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Student fieldwork targets thawing permafrost and an abandoned gulag

Xavier Choitel, a master’s student in Civil Engineering, was a member of a team with students from the University of Geneva (UNIGE) studying the impacts of climate change and human activities on the arctic tundra environment. He and his team conducted granulometry tests, which can indicate the sensitivity to frost and thawing, on the grounds surrounding the abandoned railroad and gulag. “Our project was to analyze arctic infrastructures with regard to the thawing of frost and permafrost, which is amplified by climate change. This can cause large deformations and damage to infrastructure like roads, railroads, pipelines, and buildings in general,” Choitel explains. “I worked primarily with environmental science students from UNIGE, and we helped each other with our work. The group was very interdisciplinary, so it was very instructive to collaborate.” This travel to the Yamal Peninsula was part of a program offered in the College of Humanities (CDH) Minor in Science, Technology and Area Studies (STAS).