Skip to main content

Permafrost engineering applied to transportation infrastructure

International PhD School

2 - 8 June 2019, Aurora College, Inuvik (Northwest Territories, Canada)


Under the leadership of the Sentinel North program at Université Laval (Quebec City, Canada), this International PhD School (IPS) is an advanced, graduate level course on permafrost engineering applied to transportation infrastructure.

Taking place at the Aurora College’s most northerly campus in Inuvik, the school will provide participants with an integrative, cutting-edge training supervised by renowned researchers. The program includes lectures, practical exercises, two field visits on sites where interesting permafrost and engineering features can be observed (Dempster Highway and Tuktoyaktuk Highway), and a seminar on advanced instrumentation and communication for infrastructure monitoring.



graduate students and postdoctoral fellows


professionals participants










Click on a picture to enlarge and see the slideshow

Sentinelle Nord Roads on Permafrost PhD School

Sentinelle Nord Roads on Permafrost PhD School

Sentinelle Nord Roads on Permafrost PhD School

Sentinelle Nord Roads on Permafrost PhD School

Sentinelle Nord Roads on Permafrost PhD School

Sentinelle Nord Roads on Permafrost PhD School

Sentinelle Nord Roads on Permafrost PhD School

Sentinelle Nord Roads on Permafrost PhD School

Sentinelle Nord Roads on Permafrost PhD School

Sentinelle Nord Roads on Permafrost PhD School

Thanks to Guy and Chris and Sophie, and all other participants for sharing your knowledge and experience. Would highly recommend this course to anyone working or studying permafrost science or engineering.

Adam Wallace
Engineer, Tetra Tech Canada Inc., Whitehorse (Yukon)

What a unique and informative week! This course has equipped me with a solid foundation in permafrost science and engineering. I really appreciated the opportunity to apply and observe the concepts that we learned through several field trips, including one along the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway.

Yifeng Wang
University of Ottawa

Excellente formation à ne pas manquer. Sortez la tête de vos ordinateurs pour voir à quoi ressemble une ville construite sur du pergélisol, visiter un pingo, toucher des lentilles de glace, vous balader dans la toundra, mettre les pieds dans l'Océan Arctique. Le tout expliqué par des professeurs passionnés et aux méthodes pédagogiques rafraîchissantes!

Flore Sergeant
Université Laval

  • Program overview

    This intensive 7 days course offers a multifaceted approach including lectures, practical exercises in class and field trips supervised by renowned researchers from different engineering disciplines.

    Training specific objectives

    Upon successful completion of the course, it is expected that the participants be able to demonstrate:

    • Understanding of the context and challenges of building linear infrastructure on permafrost

    • Knowledge of the basic principles leading to effective site investigation, design and management of linear structures built on permafrost

    • Understanding of and ability to apply the principles of risk analysis to the development of linear infrastructure in permafrost contexts

    • Ability to analyze a complex situation and propose solutions to stabilize structures in unstable permafrost conditions

    The school will also foster the development of transversal skills such as networking and international scientific collaboration, as well as communication and planning.


    Prior to the course, the students should plan some time for assigned reading.



    Day 1 - Lectures

    • Introduction : The context of Northern Canada transportation infrastructure (economic and social role; condition, vulnerability, expected development)

    Day 2 - Lectures & Field Trip

    • The permafrost environment : Essential notions on permafrost environments for engineering considerations (permafrost characteristics and features, thermal regime, permafrost dynamics)

    • Heat transfer : principles and calculation (heat transfer by conduction, convection and radiation; practical methods for calculation of thermal regime, heat transfer, heat balance)

    • Field trip to the Dempster Highway

    Day 3 - Lectures

    • Basic considerations for embankment design in permafrost conditions : Thermal implications, mechanical implications, drainage considerations

    • Frozen/thawing soil mechanics : Frost action, mechanical properties of frozen and marginally frozen ground, thaw consolidation, mechanical properties of thawing permafrost and of the active layer

    • Practical exercise : 2-D embankment thermal design using Temp-W

    Day 4 - Seminar

    • Embankment design : Key considerations, embankment materials, embankment geometry, thermal analysis, mechanical analysis, special protection techniques, consideration for frost heave

    • Site investigation : Key considerations for site investigation, description of geophysical methods, drilling and sampling, in-situ testing

    • Seminar on advanced instrumentation for permafrost environments

    Day 5 - Lectures

    • Slope stability : Stability of natural and cut slopes

    • Drainage : Implications of water concentration and channeling, control of surface water, erosion and thermal erosion, design of cross-drainage systems

    • Construction in permafrost regions : Logistics, environmental considerations, permafrost preservation, working with frozen or thawing materials

