AB-203 Arctic Environmental Management (15 ECTS)




15 ECTs


October 15, 2023


January 08, 2024


March 22, 2024


Spring semester (January 8th - week 12). Teaching Block 1-3

AB-203 and AB-204 excursion to Tempelfjorden. Photo: Steve Coulson/UNIS.

Grade:Letter grade (A through F)
Course Cost:None
Course Capacity Min/Max:Min/Max: 10/20 students
Language of instruction:English
Examination support material:Bilingual dictionary between English and mother tongue

Course requirements:

60 ECTS within general natural sciences, of which 30 ECTS within the field of biology. 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 can only be combined with AB-202 Marine Arctic Biology (15 ECTS) and the courses are designed to complement each other.

Academic content:

The course offers an introduction to environmental management in the Arctic, using the Svalbard Region as an example. Students are introduced to management strategies and practice through the following highly interlinked themes;

1) Ecosystems and biodiversity, including the geographical environment, selected case study species and natural resources

2) Challenges and conflicts, including climate change, pollution, harvesting, tourism, cultural values and international relations

3) Institutions and legal framework, including law and conventions, international organizations and fields of responsibilities for institutions involved in the management of Arctic natural resources at local to international scales

The course aims to enhance understanding of the interplay between managed species, the combined challenges they face from natural and human influences and which procedures, methods and technologies are in place to monitor and manage their populations and environment. An integrated approach is used where lectures and seminars are complemented by fieldwork, excursions, problem-based projects, student-led teaching and role-playing workshops. A range of guest lecturers from management-related organizations and institutions complement UNIS staff, to present a multi-facetted view of Arctic environmental management.

Learning outcomes:

Upon completing the course, the students can:


  • describe the structure, legal basis and fields of responsibility for institutions involved in the management of Arctic natural resources
  • explain the key Arctic environmental issues and evaluate their respective influences on biodiversity and populations of selected Arctic species
  • understand the concept of sustainable management, and explain the processes that lead to protection, harvesting or exploitation of natural resources
  • understand negotiation procedures and weight the strengths and weaknesses of international treaties and conventions


  • understand and organize an environmental impact assessment
  • investigate a management based theme and present the findings to an audience
  • demonstrate basic monitoring-related fieldwork under Arctic winter conditions
  • analyze collected management relevant data and debate findings

General competences

  • critically read, evaluate and discuss scientific literature
  • communicate own findings orally
  • execute interviews
  • organize and develop a group project

Learning activities:

The course extends over a full semester. Initially, students attend one week of compulsory Arctic survival and safety training (AS-101).

The course is based around lectures and seminars, role-playing workshops, student-led teaching, field work, excursions and oral presentation sessions. The lectures outline the various aspects of the environment and human activity including exploitation of resources and governance. Student-led teaching and workshops/seminars under the guidance of expert lecturers achieves deeper content knowledge and experience of group-work, presentation and debating.

The workshops illustrate in a practical manner the complexities of international negotiations, and the process of writing a comprehensive and inclusive environmental impact assessment. Students will also present a discussion of data obtained during field work, as well as a student-selected local environmental management case study. Research for the latter presentation includes executing interviews to gain first hand views and opinions of people living and working in Longyearbyen.


  • Lectures and other classroom activities: ca. 70 hours
  • Excursions and fieldwork: 2–4 days

Compulsory learning activities:

  • All workshops
  • Excursions
  • Fieldwork
  • Group presentations.

All compulsory learning activities must be approved in order to sit the final oral  exam.


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.

Percentage of final grade
Oral presentation of case study (group)
40 %
Oral exam (individual)
60 %

Student life

Snow scooter excursion to Barentsburg
AB-203 students during fieldwork. Photo: Mads Forchhammer/UNIS.
Lecture at Svalbard Satellite Station
AB-203 lecture at Svalbard Satellite Station (Svalsat). Photo: Mads Forchhammer/UNIS.
Student group photo on 8 March
Happy AB-203 students celebrate the return of the Sun on 8 March. Photo: Mads Forchhammer/UNIS.