AB-204 Arctic Population Ecology (15 ECTS)






July 25, 2023


December 07, 2023


Autumn semester (August – December), annually

Grade:Letter grade (A through F)
Course Cost:Fieldwork as part of a research cruise, NOK 1000 (5 days x NOK 200 per overnight stay).
Course Capacity 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 courses are approved into the applicant’s current study programme.

Knowledge of the statistical software package R will be advantageous.

The course should be combined with AB-201 Terrestrial Arctic Biology (15 ECTS), as the two courses are designed to complement each other. We also recommend to attend the summer course AB-206 Introduction to Svalbard’s Terrestrial Flora and Fauna (5 ECTS) which runs just prior to AB-201 / 204.

Academic content

The course deals with how the Arctic environment and individual interactions shape ecological processes. A common ecological conceptual setting will be established as a baseline for our Arctic case studies. Effects of climatic variability will be studied within and between species as well as across trophic levels, including discussions of how individual phenology, life histories and populations are impacted. The course starts with a 5-day field work period in August, during which students will collect data in a high Arctic tundra ecosystem. This work, together with later field excursions in October, will give students hands-on experience of Arctic ecological interactions through field observations, data collection, and associated statistical analyses. Throughout the course, we aim at advancing the numerical and conceptual competence of the students.

Learning outcomes

Upon completing the course, the students can:


  • define, discuss and contrast key elements of the population ecology of Arctic organisms, including species interactions within populations and across throphic levels
  • list, classify, compare and evaluate how the combination of density-dependence and climatic factors impact populations and trophic interactions in the Arctic
  • use and contrast observations and models to evaluate how biotic and abiotic processes influence the dynamics of species phenology and life histories, population development and community structures.


  • analyse population time series dynamics
  • use the statistical programme R for simple data analyses in population ecology
  • navigate and search the research literature on Arctic ecology and population ecology
  • design and present a poster based upon collected field data.

General competences

  • perform fieldwork to study selected Arctic species and their communities
  • critically evaluate, present and discuss scientific literature within Arctic population ecology
  • present own work through written reports and oral presentations
  • understand and be able to discuss the relevance of conceptual population ecological in field-based scientific studies in Arctic ecology.

Learning activities

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

Field work will take place during one week in August. Thereafter, the ordinary teaching in AB-204 will start on 17 October, after AB-201 is finished.

Lectures, seminars, group assignments, student presentations, poster design and presentation as well as fieldwork constitute the learning activities of AB-204. Lectures will provide the students with basic, conceptual knowledge and comprehension of Arctic population ecology, whereas fieldwork will give students hands-on experience in collecting data across Arctic habitats for later analyses and comparisons with conceptual models during statistical and conceptual seminars. Group assignments, student presentations of poster and scientific literature are designed to activate students through the application, analysis and synthesis of research papers within Arctic population ecology.


  • Total lecture hours: ca. 30 hours.
  • Total statistical and seminar hours: ca. 35 hours.
  • Computer lab work: ca. 20 hours.
  • Field excursions: 7 days.

Compulsory learning activities

  • Seminars
  • Statistical exercises in R
  • Group assignments
  • Student presentations
  • Field work


  • 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
Design and oral presentation of poster1 week
Written exam4 hours

Student life

Studying ecological interactions in an Arctic bird colony. Steep climb and much to learn. Photo: Øystein Varpe/UNIS
Studying ecological interactions in an Arctic bird colony. Steep climb and much to learn. Photo: Øystein Varpe/UNIS
Near the animals. Helping Maarten Loonen with the annual goose catch in Ny-Ålesund. Photo: Øystein Varpe/UNIS
Near the animals. Helping Maarten Loonen with the annual goose catch in Ny-Ålesund. Photo: Øystein Varpe/UNIS