Arctic Biology (AB)
Despite the apparent harshness of the high Arctic, many organisms are well adapted to this environment. The fauna and flora of Svalbard include more than 1,800 marine invertebrate species, 1,200 terrestrial or freshwater invertebrate species and over 170 higher plant species in addition to the 21 mammal and 28 bird species.
UNIS emphasizes the biological studies (taxonomy, diversity, ecology, physiology) of the fauna and flora of Svalbard related to the physical and chemical environment. Easy access to key habitats gives students and staff at UNIS a unique opportunity to identify and quantify environmental threats in addition to basic knowledge of the Arctic.
Field activities are undertaken year-round in combination with classroom activities and laboratory exercises. This integrated approach provides students with a first-hand experience of the biological processes and the natural history of the terrestrial, limnic and marine flora and fauna in an Arctic environment.
The Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education (NOKUT) has awarded UNIS, together with University of Bergen and Institute of Marine Research a Centre of Excellence in Higher Education (SFU). SFU is a national Norwegian prestige programme to promote standards in higher education, and implies a focussed and long-term commitment to stimulate the teaching and learning methods at bachelor, master, and PhD level.
Part of the motivation for BioCEED (Centre of Excellence in Biology Education) is to further develop the integration of field-based activities and the link to ongoing research in our education. The first noticeable change is a reorganisation of our bachelor courses. The marine biology course (AB-202) is offered in the spring semester and the Arctic Ecology course (AB-204) in the autumn semester. This enables us to improve the overall field component of the courses by linking them more effectively to ongoing research, as well as giving a tighter link between courses offered in the same semester.