Community based permafrost and climate monitoring in rural Alaska (NSF 1503900)


Project Personel

Main Contact: Dr. Alexander L. Kholodov
Scientific Personel: Alexander Kholodov, Santosh Panda
Partner Organizations: Telida Village Council

Project duration: 
2015 - 2018

Project Summary

The overarching goal of this project is to help the tribal communities of Upper Kuskokwim region take the lead in assessing and responding to the environmental changes that are coming with warming climate and thawing permafrost. Alaska’s land, water, plants, wildlife, and seasons are undergoing a great upheaval, and its people, especially the tribal communities living in remote villages are directly and severely impacted by these changes. The project will help build the tribal capacity to monitor changes in local climate and permafrost by providing the Tribes the scientific knowledge and skills necessary to acquire, analyze, and interpret scientific data through training and education. The project will establish local climate and permafrost observation system and map land cover and permafrost in the Upper Kuskokwim region. It will also develop a geo-hazard map for the region to facilitate safe subsistence and recreational practices and land use.

The specific objectives of this project are to 1) engage traditionally-underserved tribal communities of the Upper Kuskokwim region in permafrost and climate change research, 2) build community capacity to monitor changes in local climate and permafrost, 3) model the state and distribution of near-surface permafrost, and 4) develop a geo-hazard map. The high-resolution land cover, permafrost, and geo-hazard maps will serve the communities’ need to identify sites experiencing rapid changes and could be hazardous. The land cover map will serve as a baseline map to detect future changes in land cover. The modeled permafrost maps of current and future decades will help identify sites where permafrost degradation will likely be severe if the climate continues to warm.

 The project will offer the traditionally-underserved tribal communities of the Upper Kuskokwim region and the Tribal Council an opportunity to engage in climate research. It will provide them the motivation, resources, climate science knowledge and skills to study the impact of climate change on their tribal way of life and environment. The data, knowledge, and skills gained through this project will benefit the tribal communities in adaptive management of subsistence resources, implementation of safe land use practices, and planning for the future. The scientific community will also benefit hugely by having an improved understanding of permafrost dynamics, access to field data and maps from this understudied remote part of Alaska. In addition, the project will provide outreach and workshops on climate change to the community members in Nikolai and to all students and teachers in Iditarod Areas School District through the Distance Learning Center facility in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Research Goals: 

Community capacity building for permafrost monitoring and near-surface permafrost mapping and modeling

Study Sites: 

Telida Village, Upper Kuskokwim, Alaska


August, 2016: Soil and vegetation survey; Thaw depth measurements; Temperature and soil moisture sensor installations; Community and School outreach;

February, 2017: Snow survey; Soil coring;


Soil temperature at 12 Sites

Soil moisture, air relative humidity at 2 sites

Thaw depth



Kholodov, A.L., Panda, S.K., Hanson, T., Nikolai, S. Sr., Nikolai, J., Nikolai, S. Jr., Nikolai, A., Ticknor, E., 2017, Organization of the community based permafrost temperature observation network in the Upper Kuskokwim River region, Alaska Forum on Environment Annual Meeting 2017, held during 12 – 16 February in Anchorage, Alaska.

Panda, S.K., Kholodov, A.L., and Hanson, T., 2016, Empowering the village communities for sustained observation of permafrost-related environmental changes, Upper Kuskokwim, Alaska, AGU Fall Meeting 2016, held during 12-16 December in San Francisco, California. Abstract ID: GC21F-1161.

Panda, S.K., Kholodov, A., Dubay, C., and Hansen, T., 2016, Engaging rural communities in permafrost and climate monitoring in the Upper Kuskokwim region, interior Alaska, Arctic Observing Summit, scheduled to be held during 15-18 March 2016 in Fairbanks, Alaska. (