------------------------ Research















Department of Geography
McGill University
805 Sherbrooke Street West
Montreal, QC
H3A 2K6


Tim Haltigin

PhD Candidate
Department of Geography
McGill University

I'm currently a doctoral student in the Department of Geography at McGill University. Supported by the Canadian Space Agency's CARN program and based out of the McGill Arctic Research Station and HMP, my thesis work draws comparisons between similar landforms found both in the Canadian High Arctic and on Mars.

Aside from my research, I am also actively involved with the Permafrost Young Researchers Network - an international organization devoted to promoting global awareness and understanding about permafrost conditions in a changing climate.


As a periglacial geomorphologist, I am primarily interested in landforms related to frozen ground and subsurface ice deposits. The research projects on which I am currently working involve interpreting aerial and satellite imagery to characterize the geometry of these landforms, detecting and quantifying underlying ice content using surface-based geophysical surveying, and relating surface morphology to ground ice volumes. Moreover, given the demonstrated utility of geophysical instrumentation for subsurface prospecting, I am also interested in further developing these tools for lunar and planetary exploration. Finally, my MSc work applied computational fluid dynamics to the design of fish habitat restoration projects. A brief summary of each research theme is provided below.

Spatial Analysis of Polygonal Terrain on Earth and Mars
Polygonal terrain is one of the most common landscape features present in Earth's polar regions. These networks of interconnected trough-like features are formed through a complex interaction of climatic and ground-based processes, and often signify the presence of ground ice deposits in the form of ice wedges. Because landforms with similar morphologies are present throughout Mars' polar environments, it has been suggested that ground ice may also exist at shallow depths within the Martian regolith. While similarities between terrestrial and Martian polygons have often been qualitatively noted, few detailed quantitative comparisons of the two have been performed. Moreover, although a strong theoretical framework suggests that polygon geometry is a function of ground material properties, this notion requires further exploration. The objectives of this work are to:
(1) characterize polygon geometry and sediment distribution for selected sites in the Canadian High Arctic; (2) compare the geometrical properties statistically to sites on Mars, and: (3) use morphological variables to develop a preliminary categorization of terrestrial and Martian polygons. Aerial photos of each terrestrial site have been collected and georeferenced against known ground control markers. Image analysis was then used to quantify the parameters required to classify polygonal ground through a statistical technique known as "Spatial Point Pattern Analysis", which defines a given site as being random, regular, or aggregrated, and denotes the degree to which each site is so designated.

Detection of Ground Ice using Complementary Geophysical Tools
Non-invasive geophysical tools have been used extensively in previous permafrost and ground ice investigations. Specifically, ground penetrating radar (GPR) is effective at mapping subsurface structure, creating a stratigraphic reconstruction based on differences in the ground materials’ response to electromagnetic waves. Another technique – capacitive coupled resistivity (CCR) – identifies the materials comprising the subsurface based on the calculation of electrical resistance of the materials through which the induced signal passes. These tools are extremely effective at locating subsurface ice deposits, due to the drastic dielectric (GPR) and electrical resistivity (CCR) differences between ice and the enclosing sediments. Despite the apparent advantages of combining the data from these two instruments, little attention to such a combination has been reflected in the literature. Therefore, the overarching goal of this work is to perform surveys with both instruments at known ground ice locations to image the ice wedges and generate estimates of their volumes. At each site, a number of parallel transects oriented perpendicular to the wedge have been surveyed using the OhmMapper instrument (resistivity) and both the 50MHz (deeper signal penetration, less detail) and 250MHz (shallower signal penetration, greater detail) MALA Geoscience radar antennas. Each transect was also surveyed with a high resolution Trimble GPS so that the geophysical surveys can subsequently be referenced spatially. Data has then been analyzed using Res2D and Res3D software (resistivity) and Mala GroundVision and ReflexW (radar) software packages.

