The Highlands School Frost Tube

On November 19, 2008, Mr. Lopatka helped Ms. Kouri's Highlands School Students install the first Frost Tube in Illinois.  Mr. Lopatka installed another one at the Morton Arboretum.  There are 80 sites in the state of Alaska, where they are carefully monitoring the permafrost there.  The Frost tube allows students to measure the depth of the frost during the winter months.  The CPVC pipe extends 85 centimeters into the ground. There is a flexible sealed plastic tube with blue died water, that will turn clear when frozen, making it easy for students to monitor the depth of the frost. 

You can click on the images below to see the full resolution.  Use the back button to return to this page.

frost-tube crop.jpg (965119 bytes) frost-tubecrop.jpg (538012 bytes)

I installed this Frost Tube in my garden.  The CPVC pipe has a removable cap, so that students can remove the tube and measure the depth of the ice.

frost-tube 003.jpg (1052148 bytes)

We pounded a steel pipe into the ground then removed it to make path for the plastic pipe.  The CPCV pipe is 85 centimeters under ground and 65cm. above the ground.

frost-tube 006.jpg (967616 bytes)

We located our Frost Tube close to our GLOBE Weather Station, where we have a thermometer probe 10 cm underground.

frost-tube 008.jpg (1078788 bytes)

A student is placing the cap on the CPVC pipe.

frost-tube 010.jpg (1078604 bytes)

You can see the Frost Tube just behind the Weather Station.

frost-tube 012.jpg (906866 bytes)

Students display the steel pipe and sledge hammer that was used to create the hole.

frost-tube 011.jpg (1013590 bytes)

We had a clear sky with enough wind to give me a bad hair day.

IMG_1197s (1).JPG (848318 bytes)

These students check the frost debt at their school in North Pole, Alaska where they have permafrost.  You can see the ice is clear and the liquid is blue.  The tube is marked with centimeter increments. 

sue.JPG (4136207 bytes)

We went shopping in the North Pole in September 2007, with several other teachers.  (Left to Right) Greg Lopatka (IL), Ms. Tiiu Ehrenpreis (Estonia), Ms. Kouri (IL) and Michelle Svoboda (Michigan).

Alaska-Spring 106.jpg (521165 bytes)

We visited the Permafrost Tunnel  when we attended the Seasons and Biomes Workshop in Fairbanks Alaska.

Alaska-Spring 131.jpg (516196 bytes)

We were told to dress for cold weather, but we found it was warmer inside the Permafrost Tunnel than it was outside.

For more Alaska links, click here

The following article recently appeared in the Fairbanks Daily-News Miner about permafrost scientist Kenji Yoshikawa. If you want to see his "Tunnelman" video, go to the site noted in the article or to YouTube.


Published October 13, 2008 
By Christi Hang    

FAIRBANKS Gotham City has Batman. Metropolis is under the protection of Superman.

But never fear, Fairbanks, Tunnelman is making sure the fair city is safe.

Instead of stopping bank robberies or making sure no evildoers take the city hostage, Tunnelman s goal is to teach Alaskans, especially students, about the importance of permafrost.

Like his fellow superheroes, Tunnelman is elusive and his personal appearances are rare. Fortunately, his adventures are documented. The first episode of Tunnelman can be found on YouTube and the University of Alaska Fairbanks permafrost Web site

But one can' t earn a living by hiding in permafrost tunnels. By day, Tunnelman is Kenji Yoshikawa, a permafrost researcher at UAF. Yoshikawa created his alter ego as part of an outreach program to teach students and keep them interested in permafrost.

Education is a priority for Yoshikawa, who spent two years teaching before pursuing his master s degree.

He never does anything halfway. He always takes a step further, said Ned Rozell, a science writer who has known Yoshikawa since 2004.

Rozell said many scientists do outreach projects, but not many are willing to shave their head and don a pair of tights to produce a video as part of their outreach efforts.

Yoshikawa said he developed the idea of a superhero movie after visiting villages and speaking at their schools. In addition to speaking at the school, Yoshikawa sets up a permafrost monitoring station in the village so students can take and record permafrost data. The data is then transmitted back to researchers. The first site was set up at Pearl Creek Elementary School, and there are now about 80 monitoring sites throughout the state.

It increases and increases every year, Yoshikawa said.

Even with the high number of sites, Yoshikawa is still on the lookout for more. He encourages teachers to contact him if they are interested in having him install a monitoring site at their schools and speak to their classes.

With 80 sites around the state, Yoshikawa spends a lot of his time traveling. Rozell traveled with him on a 900-mile snowmachine trip from Emmonak to Kotzebue to set up testing sites and talk to students in villages. Rozell said it was not uncommon to see Yoshikawa drill holes and talk to kids in multiple villages in a day.

He s driven. He moves faster than everyone else, and he gets stuff done, Rozell said.

