Vegetation Impacts on Permafrost


Now Archived! PolarConnect event with Stan Skotnicki and Mike Loranty from the Northeast Scientific Station in Russia on Tuesday, 12 July 2016. You can access this and other events by visiting the PolarConnect Archives.

What Are They Doing?

Peter Ganzlin and Bradi Jo Petronio at one of their moss plots. Photo by Mark Paricio.Peter Ganzlin and Bradi Jo Petronio at one of their moss plots. Photo by Mark Paricio. The goal of our project is to understand how terrestrial ecosystems influence permafrost temperatures. There are places in the Arctic where climate is warming but permafrost temperatures are stable, while at other places permafrost temperatures are rising rapidly with climate. Soil and vegetation that sit on top of permafrost can either promote heat transfer or act as insulators. Our project will use field measurements at research sites throughout Alaska and Siberia to identify broad trends in relationships between ecosystems and permafrost temperature dynamics. At research sites in Siberia we will make detailed measurements to identify the processes responsible for these trends. This work will help to understand the effects of Arctic vegetation change on permafrost temperatures.

Where Are They?

A tugboat pushes the barge past the old river port of Cherskiy, Russia. Photo by Mark Paricio.A tugboat pushes the barge past the old river port of Cherskiy, Russia. Photo by Mark Paricio. We will be working from the Northeast Scientific Station near the town of Cherskiy in the Siberian Arctic. The station is located on the Kolyma River, only 60 miles from the Arctic Ocean by boat. We often work long hours because the sun doesn’t go down, but we are well fed on a steady diet of moose. At places where the river bank is eroding and thawing the permafrost we sometimes find mammoth bones!

Expedition Map


Last Meal
Home I spent a little over five weeks in the field with Mike Loranty, but it feels like we left just last week. Time really does fly when you are having fun. Our days were packed with field work, lab work, good food, great conversations with incredible scientists, and creating new friendships through shared life experiences. Every day in Cherskiy we would share a big meal prepared by our wonderful cook, Lena, but the last night was special. Not because four of us were leaving the station the next day, but because it marked the birthdays of Sergey Zimov, who runs the Northeast Science...
Fun with power tools Now, I've been lucky enough to do some pretty cool stuff this trip in the name of science, but these last couple days are going to be tough to top. There is something about using two-cycle gas-powered equipment and lot of grit to drill a meter into frozen ground, pulling out perfectly-shaped, cylindrical permafrost cores, that puts a smile on my face all day -- despite how sore my body is going to be tomorrow. The Process and the Tools In order to drill, we have to carry a fair number of tools into the field. The most important is the ice auger. This is a fairly...
Tundra The Northeast Science Station (NESS) is located about 30 miles south of the Arctic ocean just off of the Kolyma River. The station is located above the Arctic circle, 68 degrees north of the Equator right in the midst of a boreal forest full of larch trees. That's where we have been doing doing all of our field work, until today. There was an extra seat on a boat trip up to the Tundra to visit a few sites and take terrestrial samples, so I took advantage of the opportunity, never expecting how the day would end. Stopping for a break along the Kolyma on the way to the Tundra. The river...
Hell Hole View of the high severity burn site named the "Hell Hole" Always up for the challenge Today I visited a new site across the Kolyma River called the "Hell Hole," which was named by the researchers that have been doing work there for the last few years. The Hell Hole is an area that was affected by a large forest fire around 10-12 years ago and the name for the tough working conditions experienced there. They gave me plenty of opportunities to back out, but I'm always up for a challenge and I love seeing new areas. The Hell Hole name didn't disappoint nor did the...
Today after breakfast we packed our backpacks for a day in the field down the river. The objective was to survey another area to mount sap flow sensors on shrubs for comparison with our low and high density forest sites near the science station. The area we had in mind is on a massive floodplain. The landscape there is totally different. There are not as many trees, it’s very flat, very wet with a fair number of shrubs and a lot of tussocks. Tussocks are these very large and dense clumps of thick grass. They are extremely difficult to navigate when walking through a field of them. Imagine...

Expedition Resources

Project Information

16 June 2016 to 21 July 2016
Location: Cherskiy, Russia at the Northeast Scientific Station
Project Funded Title: Vegetation and Ecosystem Impacts On Permafrost Vulnerability

Meet the Team

Stanley Skotnicki's picture
Cheektowaga Central Middle School
Cheektowaga, NY
United States

Stan Skotnicki teaches Earth Science and Physical Science at Cheektowaga Central Middle School outside of Buffalo, New York. He is in his eleventh year of teaching science and holds a B.S. in Earth Science Education and a M.S. in Educational Technology from SUNY College at Buffalo State. In the classroom, Mr. Skotnicki helps his students to see how their daily activities impact climate change locally and on a global scale. He hopes to inspire curiosity and questions in the minds of the young scientists in his classroom. When not teaching, Mr. Skotnicki enjoys spending his time with his wife discussing books or exploring the outdoors by cycling, surfing, hiking, and skiing. During the summer of 2015, Mr. Skotnicki worked as a field assistant studying how vegetation impacts the depth of permafrost in Alaska. He is excited to continue the research by becoming part of the PolarTREC team of educators.

Mike Loranty's picture
Colgate University
Hamilton, NY
United States

Mike Loranty is an Assistant Professor of Geography at Colgate University who studies how carbon, water, and energy are exchanged between terrestrial ecosystems and the atmosphere. Dr. Loranty’s current research projects are focused on understanding how boreal forest and arctic tundra ecosystems respond and feed back to climate warming. His work utilizes field observations, models, and satellite remote sensing. Much of his work is focused on the Siberian arctic, and this summer will be his sixth field season there.

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Latest Comments

Huy - That was quite possibly the best fish I ever had to eat, and yes they look like something completely prehistoric. They can be found in the great lakes as well. Thanks for following along. I'll...
It's great that you had a great time, can't wait to hear more about this adventure later during the school year. How was the Sturgeon, that's a bizarre looking fish.
WOW! That looks delicious! What a meal. It must have been hard to leave your new "family"in Russia but I bet your family back in Buffalo are happy to have you back! And you got to wrap things up with...
Thanks Lucy - Drilling was definitely fun and plunging out the cores was a really cool process as well. I'm not sure what a "Jiffy" drill is, the drill we used was much like any standard ice fishing...
Thanks Anne - Back in the lab I know that they were cleaned off and measured each layer identifying layers and ice structures, but I am not sure what type of chemical analysis will be done on the...