A person kneeling on the ground operating a drone by the river

BMO donation helps Yukon University establish new Permafrost Institute


Yukon University has received a $400,000 donation from BMO Financial Group to support the establishment of a permafrost institute at the YukonU Research Centre (YRC). This five-year commitment enables continued innovation in YukonU’s permafrost research and contributes to the development of forward-thinking solutions to address the challenges permafrost thaw is bringing to Canada’s North.

“Yukon has one of the fastest warming climates on the planet and this generous donation will allow YukonU to expand our research and help northern communities prepare and respond to the effects of climate change on infrastructure and northern ways of life,” said Dr. Bronwyn Hancock, Associate Vice-President Research, Yukon University.

Expanding field research capabilities to study permafrost in remote locations

YukonU’s Permafrost & Geoscience research team has spent the last decade working with governments (First Nation, municipal, territorial and federal), communities, industry partners and academic institutions across the circumpolar North to assess and mitigate the risks of permafrost thaw. This funding will allow YukonU’s Research Chair in Permafrost and Geoscience, Dr. Fabrice Calmels, and his expert team to expand their multi-disciplinary field research capabilities, including a mobile unit that enables geoscientists, hydrologists, and engineers to study permafrost in remote locations using geotechnical drilling, telemetry (environmental monitoring), geophysical surveys, and aerial imagery with drones. BMO’s donation sustains northern research capacity by investing in skilled experts and creating opportunities for students to learn by doing.

As a result, YukonU’s permafrost research will have greater impact, building on its track record of supporting evidence-based planning and decision-making associated with permafrost thaw. BMO’s donation — one of several recent sustainability-related donations the bank has made to Canadian universities — supports YukonU’s commitment to exceptional research, innovation and learning at YukonU, and builds resilience in northern communities and governments through the study of the impacts of, and adaptations for, the changing climate.

“Climate change is having a direct and devastating impact on Canada’s North and the communities and natural ecosystems that depend on permafrost for survival,” said Michael Torrance, Chief Sustainability Officer, BMO Financial Group. “As part of our Climate Ambition, we recently launched the BMO Climate Institute and we’re excited to be part of the critical work that Yukon University is doing with partners across Canada to find solutions to mitigate the effects of climate change on permafrost in Canada.”

Investigating landscape changes with the Vuntut Gwitchin Government and Champagne Aishihik First Nations

In particular, the upcoming field season will include collaborative work with the Vuntut Gwitchin Government and Champagne Aishihik First Nations, to investigate landscape changes driven by permafrost thaw. This research will help guide construction, land-use decisions and support knowledge transfer to community and land managers so that they can make informed decisions for future projects and policies. The Institute will also develop risk assessments of the Alaska and Dempster highways, in partnership with Yukon Highways and Public Works and Transport Canada. These assessments will lead to the development of an alarm system that will alert and protect residents and travelers who depend on these roadways for food, supplies and access to their traditional territory, and mainland Alaska.

The Permafrost Institute is one of three research chair programs at the YukonU Research Centre. The others include the NSERC Industrial Research Chairs in Northern Mine Remediation, and Northern Energy Innovation. The YukonU Research Centre also hosts a Climate Change Research program.

With a purpose-driven commitment to a sustainable future, BMO is taking action on climate change as our clients’ lead partner in the transition to a net zero world and recently announced its Climate Ambition and the launch of the BMO Climate Institute.

Learn more about BMO’s Community Giving.



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