Margaret M. Darrow, Ph.D., P.E.

  • Professor, Geological Engineering
  • Department of Civil, Geological, and Environmental Engineering
  • PO Box 755900
  • Fairbanks, AK 99775-5900
  • Phone: (907) 474-7303
  • ELIF 364
Affiliations & Awards

Research Interests

  • Behavior of unfrozen water in frozen soils
  • Frost heaving
  • Soil physics
  • Slope stability in frozen ground
  • Thermal analysis of engineered structures over frozen ground

Selected Funded Research Projects

  • PI. Landslide Collides with Highway: Measuring Its Impacts to Inform Future Mitigation. For this project, we installed instrumentation in the abandoned Dalton Highway embankment to monitor and measure its collision with FDL-A. Funding Agency: Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities ($243,500).
    Wiring boxinfiltration ice

    Peyton Presler (BS student, Geological Engineering) wires in the solar panel for an automated data acquisition system (left), and checks out an exposure of infiltration ice (right).

  • Co-PI (PI Tong Qiu, Penn State). Collaborative Research: NNA Track 2: Planning for Infrastructure Resiliency and Adaptation to Climate Change amid Increasing Mass-Movement Risks across the Cryosphere. This project will facilitate two workshops to identify gaps in our understanding of mass movement risks across the cryosphere. Funding Agency: NSF ($249,882).
  • PI. The Long-Term Effects of Earthquakes: Using Geospatial Solutions to Evaluate Heightened Rockfall Activity on Critical Lifelines. The multi-institutional project team will analyze a series of ground-based LiDAR datasets collected before and after the 2018 Anchorage Earthquake to develop practice-oriented seismic rockfall stability guidelines and predictive tools for transportation agencies. Funding Agency: PacTrans ($60,000).
    Dangerous rock fall areaLIDAR measurements

    Example of dangerous rockfall area on the Alaska highway system (left). Daisy Herrman (BS student, Geological Engineering) sets up the ground-based LiDAR to collect data.

  • Co-PI (PI Scott Rupp, UAF). Arctic Environmental and Engineering Data Design and Support System. The multi-agency team will develop a web-based system to provide historical observations, and climate data and projections to aid in engineering decisions related to Alaska and cold regions. Funding Agency: U.S. Department of Defense ($1,825,482).
  • PI. 2020 Frozen Debris Lobe Monitoring. This project supported the annual monitoring of eight FDLs, including repeat LiDAR acquisition. Funding Agency: Alyeska Pipeline Service Company ($55,881).
  • PI. Landslides in the Fairbanks North Star Borough: Establishing Extent and Timing via Surficial Geologic Mapping and LiDAR Analysis. This project provides support to a graduate student to produce a landslide inventory map of the Fairbanks North Star Borough. Funding Agency: U.S. Geological Survey ($17,499).
    Student observes the stratigraphy of a landslide depositStudent conducting soil strength test

    Jaimy Schwarber (MS student, Geological Engineering) observes the stratigraphy of a landslide deposit (left), and measures the residual soil strength (right).

  • PI. Wickersham Dome Landslides Assessment and Monitoring (2019, 2020). For these projects, we conducted reconnaissance of two landslides, determining their rates of movement post-fire. Funding Agency: Alyeska Pipeline Service Company ($44,339 total combined budget).

  • PI. Pipeline Milepost (PLMP) 87 Retrogressive Thaw Slump (2017, 2018, 2019). This project consists of yearly assessing and monitoring the stabilization of a retrogressive thaw slump through subsurface soil and temperature, and snow analysis. Funding Agency: Alyeska Pipeline Service Company ($109,694 total combined budget).

  • PI. CONTACT: Measuring the Impact of a Landslide on Transportation Infrastructure to Improve Mobility and Safety, Phase I. (2017-2019). Through this research, we will measure the subsurface changes ahead of a landslide collision with the Dalton Highway embankment, in order to acquire knowledge to develop appropriate mitigation techniques, and we will develop a back-pack LiDAR system technique for quick and inexpensive assessment of surface deformation. Funding Agency: PacTrans ($60,000).

    Jaimy Schwarber (MS student, Geological Engineering) takes DGPS measurements (left), and points out infiltration ice exposed on the left flank of FDL-A (right).

  • PI. Monitoring and Analysis of Frozen Debris Lobes using Remote Sensing. (2014-2016). Employed remotely-sensed data using multiple data acquisition methods to monitor and analyze FDLs at different temporal scales, thereby increasing the understanding of rates and episodes of movement of these potential geohazards. Funding Agency: US Department of Transportation ($500,000).

    Nora Gyswyt (BS student, Geological Engineering) participates in field work on frozen debris lobes (left), and presents her results at UAF’s Undergraduate Research Day in April 2016.


