AB-201 Terrestrial Arctic Biology (15 ECTS)

Fieldwork in Ny-Ålesund

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ID:
AB-201
CREDITS:
15 ECTS
START DATE:
31 July 2017
END DATE:
29 November 2017
COURSE PERIOD:
Autumn semester (August–December), annually.
LANGUAGE OF INSTRUCTION AND EXAMINATION:
English
CREDIT REDUCTION/OVERLAP:
None
GRADE:
Letter grade (A through F)
COURSE MATERIAL:
Curriculum: Ca. 650 pages based on scientific papers and book chapters
COURSE COSTS:
Fieldwork, NOK 1600 (8 days x NOK 200 per overnight stay)
COURSE CAPACITY MIN/MAX:
10/20 students
EXAMINATION SUPPORT MATERIAL:
Bilingual dictionary between English and mother tongue
APPLICATION DEADLINE:
15 April 2017

INSTRUCTORS:

Mads Forchhammer
Mads Forchhammer
Professor, Terrestrial zoology

Course requirements:

60 ECTS within general natural sciences, of which 30 ECTS within the field of biology. The applicant must be enrolled in a programme at Bachelor level, or document that the courses are approved into the applicant’s current study programme.

Academic content:

The course offers an introduction to terrestrial and fresh water communities in the Arctic, approached by considering 1) origin and evolution of Arctic terrestrial biota, 2) adaptations of organisms to Arctic terrestrial habitats, and 3) how organisms interacts, both with their environment and with each other. Topics will be discussed in relation to climate history, current physical conditions, and future climate change. The course covers general Arctic aspects, but Svalbard is often used as an example when appropriate. Learning activities are structured to cover the main species groups of the Arctic terrestrial biota, including bacteria, fungi, plants, invertebrates, birds, and mammals. Limnology is included as an element of this course with both field activities and linked lectures.

The course runs in parallel with AB-204 and the two courses are designed to complement each other. AB-201 has substantial data and field based research projects and the focus is towards species and habitat knowledge whereas AB-204 provides a deeper insight into the theoretical background of Arctic ecology and focuses on models, literature studies and analyses of existing databases. Students are expected to take both courses. The field cruises for the two courses are combined to an eight days field cruise, whereof six days are focused towards AB- 201 activities.

Learning outcomes:

Knowledge
Upon completing the course, the students can:

  • Describe the origin, evolution and development of the arctic terrestrial flora and fauna.
  • Explain how various species groups, like bacteria, fungi, mosses, vascular plants, invertebrates, birds and mammals are adapted to live under marginal Arctic conditions.
  • Explain ecological and trophical interactions between these various species groups, and how various abiotic factors, including climate change, affect this interplay.

Skills
Upon completing the course, the students can:

  • Show practical skills in basic field and laboratory methods, like putting up insect traps, collection of limnic samples, perform vegetation analyses, and analyses of soil and water parameters.
  • Analyse collected field and laboratory data using basic statistical tools.
  • Relate their own field observations to knowledge achieved through lectures and literature in Arctic terrestrial biology.

General competences
Upon completing the course, the students can:

  • Plan and conduct small field projects under challenging climatic conditions.
  • Efficiently administrate workload and share information within a group.
  • Critically read, evaluate and debate scientific literature.
  • Communicate scientific results, both in writing and orally.

Learning activities:

The course extends over a full semester. Initially, students attend two days of compulsory Arctic survival and safety training.

Field trips and a weeklong field cruise are central learning activities in AB-201. Fieldwork provides first-hand experience of the Arctic environment, and enables a deeper understanding of the complex interplay between biotic and abiotic factors. During the field cruise, we visit a range of different habitats; from recently deglaciated terrain to nutrient-rich birdcliffs, and experience how the flora and fauna shifts along various abiotic and biotic gradients.

Research project in groups is another important learning activity in AB-201, and closely linked to the field cruise. During the first week, students are divided into groups, and given the responsibility to develop and conduct a small research project under guidance. Through “learning by doing”, the project work introduces students to field-based research methodology, and the process of collecting, analysing, evaluating and communicating scientific results. During the cruise, students practice various sampling techniques when collecting data for their own research projects. After the field cruise, we spend time in the lab, analysing collected samples. During the semester, parallel with other learning activities, the students work with analyses and interpretations of their data, and each group deliver a written report and present their data orally. Each student is also given the task of critically reviewing another report, and deliver a referee report.

Besides lectures, we also utilize learning activities such as student driven seminars, team-based learning, and literature discussions to achieve deeper content knowledge, and provide students with competence to read, evaluate and debate scientific literature.

Total lecture hours: 45 hours.
Total seminar hours: 25 hours.
Laboratory work: 6 days.
Excursion: Excursion: 10 days (6 days field cruise, 2 days at Kapp Linné, 2 days in the vicinity of Longyearbyen)

Compulsory learning activities:

Field excursions, seminars, lab work.
All compulsory learning activities must be approved in order to sit the exam.

Assessment:

Method Duration
Percentage of final grade
Written report and presentation (group work)
40%
Referee report (individual)
10%
Written exam (individual) 3 hours
50%

All assessments must be passed in order to pass the course.
Only the final grade will be reported, based on an average of the grades from the examination parts. Partial grades available upon request.

Application deadline: 15 April 2017

UNIS students in Magdalenegfjorden, Svalbard

AB-201 students going ashore in Magdalenefjorden. Photo: Steve Coulson/UNIS.

AB-201 at Kapp Linné, August 2011. Photo: Steve Coulson/UNIS

AB-201 fieldwork at Kapp Linné. Photo: Steve Coulson/UNIS.

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CONTACT INFO

The University Centre in Svalbard
Telephone: +47 79 02 33 00
Fax: +47 79 02 33 01
E-mail: post@unis.no / webmaster@unis.no
Address: P.O. Box 156 N-9171 Longyearbyen
Org. no. 985 204 454

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