AB-333 Freshwater Ecology of Arctic Lakes and Ponds (10 ECTS)

AB-333/833 students performing fieldwork at Kapp Linné

Reading list

February 20, 2023
March 24, 2023
Spring semester (February–March), annually
10 ECTS with AB-833
Letter grade (A through F)
Curriculum; ca. 250 pages.
10/20 students (AB-333/833 in total)
Bilingual dictionary between English and mother tongue
October 15, 2022

UNIS contact person: Anna Vader

Course requirements:

Enrolment in a relevant master programme.

Academic content:

The study of lakes and ponds is an interdisciplinary science that encompass biological, chemical, and physical conditions.  This course is focusing on the biology of organisms, from microbes to fish, of Arctic lakes and ponds on a year-round perspective which includes the very short ice-free summer period and the much longer winter period with ice-cover. Emphasis is put on understanding the winter conditions as our knowledge of this season is rather limited. During the course we will focus on how the various abiotic factors are influencing the biological diversity and ecology of important organisms (phyto- and zooplankton, invertebrates and fish) within lakes and ponds, their interactions, nutritional requirement and how energy flows within freshwater systems.

Based on field samplings in local lakes, we will analyse the winter conditions in ice-covered lakes, characterize the under-ice communities using different sampling techniques and compare our results with previous years and with literature values.

The course will also emphasize the potential effects of global climate and environmental change, increased bird migrations as well as human activity on freshwater ecosystems in Arctic regions.

As an integrated part of the course different type of sampling equipment will be demonstrated and used in the field. Attention on how to ensure safe conditions for person and the group when sampling during winter conditions will also apply.

Learning outcomes:

Upon completing the course, the students will have:

  • specialized insight into physical, chemical and biological characteristic of Arctic freshwater ecosystems during the entire annual cycle and especially during winter
  • the ability to analyze how the environmental factors in the Arctic shape the biodiversity and ecological interactions in freshwater ecosystems
  • advanced insight into the taxonomy, biogeography and ecology of the main autotrophic and heterotrophic organisms in ponds and lakes in Svalbard.

Upon completing the course, the students will have:

  • thorough knowledge of common Arctic freshwater pelagic and benthic organisms as well as how to sample and analyse such communities
  • experiences in methodological possibilities and limitations to run field sampling during challenging winter conditions and how to perform laboratory analyses
  • an analytic and critical approach to deal with recent freshwater literature and other sources of information and how to use these to structure and formulate hypotheses.

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

  • experience in how to combine field data with empirical knowledge into a scientific context using basic statistical analyses and interpretation of biodiversity data
  • skills to carry out an independent, limited research or development project under supervision and in accordance with scientific norms
  • experience in outreach activities of scientific matters including to master language and terminology of the academic field.

Learning activities:

The course extends over ca 5 weeks including compulsory safety training, and is run in combination with AB-833.

The course is based on a combination of lectures with guest teachers from several fields of freshwater ecology, various types of weekly commitments (paper presentations, theoretical exercises, discussions and essays), and laboratory work (experiments, microscopy and analyses) based on field samples. There are also scheduled hours for preparing the two course reports (which are part of the course assessment). The fieldwork includes several field trips to ice-covered lakes near Longyearbyen as well as in Bødalen and Colesdalen to demonstrate the different types of freshwater ecosystem and to collect samples for the students to work with in the laboratory.

Total lecture hours: 20 hours.
Total seminar hours: 8 hours.
Laboratory work: 5–6 days.
Excursions: Several 1-day excursions.

Compulsory learning activities:

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


Percentage of final grade
 Written report 1 30%
Written report 2 30%
 Oral exam 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

AB-333/833 students performing fieldwork at Kapp Linné

AB-333/833 students performing fieldwork at Kapp Linné. Photo: Kirsten Christoffersen/UNIS.

AB-333/833 students filtrating plankton samples, March 2014. Photo: Kirsten Christoffersen/UNIS

AB-333/833 students filtrating plankton samples. Photo: Kirsten Christoffersen/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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