    • Management strategies : Risk analysis, preservation strategies, maintenance

    Day 6 - Field Trip

    • Field trip to sites along the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway

    • Discussion on the Northern Canada transportation infrastructure development challenges and opportunities with the Mayor / SAO ?? of Tuktoyaktuk

    Day 7 - Lectures and Evaluation

    • Additional presentations and recapitulation of key knowledge

    • Final examination


  • About the Aurora college and Inuvik

    Aurora College's most northerly campus is located in Inuvik, two hundred kilometers north of the Arctic Circle. This is the land of the midnight sun and the gateway to the Mackenzie Delta, the largest freshwater delta in the country. As the research division of Aurora College, Aurora Research Institute (ARI)'s mandate is to improve the quality of life for NWT residents by applying scientific, technological and indigenous knowledge to solve northern problems and advance social and economic goals.

    The Town of Inuvik is the perfect place to witness the Land of the Midnight Sun in the beautiful and vast Mackenzie Delta. Inuvik prides itself on being authentic, accessible and amazing. Being located at the end of the Demptser Highway and at the starting point of the new Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway, both are traversing particularly challenging, ice-rich, thaw-sensitive permafrost terrain in the MacKenzie Delta. The site is ideal for the observation of permafrost features and to understand the challenge of building in the North. 

    The branching channels, ponds and wetlands of the Mackenzie River Delta spread across more than 12,000 square kilometres (4,600 sq mi) of the coastal plain. The delta is nearly 210 km long (from North to South), and between 50 and 80 km wide. It is the second biggest Arctic delta in the world, after the Lena River Delta in Russia. Most land in the Mackenzie Delta consists of permafrost, with great depths to bedrock featuring numerous pingos (ice-core hills). Below the junction with the Peel river near Fort McPherson, the MacKenzie diverges into several large channels with the largest heading north-northeast, emptying into the Beaufort Sea west of Tuktoyaktuk.

  • List of experts

    • Chris Burn, Professor, Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, University of Carleton

    • Guy Doré, Professor, Department of Civil and Water Engineering, Université Laval

    • Sophie Larochelle, Professor, Department of Electrical Engineering, Université Laval, Centre for Optics, Photonics and Lasers (COPL)



    • Marie-France Gévry, IAFS/Training programs coordinator, Sentinel North, Université Laval

    • Joël McCalister, Aurora College, Inuvik
  • List of participants

    • Ahmed, Selim, Ministry of Transportation, Rouyn-Noranda, Canada
    • Baron-Hernandez, Maria-Fernanda, Université Laval, Canada
    • Bradette, Maxime, Université Laval, Canada
    • Carrier, Vincent, Université Laval, Canada
    • Croft, Peppi, Shannon and Wilson Inc., Fairbanks, USA
    • Fortier, Philippe, Université Laval, Canada
    • Frappier, Roxanne, University of Ottawa, Canada
    • Garven, Elizabeth, Tetra Tech Canada Inc., Edmonton, Canada
    • Hille, Erika, Queen's University, Canada
    • Hossain, Mohammad, Government of Northwest Territories, Canada
    • Humphries, Jennifer, Carleton University, Canada
    • Keleher, Matt, Tetra Tech Canada Inc., Vancouver, Canada
    • Khadhraoui, Madiha, Université Laval, Canada
    • Khatibi, Amir, Government of Northwest Territories, Canada
    • L'Hérault, Emmanuel, Université Laval, Canada
    • Liu, Weibo, Université Laval, Canada
    • Macdonald,    AlecSandra, Gwich'in Land and Water Board, Inuvik, Canada
    • Mathers, Alyson, Golder Associates Inc., Anchorage, USA
    • McLaughlin, Myran, Government of Yukon, Whitehorse, Canada
    • Niazi, Hayat, Government of Northwest Territories, Canada
    • Palczewski, Ernest, Tetra Tech Canada Inc., Edmonton, Canada
    • Parent, Marilyne, Université Laval, Canada
    • Perreault, Julie, Université Laval, Canada
    • Scheer, Johanna, Technical University of Denmark, Denmark
    • Schuettpelz, Craig, Golder Associates Inc., Anchorage, USA
    • Sergeant, Flore, Université Laval, Canada
    • Stockton, Emma, Carleton University, Canada
    • Vashishtha, Arvind, Government of Northwest Territories, Canada
    • Wallace, Adam, Tetra Tech Canada Inc., Whitehorse, Canada
    • Wang, Yifeng, University of Ottawa, Canada
    • Wilson, Alice, Aurora College, Inuvik, Canada



carleton university sentinel north roads on permafrost aurora college logo centre optique photonique laser



Information on course content

Guy Doré, Professor, Department of civil engineering, Université Laval