The Arctic is changing rapidly due to global warming. While some alarming impacts, such as the melting of ice sheets and sea ice, can be observed directly, most of the thawing of permafrost is taking place in the hidden depths of the ground and little is known about the vulnerability of the frozen ground. However, permafrost is a key factor in the global climate system due to the large amounts of carbon that may be released as additional greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere if permafrost thaws. By causing profound ecological upheaval and destabilizing infrastructure, thawing permafrost also has a direct impact on the livelihoods of people living in the Arctic.

The project "UndercoverEisAgenten" founded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) aims to gather reliable and up-to-date data on the thawing of the permafrost in collaboration with citizen scientists in order to provide better insights on the impacts of climate change in the Arctic. The project invites citizens from Germany and Canada to join researchers in collecting data on visible landscape disturbances in the Canadian Arctic to gain better insights into the extent and rate of permafrost thaw. Students in Aklavik (Inuvik region, Northwest Territories, Canada) will work with researchers to collect high-resolution aerial photographs from drone flights and satellite images of the Arctic Earth's surface. In close collaboration with secondary schools in Germany (Berlin-Brandenburg, Thuringia, and Baden-Wurttemberg), these image data are then processed and analyzed in small mapping tasks ("micro-tasks") which can even be completed by students and citizen scientists via smartphone. Their contribution will create a unique reference dataset that will be of great use to improve the quality of remote sensing-based monitoring and prediction of permafrost thaw.

The project period is from July 2021 to December 2024 and is funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as part of its Citizen Research funding program. It is one of 15 projects that will advance the collaboration of citizens and scientists in terms of content and methodology and provide answers to societal challenges by the end of 2024. Further information can be found at https://www.bmbf.de and http://www.buergerschaffenwissen.de.

Project Information


Dr. Moritz Langer

Dr. Josefine Lenz

Soraya Kaiser

Website t.b.a.
Project Duration 01/07/2021 - 31/12/2024
Funding BMBF
Funding Recipients 01BF2115A
Leader Dr. Moritz Langer

Dr. Josefine Lenz
Soraya Kaiser

Role of AWI
in Project
Project Management, Concept and Knowledge Transfer
Participants (AWI)


Dr. Moritz Langer

Dr. Josefine Lenz

Soraya Kaiser


Prof. Dr. Hugues Lantuit
Participants (extern)

Heidelberg Institute for Geoinformation Technology (HeiGIT gGmbH)

Prof. Dr. Alexander Zipf

Oliver Fritz

Sabrina Marx

German Aerospace Center (DLR): Institute of Data Science

Prof. Dr. Christian Thiel

Marlin Müller

Aklavik Hunters & Trappers Committee

Secondary Schools in Berlin-Brandenburg, Thuringia (Jena) and Baden-Wurttemberg (Heidelberg)


Section (AWI) Permafrost Research