AG-210 The Quaternary and Glacial Geology of Svalbard (15 ECTS)

Autumn semester (August–November), annually. Cancelled in 2020.
Letter grade (A through F)
Benn, D.I. and Evans, D.J.A. 2010: Glaciers and Glaciation. New York, John Wiley and Sons, Inc. 2nd edition.
Fieldwork, NOK 800 (4 days x NOK 200 per overnight stay)
10/20 students
Bilingual dictionary between English and mother tongue
April 15, 2020


Lena Håkansson
Lena Håkansson
Associate Professor, Quaternary and glacial geology

Course requirements:

60 ECTS within general natural science, of which 30 ECTS within the field of geology/geosciences. 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.

The course should be combined with AG-211 Arctic Marine Geology (15 ECTS) and the courses are designed to complement each other.

Academic content:

The course gives insight into the Quaternary glacial history of Svalbard, introducing important methods in the fields of glacial sedimentology, stratigraphy, geomorphology and geochronology and how these can be applied to reconstruct past glaciers and ice sheets. Students are introduced to glacigenic sediments and landforms through fieldwork, lectures and laboratory exercises. We will focus on the description of terrestrial glacial records and use examples from Svalbard in particular and the Arctic in general. Further, we will be discussing how these records can be interpreted in terms of paleoenvironmental change.
Students should take this course in combination with AG-211 Arctic Marine Geology; these two courses are designed to complement each other.

Learning outcomes:

Upon completing the course, the students will:

  • have a basic understanding of the Late Quaternary glacial history of Svalbard
  • have broad knowledge of important methods in glacial sedimentology, stratigraphy, geomorphology and of how these methods can be applied to glacier reconstructions
  • be able to describe Quaternary and glacial landforms and sediments common to the Arctic and be able to interpret them in terms of paleo-environmental change
  • be familiar with a selection of both recent and classic research within the field of glacial geology on Svalbard.

Upon completing the course, the students will:

  • be able to apply important field techniques in glacial sedimentology, stratigraphy and geomorphology
  • have training in mapping of glacial landforms using GIS
  • be able to identify major lithofacies in Quaternary sedimentary successions on Svalbard

General competences
Upon completing the course, the students will:

  • have training in how to present own data both in the form of scientific reports and through oral presentations
  • have training in how to carry out an independent research project using state-of-the-art field methods and in recording observations in accordance with high academic standards
  • have acquired both independent and team-working skills across a range of practical field and academic research environments.

Learning activities:

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

The course consists of three modules; 1) lectures and exercises, 2) field school and 3) individual term projects.

  1. The lectures and exercises are divided into thematic blocks covering the fundaments of Quaternary glacial geology of Svalbard. Prior to the field school lectures focus on giving a theoretical background specific for the fieldwork. A series of indoor and outdoor exercises are tied to these lectures where students will get practical training in applying field techniques. Lectures and exercises following the field school will give a theoretical background for the work on the individual term project with the aim to put the fieldwork into a wider context.
  2. During the field school students will practice using field techniques and they will collect data for term projects. Fieldwork will be carried out in smaller groups at a number of work stations. All groups will collect data at all work stations.
  3. After the field school is completed, each student will be assigned a research topic based on the collected field data. The project work is supervised one-on-one. Term projects will be presented through a written report in the format of a scientific paper and through an individual conference-style oral presentation in an auditorium in front of the class and the teachers. The presentations will be open to all students and staff at UNIS.

Total lecture hours: 25 hours.
Total exercise hours: 9 hours.
Total seminar hours: 21 hours.
Fieldwork: 4 days with overnight stays and 3 day-trips from Longyearbyen.

Compulsory learning activities:

  • fieldwork
  • field report: a. ungraded written group report compiling the field data
  • reflective journal for term project work
  • exercises
  • seminars
    All compulsory learning activities must be approved in order to sit the exam.


Percentage of final grade
Term project; written report 50%
Oral presentation of term project 30%
Oral examination, field skills 10%
Lab report, GIS 10%

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 2020


Students in the field

AG-210 fieldwork. Photo: Anne Hormes/UNIS.

AG-210 students take a break from fieldwork in Billefjorden.
Photo: Endre Før Gjermundsen/UNIS.

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