Rozell has written a half-dozen articles on Yoshikawa and his work and is working on a book about his life for International Polar Year.

Yoshikawa grew up in Tokyo and was in middle school when he first saw the images of Mars sent back from Viking Lander I. The permafrost that covered the Martian surface fascinated him, and Yoshikawa said he wanted to visit the planet.

The childhood dream shaped his career decisions.

I thought a scientist would most likely go there, Yoshikawa said.

Traveling is nothing new for Yoshikawa. He sailed from Japan to Alaska in a 40-foot boat named the Hoki Mai. Yoshikawa and three other men sailed from Hokkaido to the Kamchatka Peninsula and then to Nome before letting the boat freeze near the coast of Barrow. His crewmates returned, but Yoshikawa stayed.

There is little permafrost in Japan, and researchers were sent to places where there were greater amounts to study, Yoshikawa said. Among his research trips, Yoshikawa spent a month skiing from Antarctica s Patriot Hills to the south pole.

But in 1994, Yoshikawa felt he was missing something in his work.

I thought, I m missing something big the ocean, he said.

He lived on the Hoki Mai for two years and studied subsea permafrost. He met his wife, Arva Chiu, in Barrow. She was a doctor at the local clinic, and the two were introduced by mutual friends.

The pair moved to Fairbanks, and Yoshikawa continued his permafrost research.

In Fairbanks, he met Larry Hinzman, who was then a professor at the water and environmental research center. He is now the director of the International Arctic Research Center.

Hinzman was conducting the largest controlled forest fire in the nation and hired Yoshikawa to be a liaison between American and Japanese researchers.

He s driven by curiosity, Hinzman said.

Hinzman said Yoshikawa takes on projects regardless of funding because of curiosity or passion for the project.

He s got a great sense of humor. He s very modest and very famous in Japan because of his exploits, Hinzman said.

Rozell called Yoshikawa an adventurer. In addition to the traveling he has done for work, Yoshikawa has taken a solo trip southward across the middle of Australia, attempted to canoe up the Amazon River, attempted to ski across Greenland and pushed a rickshaw across the Sahara with a partner.

Hinzman said Yoshikawa isn' t just passionate about his research, he also is passionate about his outreach work. Permafrost outreach isn t a priority when it comes to funding, but it helps develop a new generation of engineers and scientists, Hinzman said.

He s a real role model for Alaskans, he said of Yoshikawa.

Rozell said Yoshikawa is good at a wide range of things. He is able to fix a lot of equipment, he can interact with kids and he s good at putting on a suit and tie for fundraising.

Both Rozell and Hinzman said Yoshikawa is likable. The trait has helped him in his many endeavors, Rozell said. He s not afraid to ask for help, which allows him to work faster and people enjoy helping him. He enlisted a journalism student to help film the Tunnelman series and a singer to help record the music for the episode.

He s a unique person in the science community, Rozell said. There is no one like him. 

Yoshikawa s work has taken him as far as Mongolia to measure permafrost and talk to local students, and as close as North Pole Elementary School, where he set up a frost tube for Betty Stroup s second-grade class.

When you get any opportunity like this, you have to stop and take advantage of it, Stroup said.

Yoshikawa won Stroup s students over when he wrote their names in Japanese. He broke down the concept and importance of permafrost to second-graders and played the Tunnelman videos for them. The students were drawn to the action-packed beginning that showed Tunnelman traveling by snowmachine and dog team. The students paid attention to the whole video.

Yoshikawa said he developed the videos in hopes of reaching average or below-average students and making science accessible to them. The first episode took half of a year to complete, but Yoshikawa said he wasn t thrilled by the ending. He still hopes to find something memorable and fun to end the story.

Rozell said Tunnelman is evidence of the researcher s ability to put himself on display.

He s more fearless than the rest of us, Rozell said. 

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Fairbanks Daily News-Minerby NewsBank, Inc. 

Links to Other GLOBE sites:

Freeze up of Lake Marmo

Phenology at the Arboretum Spring

Highlands School Phenology 2008

Fall Phenology 2007

Fall Phenology 2008

Steeple Run and Highlands Bass release 11/4/06

November 2007 Bass release

November 2008 Bass Release


September 26th and 27th Fairbanks, Alaska  pictures on page 1

September 27th - 29th Fairbanks, Alaska  pictures on page 2

September 29th - 30th Fairbanks, Alaska  pictures on page 3

More Fall Alaska pictures on the Duffers Hockey News page

More Fall Pictures from Seward and Cruise Pictures

For Spring  Fairbanks pictures, click here.

Click here for more Spring Fairbanks pictures on Page 2

Click here for more Spring Fairbanks pictures on Page 3

 On March 26, 2007,  I went to Anchorage 

Spring time in Alaska and the Duffer News


GLOBE Program:

Looking for a page? Try the lopatkanetlogo.gif (7134 bytes) search page.

To E-mail the Web master, just click here!

Hit Counter