AG-211 Arctic Marine Geology (15 ECTS)

Students on ship deck

August 11, 2021
December 7, 2021
Autumn semester (August–December), annually
Letter grade (A through F)
Book chapters, articles; Ca. 750 pages. Main text bok is R. Stein: Arctic Ocean Sediments, Elsevier 2008.
Fieldwork, NOK 1400 (7 days x NOK 200 per overnight stay)
10/20 students
Bilingual dictionary between English and mother tongue
April 15, 2021


Professor Riko Noormets at UNIS.
Riko Noormets
Professor, Marine Geology and Geophysics

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 course is approved into the applicant’s current study programme.

The course should be combined with AG-210 The Quarternary and Glacial Geology of Svalbard (15 ECTS) and the courses are designed to complement each other.

Academic content:

This course will begin with a short introduction to the world’s oceans with focus on their geological structure, oceanography, and main sediment types. In the context of the global plate tectonics, the formation of the Arctic Ocean and the resulting changes in the ocean circulation will be discussed. The exploration history of the Arctic Ocean and the discovery of its main physiographic features will be reviewed. Particular attention will be given to the role of glaciations in the formations of the geological structure, sediment stratigraphy and morphology of the Barents Sea as well as other high-latitude continental margins. Typical glacial marine sedimentary environments, from small basins in front of outlet glaciers, through fjords to continental shelves and -slopes to deep-water abyssal plains will form an important part of the course. Case studies from Svalbard will be presented to illustrate typical sediment types and stratigraphic sequences characteristic to each sedimentary environment. The contemporary sedimentary processes, sediment sources and depositional environments in the Arctic Ocean and in the fjords of Svalbard as well as the role of sea ice in the Arctic climate history will be discussed in detail. Most common Quaternary dating methods and proxies used in reconstruction of palaeoceanographic, sedimentological and climatic variations will be examined. Central part of the course is a ca. 7-days cruise on a research vessel where the students will learn and practice modern marine geophysical and geological data acquisition methods and techniques. The geophysical data and sediment cores collected during the cruise will be analysed in the lab using multiproxy paleoenvironmental reconstruction approach. Field activities will be coordinated with AG-210 to highlight the links between the marine and terrestrial Quaternary landsystems.

Learning outcomes:

Upon completing the course, the students will:

K1    have knowledge of large-scale structure and evolution of ocean basins, their main physiographic features, current systems, sediment sources and transport mechanisms with a focus on the Arctic Ocean

K2    be able to characterise the changes in environmental conditions during glacial-interglacial cycles and have understanding of the role of the Arctic Ocean in the global climate system

K3    be able to describe the submarine landforms and sediment facies characteristic to various glacially influenced environments

K4    have knowledge of the working principles of the modern marine geological and geophysical survey methods and instrumentation and be able to select methods suited for a particular purpose of a marine geological investigation.

Upon completing the course, the students will:

S1    have practical skills of marine geological and geophysical data acquisition at sea

S2    have practical experience in using selected geophysical, geotechnical, sedimentological and micropalaeontological methods, be able to operate relevant laboratory instruments and organize the collected data

S3    have learned and practiced the techniques of sediment core logging and be able to use multiproxy analysis for reconstruction of marine sedimentary processes and environments

S4    be able to identify the main types of submarine glacial landforms and landform assemblages and use them for reconstruction of past ice sheet dynamics and processes.

General competences
Upon completing the course, the students will:

C1    have basic competence to plan and execute marine geological/geophysical expeditions in the Arctic

C2    have independent as well as team-work skills

C3    be able to plan and conduct research projects, and report the results in writing and orally

C4    be able to present their research in the format of a research paper.

Learning activities:

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

The modular structure of the course ensures tight theory-practice integration focused on key topic on the Arctic marine sedimentology, marine geophysics and seabed mapping, submarine glacial landform and facies associations, micropaleontology, geochronology and Arctic Ocean paleoceanography/paleoclimate.

The initial lectures and seminars will give the necessary knowledge in preparation for the marine geological-geophysical expedition on a modern research vessel.

During the cruise, students will work in small teams to collect geophysical, oceanographic and sedimentological data that will be discussed onboard the vessel. These data will be further analysed in the labs and discussed on seminars after the cruise at UNIS and summarized in a combined cruise/lab report. Each topical module consists of series of lectures, seminars and supervised practical laboratory exercises. The knowledge and skills acquired during the lectures, seminars and laboratory exercises will be practiced when writing and presenting an individual term project towards the end of the course.

Total lecture and seminar hours: 42 hours.
Total labs/exercises/presentations: 24 hours.
Fieldwork: (scientific cruise) ca. 7 days.

Compulsory learning activities:

Scientific cruise, laboratory exercises, seminars.
All compulsory learning activities must be approved in order to sit the exam.


Method Duration
Learning outcome assessed
Percentage of final grade
Field / lab skills presented in a cruise / lab report K4, S1-3, C1-3 20%
Term project; written report K1-4, S3-4, C2-3 20%
Oral presentation of report K1-4, S3-4, C2-3 20%
Written exam  3 hours K1-4, S4, C3 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 April 2021

Students on ship deck in front of glacier

Svalbard! AG-211 course cruise. Photo: Riko Noormets/UNIS.

UNIS students analysing mud onboard Helmer Hansen

Mud is fun! AG-211 students analyse mud samples from the ocean floor onboard R/V Helmer Hanssen. Photo: Riko Noormets/UNIS.

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