    Ryan McCoy (BS student, Geological Engineering) records surface measurements of frozen debris lobes regardless of the season.

  • PI. CAREER: Mobility of Unfrozen Water in Frozen Soil. (2012-2017). Investigated the mass fraction and mobility of unfrozen water in frozen soil, using state-of-the-art measurement techniques such as NMR, XRD, and ESEM. Funding Agency: National Science Foundation ($402,954)
  • PI. Monitoring and Analysis of Frozen Debris Lobes, Ph. I. (2012). Ph. 1B. (2014-2015). A slow-moving landslide (termed Frozen Debris Lobe-A (FDL-A)) is approaching the Dalton Highway near MP219. This research project included a drilling/sampling and monitoring program to better understand its direction and rate of movement and the nature of its shear zone. Phase 1 Funding Agencies: Alaska University Transportation Center and Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities ($100,000). Phase 1B Funding Agency: US Department of Transportation ($136,062).
    Jocelyn Simpson (MS student, Geological Engineering) checks drill cuttings while installing instrumentation in FDL-A (left), and lays out geophones for a seismic survey of the slow-moving landslide in the Brooks Range, Alaska (right). (Photo by M. Darrow)

Graduate Students Advised

  • Jaimy Schwarber - MS Geological Engineering
    Research Topic: Landslides in the Fairbanks North Star Borough – Initial Mapping and Assessment of Engineering Properties. Expected graduation date: 2021.
  • Rui Guo  MS Geological Engineering
    Project: Analysis of Cation-treated Clay Microstructure Using Zeta Potential and X-ray Diffraction.
    Graduated: December 2018.
  • Javed Miandad  MS Geological Engineering
    Thesis: Landslide Mapping using Multiscale LiDAR Digital Elevation Models.
    Graduated: August 2018.
  • Aaron Kruse – MS Geological Engineering
    Thesis: Analysis of Unfrozen Water in Cation-Treated, Fine-Grained Soils Using the Pulse Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (P-NMR) Method.
    Graduated: December 2016.
  • Jocelyn Simpson  MS Geological Engineering.
    Thesis: Site Investigation, and GIS and Slope Stability Analysis of a Frozen Debris Lobe, South-Central Brooks Range, Alaska. Graduated: August 2015.
  • David Jensen  MS Geological Engineering.
    Thesis: Performance of an Air Convection Embankment over Ice-rich Permafrost: Instrumentation, Monitoring, and Modeling. Graduated: May 2015.
  • Kyle Obermiller  MS Geological Engineering.
    Thesis: Investigation of a Landslide in Discontinuous Permafrost near Chitina, Alaska.
    Graduated: December, 2011.

Selected Publications

Link to Scholar Citation Page

  • Miandad, J., Darrow, M. M., Hendricks, M. D., Daanen, R. P.  (2020).  “Landslide mapping using multiscale LiDAR digital elevation models.”  Environmental & Engineering Geoscience:  26(3), 1-21.
  • Darrow, M. M. and Lieblappen, R. M.  (2020).  “Visualizing cation treatment effects on frozen clay soils through µCT scanning.”  Cold Regions Science and Technology:  175.
  • Darrow, M. M., Guo, R., Trainor, T. P.  (2020). “Zeta potential of cation-treated soils and its implication on unfrozen water mobility.” Cold Regions Science and Technology: 173.
  • Gong, W., Darrow, M. M., Meyer, F. J., Daanen, R. P. (2019). “Reconstructing movement history of frozen debris lobes in northern Alaska using satellite radar interferometry.” Remote Sensing of Environment: 221, 722-740.
  • Kruse, A. M., Darrow, M. M., Akagawa, S. (2018). “Improvements in measuring unfrozen water in frozen soils using pulse nuclear magnetic resonance (P-NMR) method.” Journal of Cold Regions Engineering: 32(1), 7 p., doi:0.1061/(ASCE)CR.1943-5495.0000141
  • Darrow, M. M., Daanen, R. P., Gong, W. (2017). “Predicting movement using internal deformation dynamics of a landslide in permafrost.” Cold Regions Science and Technology: 143, 93-104,
  • Kruse, A. M. and Darrow, M. M. (2017). “Adsorbed cation effects on unfrozen water in fine-grained frozen soil measured using pulsed nuclear magnetic resonance.” Cold Regions Science and Technology: 142, 42-54.
  • Darrow, M. M., Gyswyt, N. L., Simpson, J. M., Daanen, R. P., Hubbard, T. D. (2016). “Frozen debris lobe morphology and movement: an overview of eight dynamic features, southern Brooks Range, Alaska.” The Cryosphere, 10, 977-993, doi:10.5194/tc-10-977-2016.
  • Darrow, M. M., and Jensen, D. D. (2016). “Modeling the performance of an air convection embankment (ACE) with thermal berm over ice-rich permafrost, Lost Chicken Creek, Alaska.” Cold Regions Science and Technology, 130, 43-58.
  • Simpson, J. M., Darrow, M. M., Huang, S. L., Daanen, R. P., Hubbard, T. D. (2016). “Investigating movement and characteristics of a frozen debris lobe, South-Central Brooks Range, Alaska.” Environmental and Engineering Geoscience, 22(3), 259-277.
  • Darrow, M. M., and Jensen, D. D. (2014). “Cold region applications for in-place inclinometers based on microelectromechanical systems technology.” Transportation Research Record, 2433, 1-9.
  • Darrow, M. M. (2013). “Automated MEMS-based in-place inclinometers.” Geotechnical News, 31(3), 27-30.
  • Obermiller, K. E., Darrow, M. M., Huang, S. L., Chen, G. (2013). “Site investigation and slope stability analysis of the Chitina Dump Slide (CDS), Alaska.” Environmental and Engineering Geoscience, 19(1), 27-40.
  • Daanen, R. P., Grosse, G., Darrow, M. M., Hamilton, T. D., Jones, B. M. (2012). “Rapid movement of frozen debris-lobes: implications for permafrost degradation and slope instability in the south-central Brooks Range, Alaska.” Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences, 12, 1521-1537.
  • Darrow, M. M., Bray, M. T., Huang, S. L. (2012). “Analysis of a deep-seated landslide in permafrost, Richardson Highway, South-Central Alaska.” Environmental and Engineering Geoscience, 18(3), 261-280.
  • Darrow, M. M. (2011). “Thermal modeling of roadway embankments over permafrost.” Cold Regions Science and Technology, 65, 474-487.
  • Darrow, M. M., Huang, S. L., Akagawa, S. (2009). “Adsorbed cation effects on the frost susceptibility of natural soils.” Cold Regions Science and Technology, 55, 263-277.
  • Darrow, M. M., Huang, S. L., Shur, Y., Akagawa, S. (2008). “Improvements in frost heave laboratory testing of fine-grained soils.” Journal of Cold Regions Engineering, 22(3), 65-78.

