AB-206 Introduction to Svalbard’s Terrestrial Flora and Fauna (5 ECTS)






April 15, 2023


July 06, 2023


July 24, 2023


Autumn semester (July), annually.

Grade:Letter grade (A through F)
Course Cost:None
Course Capacity Min/Max:10/20 students
Language of instruction:English
Examination support material:• Bilingual dictionary between English and mother tongue.
• Digital taxonomic key for Vascular Plants on Svalbard (ArtsApp)
• Hand outs in binder at each examination station: Rønning 1996 Svalbard’s flora in English and Norwegian; List of plant names with synonyms; Additional Draba and Festuca keys; Overview of mites and collembolans; Diptera key.

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 is strongly recommended as a preparation for students following the autumn courses AB-201 Terrestrial Arctic Biology and AB-204 Arctic Population Ecology, and students participating in these courses will be prioritized for admission to AB-206.

Academic content:

The intentions behind this course are to give bachelor students an introduction to the main taxonomic groups present in the terrestrial environment in Svalbard, the importance of systematic research, and the difficulties related to taxonomy in many Arctic species, which often have wide distribution ranges, and show high levels of intraspecific variation.

Learning outcomes

Upon completing the course, the students will:


  • list names and describe characters of common terrestrial species or taxa in Svalbard, with main focus on vascular plants, invertebrates and birds.


  • identify common species in the field
  • use identification keys (dichotomous and polyclave keys)
  • use various field and lab methods to identify, collect and prepare species.

General competences

  • perform fieldwork in Arctic terrestrial environments
  • apply hierarchical information to be able to identify species.

Learning activities:

The course is a 2.5-weeks intensive course including compulsory safety training.

After introductory lectures, we will focus on three species groups: vascular plants, invertebrates, and birds. These three species groups will be taught through complementary lectures, fieldwork, and laboratory exercises. We will visit a range of different habitats around Longyearbyen, where we will look at various species in the field and set out insect traps and collect plant material for further identification at the lab. Reading material will be provided in advance, and participants are expected to have read the provided literature upon arrival.


  • Total lecture hours: 12 hours.
  • Total seminar hours: 3 hours.
  • Laboratory work: 23 hours.
  • Excursions: 6 days (one full day, five shorter days).

Compulsory learning activities:

  • Field excursions, seminar and laboratory exercises.
  • All compulsory learning activities must be approved in order to sit the exam.


Percentage of final grade
Practical exam 4 hours

Student life

Students on fieldwork at Hiorthhamn
AB-206 students on fieldwork at Hiorthhamn. Photo: Pernille B. Eidesen/UNIS