Simulating the Pleistocene Project

Team: 15

School: Monte del Sol

Area of Science: Environmental Science

Interim: Definition of Problem:

As a result of climate change, the Arctic has grown warmer and the glaciers are melting. With increased temperatures, gases like methane and carbon dioxide are released from melting permafrost. If the permafrost continues to melt at its current pace, the natural gas in our atmosphere will double, tilting our ecosystems and environments. We will see irreversible consequences such as hotter heat waves, drier droughts, bigger storm surges, and greater snowfall. It will be climate change on a scale we can neither anticipate completely nor prepare for. Calamities such as habitat destruction and thawed ancient viruses’ are only a few of the side-effects we have already seen as a result of the permafrost melting.

Problem Solution:

The Pleistocene Project works to prevent the permafrost from melting by reintroducing grazers and large mammals into permafrost regions in order to stimulate grasslands. The animals compact and decrease the snow blanket atop of the ground, which was insulating, thereby melting the permafrost underneath and releasing greenhouse gases. Once the snow is cleared it will make way for grass. Grass not only diffuses the heat from the sun but it also reflects it; this is known as the albedo effect. The snow, on the other hand, absorbs the heat and insulates it, indirectly melting the permafrost underneath it. Freeing the permafrost of its snow blanket also allows the cool winter temperatures to directly affect the permafrost and keep its temperature low. This solution is currently taking place in Northern Siberia (founded by Sergey Zimov).

Progress to date:

Team 15 has started to create an interactive simulation using the Python programming language to represent the Pleistocene Project’s use of grazers to de-insulate the snow in permafrost regions. We hope to have the model generate data to measure the amount of carbon dioxide sequestered in the Pleistocene environment. As of now, we have written a draft code that allows us to simulate the number of deer it requires in order to de-insulate an adequate amount of snow. It currently demonstrates that it takes approximately one billion deer to de-insulate all of the possible snow with permafrost underneath. Our future code will contain more variables such as snow density, temperature, more animals (bison, horses, apex predators, sheep, etc…) seeing as deer alone are too unrealistic.

We are also creating a Pleistocene prototype. Outside, currently, we have created two 1X1 ft small patches of earth. We have taken the temperature of the current patches, and when it snows, we will check the temperature periodically and observe all changes. Patch A will have snow on it, and patch B will be cleared of snow and have artificial grass atop of it. We hope to see a small-scale of what's happening in Siberia but in our backyard and study the albedo effect more personally.


Anderson, Ross: Welcome to the Pleistocene Park Available at:

Irving, Michael: Welcome to Pleistocene Park: The mammoth plan to recreate an ice age ecosystem in Siberia Available at:

Pleistocene Park: Restore High Productive Grazing Ecosystem in the Arctic and Mitigate Climate change Available at:

The Pleistocene Park Foundation: Restore an Ice Age Ecosystem, Protect the Permafrost and Avoid Catastrophic Global Warming Scenario Available at:

Zimov, Sergey Pleistocene Park: Return of the Mammoth's Ecosystem Available at:

Joann Mudge
Charles Strauss

Team Members:

  Kaley Martinez
  Brooklynn Martinez
  Isabella Martinez

Sponsoring Teacher: Rhonda Crespo

Mail the entire Team