Doctor of Philosophy, Engineering: Arctic Engineering
May 2007
University of Alaska Fairbanks

Bachelor of Science Degree, Geological Engineering
December 2002
University of Alaska Fairbanks

Teachers for Alaska Certification Program, Math/Science
May 1997
University of Alaska Fairbanks

Master of Science Degree, Geology
December 1995
University of Alaska Fairbanks

Bachelor of Science Degree, Geology
August 1993 University of Washington


Department Chair, Civil, Geological and Environmental Engineering 2020 – present
Professor, 2018 - present
Department Chair, Mining and Geological Engineering 2015-2019
Associate Professor, 2013 - 2018
Assistant Professor, 2008 - 2013
Department of Mining and Geological Engineering, University of Alaska Fairbanks

Geotechnical Engineering Assistant, 2005 - 2008
Graduate Intern, 2002 - 2005
Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, Fairbanks, Alaska

Teaching Experience

Teaching Assistant, 2002
Department of Mining and Geological Engineering, University of Alaska Fairbanks

Earth and Space Science Instructor, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000
Upward Bound Math/Science, Fairbanks, Alaska

Secondary Teacher, 1997 - 1999
Minchumina Community School, Iditarod Area School District, Lake Minchumina, Alaska

Graduate Teaching Assistant, 1993 - 1995
Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Alaska Fairbanks

Courses Taught

  • GE101 – Introduction to Geological Engineering
  • GE 261 - General Geology for Engineers
  • GE 365 - Geological Materials Engineering
  • GE 375 - Principles of Engineering Geology and Terrain Analysis
  • GE 376 - GIS Applications in Geological and Environmental Engineering
  • GE 381/382 - Field Methods and Applied Design I and II
  • GE 430 - Geomechanical Instrumentation
  • GE440 – Slope Stability
  • GE441 – Geohazard Analysis
  • GE480 – Senior Design
  • GE626 – Thermal Geotechnics
  • GE 692 - Graduate Seminar
  • ES 208 – Mechanics
  • ES 209 - Statics


Professional Licenses, Organizations, and Honorary Membership

  • Registered Professional Civil Engineer, State of Alaska, since 2014
  • Tau Beta Pi, Alaska Alpha Chief Advisor 2012-present, Advisor 2006-2012
  • Phi Kappa Phi
  • Association of Environmental and Engineering Geologists, Advisor 2008 – 2012, 2016 – present
  • United States Permafrost Association
  • United States Universities Council on Geotechnical Education and Research
  • American Society of Civil Engineers

Honors and Awards

  • ASCE 2013 International Cold Regions Engineering Conference Best Paper award
  • National Science Foundation CAREER Award 2011
  • National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship 2003-2006
  • Tau Beta Pi Fellow 2003-2004