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The Defense Resiliency Platform Against Extreme Cold Weather: a cyberinfrastructural platform enabling predictive visual analytics of permafrost terrain data.

May 31 @ 11:30 am 12:30 pm

Join author: Timothy Pasch (University of North Dakota) for Session: 2.1.2 Permafrost Thaw, Infrastructure and Indigenous Communities: Lessons from Alaska at the Fram Cinema Hall 1, on May 31, 2024 from 11:00 – 12:30.

Abstract Text

Circumpolar Arctic regions are experiencing exceedingly rapid permafrost change. The thawing of permafrost can further result in sudden collapse of surface features, erosion of roads or trails, rendering previously solid terrain soft and unnavigable by vehicle or on foot. Such changing conditions have galvanized research into US preparedness for future increases in search and rescue missions and costs of these endeavors. These challenges for military and civilian populations are spurring surveying innovations leveraging multidisciplinary, multimodal and highly technologically advanced remote-region data gathering protocols. This paper will elaborate upon our teams’ approaches leveraging multiple UAS-deployed sensors across three Alaskan field campaigns: in Nome, along the Steese Highway, and most recently along the Dalton highway from Fairbanks to the Arctic Circle.

We will provide an overview of the Defense Resiliency Platform Against Extreme Cold Weather (DRP), cyberinfrastructure platform enabling integration, visualization, predictive analysis and mapping of terrain data. We will elaborate upon our UAV data gathering and processing methodology enabling high-resolution CESIUM visualization of LiDAR Point Clouds, Eo/IR Orthomosaics, GPR and Seismic data. We will describe how this data informs our ongoing time-series data papers leveraging machine learning, AI and high performance computing providing visual analytics of permafrost change across Alaska.

UND‘s research and technological innovation assists CRREL in better understanding changes in Alaskan permafrost – the frozen layer of rock and soil that covers a significant amount of land above the Arctic Circle. As areas of the Arctic thaw, the resulting terrain shifts can cause extensive damage to infrastructure and create further safety risks for the U.S. Army in an already extreme environment.

“Our team is working with some of the most dynamic researchers in the world to gather, map, analyze and visualize current and future Arctic terrain conditions with high degrees of accuracy, as well as developing the data platform integrating machine learning to automate these processes,” Pasch said.

Many UND graduate and undergraduate students will be involved with this research over the next four years. The student researchers will test various stages of the Defense Resiliency Platform, help develop the systems’ artificial intelligence protocols, collect data in the field and perform multiple other tasks.

Some of the undergraduate students assisting the team are cadets in UND’s Army ROTC Battalion, under the direction of Col. Jason R. Mathre, professor of military science.

“This is an incredible opportunity for Army ROTC to collaborate on a project that will have significant positive impacts on the soldiers of the future,” Mathre said. “The cadets look forward to providing input on the technology and equipment helping influence the effectiveness of the cold weather research.”

This presentation will also describe the history of multiple US/Canadian Arctic indigenous research collaborations over the past decade including digital entrepreneurship, technology, defense, and regional development, positioning Inuit and Alaska Native contributors to this work as key members directly addressing challenges and fostering innovation in the North American and Circumpolar Arctic.

Related Research: Food Security

The original Atii! Let’s Do It Project, conducted from 2013 to 2015, significantly focused on engaging Inuit youth in culturally appropriate, health-promoting activities. This initiative created a platform where Inuit youth led the design and execution of the Atii! game, integrating physical activities with traditional culture and health messages. The project also included robust leadership training to enhance youth skills in media, technology, and health, working closely with stakeholders such as elders, research centers, and tech partners. This foundation is critical as Niriqatiginnga leverages these participatory approaches, integrating traditional knowledge with technology to address systemic issues like food security and cultural preservation.

In 2019 the Atii project was identified as one of 57 projects representing a significant Canadian contribution to support the global effort by Indigenous communities to adapt to climate change.

Niriqatiginnga’s present projects extend the principles and methodologies pioneered by the Atii Project into new domains like digital literacy, climate change adaptation, and economic resilience. Community engagement remains key, emphasizing inclusivity by working with diverse Indigenous groups and employing advanced technology to create culturally relevant solutions. These modern initiatives tie back to the core participatory framework laid out by past projects.

With support from Agriculture Canada and the Government of Canada’s Youth Employment Skills Program, Niriqatiginnga was able to launch a modernized iteration of the original Youth Media Team. This new youth-led initiative is supported by the OpenAI Researcher Access Program.

Related Research: Cyberinfrastructure

A 2016 SSHRC gap analysis revealed significant variables that impeded the efficacy and sustainability of digital return projects in Arctic communities. A prominent issue identified was the “digital divide,” exacerbated by unreliable and limited bandwidth coupled with the high costs associated with satellite internet as the primary mode of connectivity. This divide posed a substantial barrier to preserving, archiving, and disseminating tangible and intangible cultural heritage online, particularly when advanced cyberinfrastructure was not suitably implemented for remote regions.

The analysis extended beyond connectivity issues to include accessibility and usability of digital tools. While many digital return projects emphasize innovation through advanced data visualization and acquisition techniques, a common challenge surfaced regarding the availability of necessary hardware—such as tablets, computers, and storage devices—within source communities. This shortage sharply adds to the gaps in executing and maintaining digital return initiatives successfully.

Related Research: Niriqatiginnga

Drawing lessons from the past, Niriqatiginnga implements advanced digital technologies to engage and empower youth, drawing on foundations established by the original Atii project. While the Atii project primarily used gaming and mobile app development to promote health initiatives rooted in Inuit culture, Niriqatiginnga extends these principles to contemporary issues like climate change, food insecurity, and economic resilience through organizational development.

Related Research: Canada’s AI Strategy

Niriqatiginnga’s Youth, Arts, and Media Team initiatives draw significant parallels in the DRP project to foundational elements of Canada’s AI strategy and plans outlined by the Department of National Defence (DND). It is also a strategic priority of the Kivalliq Chamber of Commerce. Leveraging the previous participatory insights from the Atii Project and integrating them with advanced digital tools, including those provided by OpenAI, facilitates solutions to multifaceted challenges like food insecurity and cultural entrepreneurship. Adopting sophisticated AI models proposed by Canada’s defense policy emphasizes the practical deployment of technology benefiting community-centered infrastructure and wide scalability contexts.

Canada’s AI strategy by DND/CAF is meticulously detailed, committing to becoming an AI-enabled organization by 2030. The strategy underscores the importance of integrating AI responsibly and transparently to enhance operational effectiveness, increase decision-making efficacy, and automate repetitive or hazardous tasks . Research initiatives focusing on evolving terrain conditions, such as those by UND, play a crucial role by delivering groundbreaking data essential for advanced military preparations and responsiveness.