The Hidden World of Permafrost

Informed Action for Complex Challenges

Hot Times in Cold Places

Arctic Globe interactive
Visitors discover stories about living on permafrost through this interactive globe

Project Description

We wanted to provide visitors an opportunity to explore the impact of thawing permafrost on Arctic communities and our global climate. Co-created with the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), Under the Arctic: Digging into Permafrost, is a traveling exhibition that takes visitors into the unfamiliar world of permafrost research and thawing landscapes. Visitors journey through immersive environments, exploring personal stories from Alaska Natives, and different ways of viewing, discussing and addressing climate change.

Building on a half-century of climate-related education at the nation’s only permafrost research tunnel and using the evidence-based recommendations of the National Network for Climate Change Communication (NNOCCI), we developed a project that sparked and sustained deeper climate conversations among visitors, staff, and volunteers—advancing OMSl’s vision to catalyze informed action on climate.

Fossil Microscope Station
Visitors use a video microscope to examine ice age fossil fragments from the real permafrost tunnel.
Build an Alaskan Village
Visitors of all ages are challenged to build an Alaskan village on a landscape of thawing permafrost. Unlike a real thaw, these simulated sinkholes can be reset to try again.


Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks

Matthew Sturm, Principal Investigator

Laura Conner, Co-Principal Investigator

Suzanne Perin, Postdoctoral Researcher

Angela Larson, Principal of Goldstream Group, Inc.

U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL), operators of the Permafrost Tunnel Research Facility

Tunnel Welcome
The tunnel welcome area shares the tunnel’s history and a video tour led by a UAF permafrost engineer.


Allison Barnwell, Youth Organizing Coordinator

Alaska Youth for Environmental Action (AYEA)

Malinda Chase (Deg Hi’tan Athabascan), Executive Director Association of Interior Native Educators; Tribal Liaison, AK

Climate Science Center Annette Freiburger (Denaa/Athabascan), Former Director of Rural Student Services, Rural Alaska Honors Institute, UAF/Nenanna Center Coordinator

Wilson Justin (Althsetnay/Ahtna/Headwaters People), Board Member, Mount Sanford Tribal Council; Cultural Ambassador, Cheesh’na Tribal Council

Maka Monture (Tlingit and Mohawk), Program Manager, United States Arctic Youth Ambassador Program at Alaska Geographic

Ann Fienup-Riordan, Author & Cultural Anthropologist Olga Skinner (Yup’ik), Academic Advisor, Rural Student Services, University of Alaska Fairbanks

Northern Stories Theater
Visitors are invited to hear stories of change and resilience from the Alaska Native villages of Shishmaref, Unalakeet, and Savoonga.


This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. DRL-1423550 and DRL-1423587. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.