaw adaptation strategies designed to lessen the impacts of such thaw, improve safety on the land and in communities, and safeguard infrastructure.

Theme 4

Improved Process Understanding.

Objective 7

Develop new knowledge on the permafrost thaw processes, rates and patterns causing the changes observed in Theme 2 with a focus on critical lateral thaw of discontinuous permafrost.

Theme 5

Improved Prediction.

Objective 8

Share, apply and interpret new methods for predicting the rate, pattern and impact of permafrost thaw customised for specific conditions within the Dehcho.


March 2020

Field season begins (15 March) starting with annual late-winter snow surveys.

February 2020

DCoP researchers participate in the annual Dehcho K’ehodi Gathering (18-19 Feb.). DCoP collaborated with the NWT Geological Survey to host the Permafrost Mapping Workshop in Fort Simpson (20 Feb.). DCoP organised and facilitated media coverage (CBC North) of on-the-land activities of Dehcho Guardians participating in DCoP (21 Feb.). DCoP hosts annual Scotty Creek field course on winter hydrology (23-29 Feb.) for Dehcho high school students.

January 2020

DCoP meeting in Yellowknife (21 Jan.) with researchers and members of the Dehcho First Nations. DCoP members take part in meetings in Yellowknife (22 Jan.) to plan the annual conference of the Canadian Society for Remote Sensing to be held in Yellowknife in July, 2020. DCoP team members collaborate with NASA/ABoVE to secure remote sensing missions over Dehcho in 2020.

December 2019

DCoP members provide update on DCoP initiatives at the annual meeting of ArcticNet in Halifax, 2-5 Dec., 2019. DCoP and the Office of Indigenous Initiatives, co-host the Indigenous Research Symposium (5 December). DCoP also hosts researcher from National Research Council (I. Egorov), who gave a presentation on recent advances to ground freezing systems.

November 2019

DCoP members host Cold Regions Research Centre Days (21-22 November), and co-host with Office of Indigenous Initiatives the Indigenous Day of Learning (29 November).

October 2019

Scotty Creek field course and on-the-land camp announced for 23-29 February, 2020.

September 2019

Extensive field investigation conducted across the Dehcho in support of DCoP’s permafrost mapping initiative. NASA/ABoVE airborne remote sensing mission over Scotty Creek and over the transect north-to-south DCoP transect extending from Scotty Creek to the BC border. DCoP researchers provide ground-based measurement surveys in support of the NASA/ABoVE mission. Collaboration initiated with NWT GeoScience on permafrost mapping in the Dehcho.

August 2019

Airborne Lidar missions and supporting ground-based surveys were conducted over selected areas of the Dehcho, led by DCoP collaborators (U. Lethbridge) with support of Dehcho Guardians and in collaboration with local Dehcho communities. DCoP hosts international Northern Research Basins Symposium and Workshop ( in Yellowknife, NWT. DCoP hosts a meeting and social event at the Scotty Creek Research Station that brought together scientists from across the circumpolar region and Indigenous community members from the Dehcho.

July 2019

DCoP researchers go to Fort Providence (DGGFN), Wrigley (PKFN), Sambaa K’e (SKFN), Jean-Marie River (JMRFN) and Fort Simpson (LKFN) to visit local areas of permafrost thaw with community members.

June 2019

DCoP researcher James Craig hosts training course on the Raven hydrological model. DCoP researchers take part in climate discussions at Annual Dehcho Assembly.

DCoP researchers take part in Dehcho Annual Assembly (Fort Simpson) to discuss climate change in the Dehcho.

May 2019

DCoP researchers and DGGFN community members visit extensive flooded areas north of Fort Providence, discuss monitoring and research plans.

Meetings in Fort Simpson with DFN and Dehcho Divisional Education Council to plan the inclusion of Scotty Creek field courses into high school environmental science curriculum. DCoP site visit with Dehcho Guardians to the flooded forest north of Fort Providence.

April 2019

DCoP researchers partner with Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service, University of Waterloo and Laurentian University on new NSERC-ACCS study entitled "Modeling of the winter carbon losses in cold region wetland ecosystems under current and future climates"

DCoP links up with new project exploring winter carbon losses in wetlands, funded by NSERC’s Advancing Climate Change Science in Canada. Infrastructure upgrades to the Scotty Creek Research Station.

March 2019

DCoP researchers host field course and on-the-land camp at the Scotty Creek Research Station for Dehcho-based senior high school students and undergraduate university students from southern Canada. Field research season begins at the Scotty Creek Research Station.

Our Team

Recent Photos

Get In Touch

William Quinton, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, ON, N2L 3C5, 519-884-0710,

Dahti Tsetso, Dehcho First Nations, Fort Simpson, NT, X0E 0N0, 867-695-2355,