Dr Chris Burn, permafrost expert, receives Polar Medal

A scientist with more than three decades’ experience working in the Mackenzie Delta has received the Polar Medal from the Governor General of Canada.

Dr Chris Burn’s medal recognizes his services to Canada’s North through pioneering permafrost research. He received the award from Governor General Julie Payette last week.

Describing his achievements, the Governor General’s office stated: “Chris Burn is an internationally recognized expert in the domain of permafrost and ground ice in Yukon and the western Arctic.


“A professor of geography and environmental studies at Carleton University, he is equally adept at fostering meaningful and productive partnerships with relevant stakeholders in Canada’s North, ensuring a comprehensive understanding of the effects of climate change on permafrost terrain and tundra ecosystems.”

In a news release, a Carleton University representative said the award formed “well-deserved recognition of Burn’s remarkable accomplishments.”

Outstanding service

Burn himself, in the same news release, said: “This great personal honour could not have been achieved without important northern partnerships and friendships.

“The most significant of these includes the help of Douglas Esagok of Inuvik, and the continuing interest of the community of Mayo, central Yukon, in our work.

“I have been fortunate to have the support of my department, and to have worked with talented graduate students, 17 of whom now live and work north of 60.”


Burn has taken part in a range of northern environmental and regulatory reviews, including the NWT’s Mackenzie Gas Project and Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway.

His research looks at the relationship between climate and permafrost, such as how ground temperatures respond to climate warming. He has authored 145 peer-reviewed articles on permafrost, landforms, and climate change in Yukon and the NWT.

The Polar Medal itself is a silver octagonal medal, 36 mm in diameter, with a suspension bar featuring a representation of the North Star alongside limbs “evoking strong winds, water currents and the aurora borealis,” according to the Governor General’s website.

Recipients “have provided outstanding service in support of scientific research and/or polar exploration relating to Canada or to Canadian interests,” the website continues.