AG-220 Environmental Change in the High Arctic Landscape of Svalbard (10 ECTS)

Driving boat on Linnévannet

How to apply

July 2019
August 2019
Autumn semester (July–August), annually.
Letter grade (A through F)
Journal articles and book chapters, ca. 300 pages.
Fieldwork, ca. NOK 2000–2400 (10–12 days x NOK 200 per overnight stay)
10/20 students
Bilingual dictionary between English and mother tongue
15 February 2019

Course requirements:

60 ECTS within general natural science, of which 30 ECTS within the field of geology/geosciences. Enrolment in a physical geography or geology bachelor’s programme.

Academic content:

The course investigates how climatic and watershed processes influence the modern glacial, fluvial, lacustrine and periglacial systems in the high Arctic setting of western Svalbard. Monitoring of the rapidly changing Arctic cryo-/hydrosphere will extend existing environmental data sets for the field site at Kapp Linné that establish a robust baseline against which future changes will be measured. Documentation of the changing environmental conditions occurring at this high latitude site will also facilitate interpretation of high-resolution Holocene climate proxy records such as annually laminated lacustrine sediments.

During this field course, students will gain experience in aspects of glaciology, fluvial hydrology and sediment transport, periglacial geomorphology, physical limnology and pro-glacial lacustrine sedimentation. Students will use a network of environmental monitoring instrumentation to interpret seasonal, annual, and long-term changes in the high Arctic terrestrial system.

Learning outcomes:

Upon completing the course, the students will:

  • Have an understanding of the geomorphic, cryospheric, and sedimentological processes and their linkages in a glaciated high Arctic watershed.
  • Have an understanding of modern processes operating in Linnédalen which will further inform their interpretation of late Holocene environmental changes and will allow for more accurate predictions of future environmental changes in the Arctic.

Upon completing the course, the students will be able to:

  • Measure glacier mass balance and conduct GPS surveys of the glacier margin.
  • Measure stream discharge and suspended sediment transport.
  • Recover and deploy lake instrument moorings including sediment traps and data loggers.
  • Operate and use data from appropriate technology including GPS, depth sounders, CTD, acustic profiler, automated cameras, automated weather stations, temperature data loggers and GIS.
  • Recover lake sediment cores in the field and process and interpret the cores in the laboratory.
  • Compile and synthesize field data and incorporate and present data in a scientific report.

General competences
Upon completing the course, the students will:

  • Be able to carry out a field research project from initial design, fieldwork, analysis, presentation and production of a final written report.
  • Have first-hand experience in the analysis of the rapid changes taking place in the terrestrial high Arctic environment. They will utilize classic and new published scientific literature to provide broader context for their field study.
  • Utilize data from long-term monitoring at the current field site and contribute to this time series.
  • Have skills in writing a scientific field report.

Learning activities:

The duration of the course will be four weeks. The first week of the course will be centered at UNIS where students will attend mandatory Arctic survival and safety training.

Introductory lectures will be held coupled with local excursions and introduction to field techniques. Up to two weeks of fieldwork will be undertaken at the Kapp Linné catchment, where students will be introduced to all aspects of the research activities and trained in field techniques and the use of monitoring and sampling instruments. Data and samples collected will form the basis of independent small research projects co-designed with the course lecturers. Data collected from logging instruments and samples collected will be shared among students pursuing different research projects.

The student projects may focus on a wide range of topics: controls on glacier ablation, meltwater stream discharge and sediment transport, snow survey from time lapse photography, lake sediment transport and deposition or analysis of lake sediment cores. Alternatively, students may design their own project that is related to the main theme of the research in the watershed. At the Kapp Linné field station students will work in the evening on data and samples and will present progress reports on their research topics.

At the completion of the fieldwork, a week will be spent at UNIS synthesizing data and analyzing samples, under the supervision of the course lecturers. At the end of the last week, students will prepare and deliver a final presentation on their research. After the course student will continue working on their data and submit a report during the autumn semester. The student may also choose to continue analysis of data or samples as an independent study or bachelor’s thesis project at their home institution in addition to the course requirements.

Attending students must be aware that the fieldwork involves hikes of at least 10 km per day.

Total lecture hours: 12 hours
Seminar: 1 day
Excursions: 2 day trips
Fieldwork: Up to 14 days (at Linnédalen field site)
Laboratory work and data analysis: 5 days
Final presentations: 1 day

Compulsory educational activities:

Student presentations, fieldwork, field excursions, laboratory work and/or data analysis.
All compulsory educational activities must be approved in order to sit the exam.


Method Percentage of final grade
Oral presentation of fieldwork progress report 33%
Written report 67%

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 February 2019

Driving boat on Linnévannet

AG-220 students on Linnévannet. Photo: Mike Retelle/UNIS

Students and professor looking at data by Linnévannet

Professor Al Werner and students in AG-220 study the data obtained from Linnévannet. Photo: Mike Retelle/UNIS

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


The University Centre in Svalbard
Telephone: +47 79 02 33 00
Fax: +47 79 02 33 01
E-mail: /
Address: P.O. Box 156 N-9171 Longyearbyen
Org. no. 985 204 454


UNIS logo


Research-based education of the next generation of Arctic experts