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

Driving boat on Linnévannet

July 11, 2022
August 10, 2022
Autumn semester (July–August), annually
Letter grade (A through F)
Journal articles and book chapters, a link to articles in pdf form will be provided to students upon acceptance to the course.
Fieldwork, around NOK 1400 (around 7 days x NOK 200 per overnight stay)
10/20 students
February 15, 2022

UNIS contact person: Andy Hodson

Course requirements:

Enrollment in a physical geography or geology bachelor’s programme. 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.

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. Excursions to various localities in the vicinity of Longyearbyen will provide an introduction to high Arctic glacial and periglacial processes and environments. Monitoring studies of the rapidly changing Arctic cryo-/hydrosphere at the field site at Kapp Linné will extend existing environmental data sets 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 gain experience in using 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 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 glacier margins
  • measure stream discharge and suspended sediment transport
  • recover and deploy lake instrument moorings including sediment traps and data loggers
  • operate and use data from data loggers and instrumentation including GPS, depth sounders, CTD, acoustic profiler, automated cameras, automated weather stations, temperature data loggers and GIS
  • 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
  • utilize classic and recently 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

Learning activities:

The course extends over about five weeks, including compulsory safety training. The first ten days of the course will be centered at UNIS. Students will attend introductory lectures and exercises, and participate in local field excursions that will provide an  introduction to the high Arctic glacial and periglacial system and field techniques. About 10 days of fieldwork will be undertaken at localities in the vicinity of Longyearbyen and at the Kapp Linné field area. During fieldwork 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. Students will work collaboratively as part of various research teams and data collected from logging instruments will be shared among students pursuing different research projects.

Student projects will focus on a wide range of topics: controls on glacier mass balance, 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  a project that is related to the main theme of the research in the watershed. At UNIS and the Kapp Linné field station, students will have the opportunity to work in the evening on data and samples and will present progress reports on their research topics.

At the completion of the fieldwork, students will synthesize data and analyze samples at UNIS under the supervision of the course faculty. During the last week, students will deliver a final presentation and a written report on their research.

Attending students must be aware that field work involve hikes of at least 10 km per day over rough terrain.

Total lecture hours: 12 hours
Seminar: 1 day
Local fieldwork: Up to 7 day trips
Fieldwork: 7 days (at Kapp Linné 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 research proposal 20%
Field skills and field notebook assessment 10%
Oral presentation of fieldwork, progress report 30%
Written final report 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 February 2022

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

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


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