AB-330 Ecosystems in Ice Covered Waters (10 ECTS)

Preparing a hole for net sampling. Photo: Janne Søreide/UNIS

Spring semester (April–May), every second year. Cancelled spring 2021.
10 ECTS with AB-830
Letter grade (A through F)
Mixture of book chapters and scientific papers (ca. 300 pages).
Fieldwork, NOK 1600 (8 days x NOK 200 per overnight stay)
10/20 students (AB-330/830 in total)
Bilingual dictionary between English and mother tongue
October 15, 2022


Janne Søreide
Janne Søreide
Professor, Arctic Marine Biology - Ecology

Course requirements:

Enrolment in a relevant master programme. Students with relevant master theses will be given preference.

Academic content:

This field-based course gives students both theoretical and hands-on knowledge on Arctic sea ice ecosystems. The course aims to give an overview of current knowledge and methodology within sea ice biology and ecology, focusing on the lower trophic levels. This will give the students the necessary background to sample, analyse and discuss their own data collected during a week-long field excursion to ice covered fjords. Introduction to physical properties of light, snow, sea ice and hydrography will also be given to better understand the physical constraints and drivers for structuring Arctic sea ice communities. Mechanisms regulating the timing of key biological processes such as the ice algal and phytoplankton blooms and secondary production will be emphasized as well as sea ice biodiversity, and the trophic coupling and carbon flux between sea ice (=sympagic), pelagic and benthic ecosystems.

In 2021, landfast sea ice ecosystems in western and eastern Spitsbergen will be studied and run in parallel with ongoing research projects on sea ice ecosystems. Transportation will be conducted using snowmobiles. Those without a driving license will travel as passengers. Teachers: Janne E. Søreide (UNIS, course responsible) and Rolf Gradinger (leader of Size: Centre of Seasonal Marginal Ice Zone programme at UiT, The Arctic University of Norway).

Learning outcomes:

Upon completing the course, the students will have:

  • knowledge on species diversity and community composition in ice covered ecosystems in the high Arctic
  • extensive knowledge on important ecological processes in sea ice ecosystems (colonization, timing of algal blooms, succession, trophic interactions and carbon flux)
  • general knowledge on physical properties of light, snow, sea ice (formation, age, structure etc.) and hydrographyand how these environmental variables impact the biology.

Upon completing the course, the students will have:

  • taxonomic skills to identify common protists, meiofauna and meso- and macrofauna living within and in close association with sea ice
  • practical skills in operating various state-of-the art field-devices (CTD, sea ice corer, sediment trap deployment, plankton nets…) for collecting physical and biological data from a sea ice platform
  • competence to plan and carry out field studies under sometimes challenging Arctic conditions
  • improved their written and oral skills based on assignments given during the course (see below).

General competences
Upon completing the course, the students will have:

  • experience in safety standards related to work in harsh Arctic environments, including safe snow scooter driving on land an on sea ice
  • competence in working in a team under sometimes extreme conditions and often under time pressure.

Learning activities:

The course extends over ca 6 weeks, and is run in combination with AB-830.

The course will start with a theoretical introduction to sea ice ecosystems and sampling techniques, and safety training (5–9 days) followed by extensive sampling activities on sea ice during a week-long field excursion. The samples will be analysed partly in field and partly back at UNIS in the laboratory. The data produced will provide the basis for the poster presentation. Students are allowed to work in pairs and are responsible for finding appropriate research questions for the poster study based on their own data collected in the field. Seminars will be arranged to assist and discuss data analyses, results and conclusions as well as overall poster design. Final week of the course is dedicated to practical and written exam.

Total lecture hours: 20 hours
Laboratory exercises / seminars: 25 hours
Excursion: Ca. 8 days
Data analysis and presentations: 10 hours.

Compulsory learning activities:

Field excursions and laboratory work, and technical written report from these practical activities. 
All compulsory learning activities must be approved in order to sit the exam.


Method Duration
Percentage of final grade
Poster presentation 30%
Practical exam 3 hours 30 %
Written exam  3 hours 40%

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 October 2022

Slideshow from fieldwork in Svea


AB-330/830 students doing net sampling in Van Mijenfjorden. Photo: Janne Søreide/UNIS

AB-330/830 net sampling in Van Mijenfjorden. Photo: Janne Søreide/UNIS

Work camp on sea ice in Van Mijenfjorden during AB-330/830 fieldwork. Photo: Janne Søreide/UNIS

Work camp on sea ice in Van Mijenfjorden during AB-330/830 fieldwork. Photo: Janne Søreide/UNIS

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The University Centre in Svalbard
Telephone: +47 79 02 33 00
Student inquiries: study@unis.no
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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