Geophysical Instrumentation for Planetary Research
Returning to the moon to explore its shallow subsurface is extremely important for understanding its geological history and will be a crucial precursor for potential lunar outposts. Because no previous mission to the moon has included widespread geophysical surveys, a detailed understanding of the upper layers of the lunar regolith remains largely unknown. I was recently involved in a concept study to develop a rover-based ground penetrating radar (GPR) instrument to characterize the structure and composition of the moon’s shallow subsurface, provide ground truth data in support of upcoming orbital missions, and conduct initial prospecting for in-situ resource utilization. Furthermore, it is possible that GPR may be useful for exploring the shallow subsurface of other planetary bodies. As part of the TandEM proposal in response to ESA's Cosmic Vision program, I am a member of the "interiors" project team working towards developing an air-borne GPR to explore Titan and Enceladus as a followup to the discoveries made by the Cassini-Huygens mission.

3D Flow Dynamics around Stream Deflectors (MSc)
The disappearance of suitable fish habitats in rivers due to land-use changes and other factors has been extensively documented. The resulting loss of native fish stocks is, thus, of great concern for both ecological and economic reasons. In an effort to counter these declines, various stream rehabilitation projects using in-stream obstructions to scour artifical pool habitats have been widely implemented. Unfortunately, the success of these projects has been limited due to an incomplete understanding of the flow's response to the obstructions and how the bed, in turn, responds to changes in flow. My MSc research used a three-dimensional computational fluid dynamics numerical model (PHOENICS) to investigate the role of obstruction size and angle on the flow field in a laboratory flume. Subsequent bed topography surveys were performed to examine the role of obstruction angle on scour hole development over time. The model was capable of predicting laboratory velocity and turbulent kinetic energy measurements, performing better for flow over a flat stable bed than over a deformed sand bed. A new method of incorporating complex bed topography into a structured Cartesian mesh was developed in the process. Flow field properties such as dynamic pressure, velocity amplification, separation zone length and width, and downwelling extent and magnitude were found to be strongly dependent on deflector geometry. Equilibrium scour hole depths and geometry are also angle-dependent. A predictive equation was produced explaining the rate at which scour holes reach equilibrium, and compared well with existing literature. Finally, a method was developed whereby characteristics of the flow field over a flat, stable bed could be used to predict equilibrium scour hole geometry.


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Short CV

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PhD - Periglacial Geomorphology, Geography, McGill (expected: Dec. 2009)
MSc - Fluvial Geomorphology, Geography, McGill (2005)
BSc - Environmental Geography, Concordia (2002)

2008 - "Ground penetrating radar for lunar subsurface exploration" (Canadian Space Agency; "CSA")
2007 - "Assessment of ground ice conditions in polar desert polygonal terrain using electromagnetic geophysical methods" (CSA)
2006 - "Comparative geomorphic analysis of High Arctic polar desert ice wedge polygons" (CSA)
2005 - "Photogrammetric characterization of polar desert ice wedge polygon morphology" (CSA)

2007 - McGill Major Fellowship in Science (2007-2009)
2005 - NSERC Postgraduate Scholarship D2 (2005-2007)
2005 - Canadian Space Agency NSERC Supplement (2005-2007)
2003 - NSERC Postgraduate Scholarship A (2003-2005)

1. Pollard W, Haltigin T, Whyte L, Niederberger T, Andersen D, Omelon C, Nadeau J, Ecclestone, M, and Lebeuf M. 2009. Overview of analogue science activities at the McGill Arctic Research Station, Axel Heiberg Island, Canadian High Arctic. Planetary and Space Science, 57(5-6): 646-659.
2. Dutilleul P, Haltigin TW, and Pollard WH. 2009. Analysis of polygonal terrain landforms on Earth and Mars through spatial point patterns. Environmetrics, 20(2): 206-220.
3. Haltigin TW, Pollard WH, Osinski GR, Dutilleul P, and Seaquist JW. 2008. Spatial analysis of small-scale polygonal terrain in Utopia Planitia, Mars: a comparison with terrestrial analogues. Proceedings of the Ninth International Conference on Permafrost, Fairbanks AK: 639-644.
4. Haltigin TW, Biron PM, and Lapointe MF. 2007. Predicting equilibrium scour hole geometry near angled stream deflectors using three dimensional numerical flow model. Journal of Hydraulic Engineering, 133(8): 983-988.
5. Haltigin TW, Biron PM, and Lapointe MF. 2007. Three dimensional numerical simulation of flow around stream deflectors. Journal of Hydraulic Research, 45(2): 227-238.
6. Biron PM, Haltigin TW, Hardy RJ, and Lapointe MF. 2007. Assessing different methods of generating a three dimensional numerical model mesh for a complex stream topography. International Journal of Computational Fluid Dynamics, 21(1): 37-47.

