CRREL’s Douglas Presents at Russian Conference

Published July 27, 2012
Dr. Tom Douglas

Dr. Tom Douglas

Public Affairs Office

SALEKARD, Siberia – Research Chemist Dr. Tom Douglas, with ERDC-CRREL’s Alaska Projects Office in Fairbanks, recently presented at the International Permafrost Association’s 10th International Conference on Permafrost (TICOP) in Russia.

The conference is an opportunity for the worldwide permafrost community to explore and discuss the latest research and to chart future directions for permafrost science. This year’s theme was “Resources and Risks of Permafrost Areas in a Changing World.”

A member of the U.S. Permafrost Association and currently serving on its board of directors, Douglas discussed “Effects of a Changing Permafrost Regime on Hydrology and Ecosystems in Interior Alaska.”  His presentation was co-authored by researchers from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Colorado State University, Alaska Ecoscience, ERDC Coastal Hydraulics Laboratory Researchers Chuck Downer and Nawa Pradhan, and Environmental Laboratory’s Kelly Burks-Copes.

Douglas’ research interests include climate science—the biogeochemical and hydrologic responses of permafrost to climate change and ecosystem responses to anthropogenic and non-anthropogenic change.  He combines laboratory measurements of geochemical parameters with field measurements and multi-scale conceptual models in many aspects of his research.

TICOP attracted an international audience of 700 scientists, engineers and policymakers who are at the leading edge of research on all aspects of permafrost studies.  The conference is convened once every four years by the International Permafrost Association.  The next meeting, to be held in 2016, will be at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Potsdam, Germany.

The meeting was held in Salekhard, north central Siberia, where 20 percent of the natural gas used by the European Union originates.  Common themes at the conference were the application of geophysical measurements to delineate the presence or absence of permafrost, and geotechnical engineering in permafrost terrains.  Widespread interest in two relatively new permafrost science topics—coastal erosion in the Arctic Ocean and the role of permafrost soils in Earth’s carbon cycle—illustrated the likely future application of permafrost research in the Polar Regions.  The TICOP demonstrates, strengthens and extends the latest accomplishments in permafrost science and outreach and in particular highlights the impacts of permafrost in a changing world climate.

According to Douglas, an ironic aspect of the meeting was the multiple presentations of research that used CORONA satellite imagery (imagery from a 1960s covert U.S. spy program that focused on the former USSR and China, which has since been declassified) to track landscape and ecosystem changes at field sites in Russia.

“To be sitting there in a high-tech room in remote Russia, just a few miles from Stalin’s Gulag- built railroad where these covert images were focused 50 years ago, and see them used for widespread scientific understanding was fascinating,” said Douglas.

Douglas’ extended abstract is available at, Tenth International Conference on Permafrost, Volume 4, Extended Abstracts, Page 150.