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Julie Malenfant Lepage


Ph.D. student

Department of Civil Engineering and Water Engineering, Université Laval

Adrien-Pouliot Building
1065 avenue de la Médecine
Université Laval
Quebec, Canada
G1V 0A6

418.656.2131 extension 4876




Research project

Development of a methodology for the design of low-impact drainage systems along transportation infrastructure in permafrost environments

One of the main causes of embankment degradation in northern Canada is the heat transferred by surface runoff and groundwater under the transportation infrastructures. Observations of events causing the rapid degradation of northern infrastructure (i.e. airstrips, roads and building foundations) suggest that liquid water transport and its effects have been significantly underestimated in recent years in permafrost science and engineering (ADAPT, 2012). These problems are likely to reduce structural and functional capacity of the road and even lead to embankment failure in some cases. It is therefore important to study and understand the influence of water on transportation infrastructures and to develop new engineering practices relating to water management.

This research project intends to develop practical methods to calculate the quantity of heat transferred through convective surface and sub-surface water flows in the design of a drainage system. In particular, a method to assess the maximum quantity of water that can be concentrated in one channel (i.e. culvert) in order to control heat transfer to permafrost and erosion of soils will be developed. The approach will lead to the optimal number of crossings (culvert) to consider for a given structure, the thermal design of these crossings as well as the need and the design of an appropriate flow diffusion system downstream from the structure.

In order to do this, the objectives to achieve are the following: 1) Improve the knowledge of surface water and groundwater flow and its influence on the performance of pavements built on a sensitive permafrost; 2) Develop new strategies for construction and maintenance to mitigate the problems of permafrost degradation resulting from water flow; 3) Develop a geophysical method that will enable the detection of groundwater flow under the road networks and; 4) Conduct a feasibility study and cost-benefit analysis of new techniques developed.

The project also involves soil temperature profile logging as a function of water flow, heat flux measurements, thermal modelling and small scale laboratory testing. Field work will be done at several sites: along the access road in Salluit, along the access road in Ilulissat in Greenland and along the Alaska Highway in the Yukon close to the community of Beaver Creek.


Scientific communications

Fritz, M., Deshpande, B., Bouchard, F., Högström, E., Malenfant Lepage, J., Morgenstern, A., Nieuwendam, A., Oliva, M., Paquette, M., Rudy, A.C.A., Siewert, M.B., Sjöberg, Y., Weege, S., 2015. Brief Communication: Future avenues for permafrost science from the perspective of early career researchers. The Cryosphere, 9: 1715–1720. DOI: 10.5194/tc-9-1715-2015.

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