1. Williams KK, Haltigin TW, and Pollard WH. 2008. Ground penetrating radar mapping of subsurface ice wedges in polygonal terrain on Axel Heiberg and Devon Islands, Canada. Joint Annual Meeting GACMAC- SEG-SGA, May 26-28, Quebec City, QC.
Haltigin TW, Pollard WH, Osinski GR, and Dutilleul P. 2008. Comparative morphometric analysis of polygonal terrain at potential Mars Phoenix landing sites. LPSC XXXIX, Mar.10-14, Houston, TX: Abstract 2475.
Haltigin T, Couture N, Wainstein P, Frauenfeld O, Johansson M, and Lantuit H. 2007. The Permafrost Young Researchers Network (PYRN): Education and outreach for the International Polar Year (2007-2008) and beyond. 8th International Student Conference on Northern Studies, Oct. 18-21, Saskatoon, SK.
4. Haltigin T, Pollard W, Dutilleul P, Osinski G, and Seaquist J. 2007. Morphological comparisons of Martian and terrestrial polygonal terrain using spatial point pattern analysis. 2nd International Workshop – Exploring Mars and its Earth Analogues, June 18-23, Trento, Italy.
5. Haltigin TW, Biron PM, and Lapointe MF. 2004. The effect of structure orientation on three-dimensional flow field simulations and bed response around paired stream deflectors. AGU-CGU Joint Assembly, May 17-21, Montreal, QC.
6. DePascale G, Haltigin T, Lantuit H, and Turner J. 2003. RIGID – Resistivity Instrumentation for Ground Ice Detection. European Space Agency Aurora Student Design Competition, September 8-9, Barcelona, Spain.


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Wayne Pollard - Periglacial Geomorphology, McGill (PhD Supervisor)
Pascale Biron - Fluvial Geomorphology, Concordia (MSc Supervisor)
Michel Lapointe - Fluvial Geomorphology, McGill (MSc Supervisor)
Gordon Osinski - Earth Sciences / Physics and Astronomy, Western
Pierre Dutilleul - Applied Statistics, McGill
Kevin Williams - Earth Sciences / Science Education. Buffalo State
Hugues Lantuit - Periglacial Geomorphology, AWI Institute
Dale Andersen - Astrobiology / Geomorphology, SETI Institute

McGill Arctic Research Station - Axel Heiberg Island, Canada
Haughton Mars Project - Devon Island, Canada

CSA - Canadian Space Agency
NASA - needs no qualifier
ESA - European Space Agency

Phoenix - Scout lander exploring the northern plains (2008)
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter - orbital search for past/present water (2005-present)
Mars Express - ESA orbiter (2003-present)
Mars Science Laboratory - rover mission to search for life / characterize geology (launch: 2009)
Exo-Mars - ESA Aurora Flagship mission; combined orbiter / rover (launch: 2013)

HiRISE image gallery - HiRISE library
HiRISE periglacial features - landforms similar to those in terrestrial polar environments
HiRISE landing sites - current / future Mars mission landing sites
MOC image gallery - Mars Orbiter Camera library

TandEM - proposed exploration of Titan and Enceladus
Cassini-Huygens - joint NASA/ESA mission to Saturn
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter - orbital preparation for future human missions

CLRN - Canadian Lunar Research Network
PYRN - Permafrost Young Researchers Network
CGU - Canadian Geophysical Union
IAF - International Astronautical Federation

Maniwaki Mauler - biting commentary on the wide world of sports
ESPN - the worldwide leader...
Sports Guy - best sports columnist on the internet
TSN - because ESPN's hockey coverage is lacklustre

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Department Contact Information

Department of Geography, 805 Sherbrooke Street West

Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3A 2K6

phone: (514) 398-4111 fax: (514) 398-7437



Last updated 04/09/2009

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