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.


News


September 2021

Scotty Creek hosts the training of technicians for the new “Future Skills” programme for community members. Ground thermal measurements conducted across the Dehcho in support of permafrost probability mapping for the region. DCoP students initiate new study in Samba K’e region on climate warming-induced changes to the land based on traditional place names and Dene Zhatie. Harvesters and community mappers share information needed for local permafrost mapping. Virtual meetings with “Community Mappers”, and with researchers, students, community members at the “Scotty Afternoon”.

August 2021

DCoP participates in meetings of the Łı́ı́dlı̨́ı̨́ Kų́ę́ First Nation Climate Change Adaption Planning & Database Management Project (Climate Change Preparedness in the North Program). DCoP Mapper, Seamus Daly, presents his work to Ecology North. Scotty Creek tour and picnic hosted by DCoP researchers and students. DCoP post-doctoral fellow (Stephanie Wright) initiates a new groundwater study at selected sites throughout the Dehcho. Three part series on Scotty Creek and DCoP published by L'Aquilon .

July 2021

DCoP students deploy to Scotty Creek from U. Alberta. One-week visit to Scotty Creek by Journalist from La Presse (Montreal). Team from U. Montreal deploy to Scotty Creek to upgrade the greenhouse gas flux station infrastructure. DCoP students present their results at the annual meeting of the Canadian Geophysical Union meeting. Virtual meetings with “Community Mappers”, and with researchers, students, community members at the “Scotty Afternoon” gathering.

June 2021

DCoP researchers, students, community members lead intensive maintenance and upgrade campaign for all infrastructure at the Scotty Creek Research Station. DCoP students deploy to Scotty Creek. Communications Co-ordinator of Dehcho First Nations travels to Scotty Creek for planning meetings with other DCoP team members. LKFN hosts DCoP researchers for team meetings in Fort Simpson.

May 2021

DCoP researchers present results at annual NASA/ABoVE meeting. New DCoP Mapper (Seamus Daly) appointed. New DCoP Coder (Nick Wilson) appointed.

April 2021

Winter data downloaded from all DCoP automated stations (Thanks Guardians!). DCoP field studies commence throughout Dehcho.

March 2021

Presentation on Dehcho Collaborative on Permafrost by Dr. Miguel Sioui for World Water Day. Tristan Gingrass-Hill and Steve Kojkelj present combined work of DCoP and Thermokarst Collective to researchers/students of the Laurier-GNWT Partnership. Annual snow surveys conducted at Scotty Creek by Dehcho Guardians and Mason Dominico.

February 2021

DCoP Research Associate Kristine Haynes presents an invited talk to the 9th Annual World Wetlands Day Research Symposium on how peatlands in the Dehcho is changing as a result of permafrost thaw. DCoP-affiliated project “Building local capacity for community-based micrometeorological monitoring” funded by Future Skills Centre: https://fsc-ccf.ca/projects/climate-change-nwt/.

January 2021

Kick-off meeting with the Climate Change Adaptation Planning Committee for the new CIRNAC-funded project. DCoP graduate student Élise Devoie successfully defends her PhD dissertation. DCoP forms new collaboration with University of Laval so that DCoP contributes to understanding permafrost thaw over a greater geographical region including Nunavik and northern Ontario, with close linkages to Indigenous communities in both regions.

December2020

Arctic Change 2020 (ArcticNet) participation “Bubbles” set up at Dehcho hich schools for student participation. Future Skills Centre grant awarded for employment of Indigenous community members to run carbon flux towers in Dehcho. Application to CIRNAC’s Climate Change Preparedness in the North Program / Climate Change and Health Adaptation Program entitled “LKFN Climate Change Adaptation and Implementation Planning” also funded.

November 2020

New postcast launched focussed on climate change adaptation in the Dehcho. DCoP researchers make virtual (Zoom) visits including presentations and discussions to Deh Gah (Fort Providence) and Dene Echo (Fort Liard) high school classes on climate warming and permafrost thaw in the Dehcho.

October 2020

Guardians and LKFN community members provide an interpretive tour of the Scotty Creek Research Station for Radio Canada Crew. Scotty Creek Research Station closes for the season.

September 2020

Dehcho Guardians deploy to Scotty Creek Research Station to collect end of season data and to winterise scientific sensors and winterise the station. NSERC Alliance grant application funded.

August 2020

Dehcho Guardian teams deploy to Scotty Creek Research Station throughout August for data collection, assessment of maintenance needs for station and research infrastructure, maintenance and repairs. Film Crew from Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) deploys to the Scotty Creek Research Station guided by Dehcho Guardians for documentary on northern community response to COVID-19 pandemic.

July 2020

Dehcho Guardians take lead in DCoP data collection at sites throughout Dehcho with emphasis on ground temperature monitoring sites in support of permafrost mapping. DCoP researchers and collaborators apply for supplementary funding from the NSERC Alliance programme to expand DCoP’s research and community engagement activities.

June 2020

Guardians deploy to Scotty Creek to conduct safety checks and provide maintenance. DCoP researchers and students begin collaboration with DFN on Dene-language based regional climate change adaptation strategy.

May 2020

Dehcho Guardians take lead in DCoP data collection at sites throughout Dehcho. Planning meetings for application to Climate Change Preparedness in the North Program / Climate Change and Health Adaptation Program (CIRNAC). Partnership includes Łı́ı́dlı̨́ı̨́ Kų́ę́ First Nation, Prairie Climate Centre, Dehcho First Nations, Fort Simpson Métis, Village of Fort Simpson, Scotty Creek Research Station, Dehcho Collaborative on Permafrost. Meeting of GNWT researchers with DCoP on transboundary (CC-NWT) water studies in the Dehcho.

April 2020

Dehcho Guardians take lead in DCoP data collection at sites throughout 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 (https://conferences.wlu.ca/22ndnrb/) 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, wquinton@wlu.ca

Dahti Tsetso, Dehcho First Nations, Fort Simpson, NT, X0E 0N0, 867-695-2355, dahti_tsetso@dehcho.org