AG-350 Arctic Glaciers and Landscapes (10 ECTS)

Students in front of a glacier

Autumn semester (July–August), every second year. Next course: TBA
10 ECTS with AG-850
Letter grade (A through F)
Benn and Evans: "Glaciers and Glaciations"; a curriculum of scientific papers
Fieldwork, NOK 1200 (6 days x NOK 200 per overnight stay)
10/20 students (AG-350/850 in total)

Course responsible: TBA

Course requirements:

Enrolment in a relevant master programme. Students must have a background in Quaternary geology, physical geography and/or glaciology.

Academic content:

The course will investigate how ice flow dynamics influence the glacial sedimentary processes and products in a high Arctic setting. We will study the geomorphology at the ice margin and in the forefields of a range of different glacier types; we will be working at debris covered-, surge-type and cold based glaciers. We will investigate characteristic differences in the geomorphology between the different glacier types. The focus of our field investigations will be on describing the distribution, geometry, sedimentology and internal structure of glacial landforms and debris-covered glacier fronts by applying state-of-the-art field techniques. There will also be focus on investigating the distribution, thickness and character of supraglacial debris in order to discuss the effect it has on glacial dynamics and the evolution of glacial landforms. Throughout the course we will discuss how our recorded field observations can be used to discuss present and past ice flow dynamics and how they can be used to reconstruct glacial processes and depositional environments.

Learning outcomes

Upon completing the course the students will be able to use an innovative suite of state-of-the-art field techniques in glacial geomorphology and use the recorded observations to interpret sedimentary processes and ice flow dynamics of glaciers, present and past. The students will be familiar with a range of data sets, equipment and software and understand the potential of each technique for glaciological investigation. The students will be trained to penetrate scientific literature, carry out field research and to analyse and communicate the observations and interpretations.

Upon completing the course, the students will:

  • have knowledge about glacier classification and ice flow dynamics
  • be able to describe the sources, transport pathways and emergence of glacial debris and explain the influence of supraglacial debris on glacier dynamics
  • be able to describe glacial sedimentary processes and implement this knowledge in the reconstruction of depositional environments
  • describe how different glacier types work as geomorphological agents and how this affects the landscape evolution in a high Arctic environment.

Upon completing the course, the students should:

  • have training in using state-of-the-art field techniques for mapping/logging the distribution, geometry, sedimentology and internal structure of glacial landforms
  • have training in using state-of-the art geophysical field techniques to investigate the distribution, thickness and character of supraglacial debris
  • be able to collect, process and interpret a variety of field data, with an understanding of the scope and limitations of different techniques
  • have skills in recording observations in accordance with high academic standards.

General competences
Upon completing the course, the students will:

  • be able to communicate and discuss current academic concepts and to critically evaluate scientific literature
  • have training in communicating scientific results in the form of posters and oral presentations.

Learning activities:

The course extends over ca. 5 weeks including compulsory safety training, and is run in combination with AG-850.

Before coming to UNIS the students will spend a week on reading key literature and prepare an oral presentation on an assigned topic.  The course will include lectures, seminars, fieldwork and project work and will be divided into three parts: 1) lectures and seminars 2) fieldwork and 3) supervised work on field results.

  1. The course will start with two weeks of lectures and seminars at UNIS. During these weeks, each student participant will give an oral presentation based on the pre-assignment reading. Lectures and seminars are designed to prepare students for the fieldwork.
  2. Fieldwork will be carried out at several sites in the Isfjorden area during a six-day cruise. We will study the glacial geomorphology of forefields in front of a range of different glacier types. The focus of our fieldwork will be to apply sedimentological, geomorphological and geophysical field techniques to investigate the internal structure and the aerial distribution of glacial landforms. Evenings on the cruise will be used to debrief the student groups on their fieldwork.
  3. After the cruise, students will spend supervised time at UNIS working on processing, compiling and interpreting the field results. The students will present their field results in the form of a scientific report delivered orally and via poster presentation.

Total lecture hours: 16 hours
Total seminar hours: 11 hours
Fieldwork: 60 hours
Work on field/lab/reports: 80 hours

Compulsory learning activities:

Participation in seminars and fieldwork.
All compulsory learning activities must be approved in order to sit the exam.


Method Percentage of final grade
Oral presentation of pre-course assignment 25%
Poster and oral presentation 75%

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:




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


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