Beaufort Sea Coastal Restoration Project

Main Project Contact:
Erika Hille

Erike Hille

Project Start Date:
April 2017

Project End Date:
March 2022

Project Name:
Beaufort Sea Coastal Restoration: Exploring the Potential for Using Indigenous Plant Species to Revegetate Coastline Affected by Permafrost Thaw Slumping

ARI Team:
Greg Elias
Edwin Amos
Garfield Giff

Celtie Ferguson 

Previous Team Members:

Eric Cheyne

Elizabeth Kolb


For most regions of the Arctic, the rate of coastal erosion is increasing, largely due to factors associated with recent climate change. The ice-rich coastline of the Beaufort Sea, in particular, is eroding rapidly. This is impacting coastal communities, infrastructure, marine ecosystems, and traditional ways of being. Despite the robust body of research examining the effects of coastal erosion on the Beaufort Sea, our understanding of how coastal erosion is affecting Kugmallit Bay is still limited. To address this research gap, the first part of this project will examine the effects of coastal erosion and permafrost thaw slumping on Kugmallit Bay.

Unfortunately, there are few effective ways of mitigating the effects of coastal erosion in Arctic regions. Furthermore, the majority of established methods utilize man-made materials that, if unsuccessful, can lead to the pollution of marine ecosystems. The second part of this research project will explore the different ways that vegetation can be used to mitigate the effects of erosion and thaw slumping on permafrost coastlines.    

The latest report is available here.


  1. Use historical aerial photographs and recent satellite imagery to map the progression of coastal erosion and thaw slumping over the past half-century (1967 to 2004 to 2018), Kugmallit Bay, NT.
  2. Study the progression of thaw slumping at 3 key study sites in detail using unmanned aerial systems (2018, 2019, 2020, 2021).
  3. Examine the effects of thaw slumping on the water quality of landscape-level runoff to and near –shore water of Kugmallit Bay, NT.
  4. Investigate methods by which plant species native to the Tuktoyaktuk region can be used to restore disturbed coastline.

Kugmallit Bay is located in the Western Canadian Arctic, where the Mackenzie River drains into the Beaufort Sea. Situated in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, this shallow bay is located in the northernmost region of the Northwest Territories. The coastline is comprised of ice-rich permafrost that is very sensitive to climate change and coastal erosion. Coastal erosion has significant implications for the people of Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk, who depend on Kugmallit Bay for their traditional fishing and whale harvesting activities. This study will focus on three study areas located on Kugmallit Bay: Galiptat Area, Imnaqpaluk, and Tuktoyaktuk Island.

These sites were chosen in consultation with the Tuktoyaktuk Hunters and Trappers Committee.



In Year 1 (2018) of this project, we gathered background information on the Kugmallit Bay area. In addition to a Systematic Review of technical reports and peer-reviewed journal articles, we conducted community consultations with the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, Inuvialuit Land Administration, and Tuktoyaktuk Hunters and Trappers Committee. This informed the overall research design for this project.

In Year 2 (2019), the Aurora Research Institute (ARI), with support from NWT Geomatics and Natural Resources Canada, used historical aerial photographs from 1967 and 2004 to examine the progression of thaw slump activity around Kugmallit Bay. In Year 5 (2021-2022), we will be extending the length of this study by comparing the historical aerial photographs with recent satellite imagery from 2018.

During our community consultations, the Tuktoyaktuk Hunters and Trappers Committee identified three sites they wanted to study in detail (Galiptat Area, Imnaqpaluk, and Tuktoyaktuk Island). In Year 2, 3, and 4 (2019/2020/2021), the field team collected detailed photogrammetric, multispectral, and thermal imagery from each study site using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). This imagery will be used to examine how the size and shape of each thaw slump is changing, how the vegetation communities are progressing, and how thawing slumping has modified the ground surface temperature. In addition to UAV imagery, the field team sampled water runoff coming off of slump-impacted terrain and nearby unaffected terrain. Impacted and non-impacted nearshore surface water was sampled as well. Water quality data will be used to examine the linkages between water runoff and nearshore waters that have been affected by slumping. This work will be conducted in Year 5 (2022) as well.

The final goal of this study is to explore the potential for using indigenous plant species to revegetate coastline affected by permafrost thaw slumping. Although vegetation is a well-known method for stabilizing soil, little has been done to apply these methods to coastline affected by thaw slump activity. The field team has been exploring how different methods of revegetation (direct seeding and vegetation mats) influence the ground temperature within retrogressive thaw slumps. In Year 5, we will create a final report, or guide, that details our findings and hopefully, can be used in future restoration initiatives in the region.

    Aerial View of the Site Beaufort Sea Coastal Restoration Project   



External Partners:

Dustin Whalen (Natural Resources Canada)

Northwest Territories Centre for Geomatics


Coastal Restoration Fund (Fisheries and Oceans Canada)

Polar Continental Shelf Program (Natural Resources Canada)

Inuvialuit Land Administration

Northwest Territories Centre for Geomatics

Elias Services Ltd.

Powerpoint presentations (in PDF format):


Coastal Processes, Climate Change, Permafrost, Retrogressive Thaw Slumping, Landscape Runoff, Contaminants, Vegetation, Reclamation, Physical Sciences, Water Quality, Permafrost, Native Plants, Hydrology, Remote Sensing, Thaw Slump

Knowledge Translation:

To view an interactive ArcGIS Storymap highlighting the Beaufort Sea Coastal Restoration Project click here


2018 - 2019 Final Report

2019 - 2020 Final Report



Updated September 2023