AB-204 Arctic Ecology and Population Biology (15 ECTS)

UNIS students in Magdalenegfjorden, Svalbard

Apply here

23 August 2017
6 December 2017
Autumn semester (August–December), annually
Letter grade (A through F)
Articles from the primary research literature and sections of the book “A primer of Ecology” by Gotelli, NJ. (4. edition).
Fieldwork as part of a research cruise, NOK 400 (2 days x NOK 200 per overnight stay). The shorter field trips near UNIS come at no cost for the student.
9/18 students
Bilingual dictionary between English and mother tongue
15 April 2017

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 deals with how the Arctic environment shapes ecological processes and evolutionary adaptations. Behavioural ecology, life history adaptations, population dynamics and species interactions are dealt with. Particular attention is given to how the strong seasonality of the Arctic influences the organisms that live here. A theoretical fundament will be established as a baseline for our Arctic case studies. Cases include both marine and terrestrial species and taxa. Effects of environmental variability will also be studied, including discussions of how populations are impacted by past and future climate change, by harvesting, and by predator control. Field studies and excursions will help students learn about ecological interactions, field methods and ongoing research projects. Computer labs will complement the field and literature based studies.

The course runs in parallel with AB-201 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. AB-204 provides a deeper insight into the theoretical background of arctic ecology and focuses more on models, literature studies and analyses of existing databases. Students are expected to study both courses, and the main field activity in AB-204 takes place through a ship-based expedition early in the term, co-organized with AB-201.

Learning outcomes:

Upon completing the course, the students can:

  • Use theory and data, including own observations, to study and explain the adaptations and dynamics of Arctic organisms.
  • Illustrate key ecological interactions in the marine and terrestrial ecosystems of the Arctic.
  • Demonstrate how human interference such as harvesting or predator control may impact on population dynamics and life histories.

Upon completing the course, the students can:

  • Develop a literature study on a research question in Arctic ecology.
  • Analyse data on population dynamics, behaviour, and life history traits.
  • Use the software system R for development of simple models and data analyses.
  • Navigate and search the research literature on Arctic ecology and population biology.

General competences
Upon completing the course, the students can:

  • Perform fieldwork in selected Arctic ecosystems and habitats.
  • Critically evaluate, present and discuss scientific literature within the field.
  • Present own work through written and oral reports.
  • Demonstrate the relevance of ecological theory for field based scientific studies in Arctic ecology.

Learning activities:

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

During the semester the students will:
– Attend lectures, seminars and excursions to learn from the skilled staff of the department as well as invited experts and guest lecturers. Seminars and excursions will be partly student driven to promote active engagement and learning.
– Be invited to some guest lectures and seminars organized for the staff and students of the department.
– Attend colloquia to practice and learn the mathematical basis of ecology, following Chapter 1-6 in the textbook “A primer to Ecology”. The colloquia will include problem solving and Arctic cases.
– Develop individual reports based on literature studies of student-chosen topics within Arctic ecology and population biology. These can be on the seasonal ecology of a species or taxa, or on a particular ecological process or phenomenon. Independence of thought and critical reading will be practiced.
– Attend computer labs on selected topics in Arctic ecology and population biology. This will give hands on experience with quantitative ecology and problem solving based on recent or ongoing research projects. The students will summarize their learning outcomes from the computer labs in individual reports.

Total lecture hours: ca. 35 hours.
Total seminar hours: ca. 35 hours.
Laboratory work: ca. 25 hours.
Field excursions: 4–6 days.

Compulsory learning activities:

Field excursions and computer labs. The computer lab reports must be passed, and will form the basis for some of the questions during the oral exam.

All compulsory learning activities must be approved in order to sit the exam.


Percentage of final grade
Report from literature study
Oral exam

All assessments must be passed in order to pass the course.

Each assessment is graded, and subsequently combined into a single grade. Partial grades for each assessment will be available.

Application deadline: 15 April 2017

UNIS students in Magdalenegfjorden, Svalbard

Students going ashore in Magdalenefjorden. Photo: Steve Coulson/UNIS.


Student fieldwork ashore during course cruise

Student fieldwork ashore during course cruise. Photo: Steve Coulson/UNIS.


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


UNIS logo


Research-based education of the next generation of Arctic experts