AB-321 Ecology of Arctic Marine Benthos (10 ECTS)






April 15, 2023


August 28, 2023


September 29, 2023


Autumn semester (August - September), every second year.

AB-321/821 onboard R/V Helmer Hanssen. Photo: Fredrik Broms/Akvaplan-niva

Grade:Letter grade (A through F)
Course Cost:ca. NOK 2000 (10 days x NOK 200 per overnight stay)
Course Capacity Min/Max:9/18 students (AB-321/821 in total)
Language of instruction:English
Examination support material:Bilingual dictionary between English and mother tongue

Course requirements

Enrolment in a master program in biology or other relevant field, and knowledge similar to AB-202 Arctic Marine Biology.

Academic content

The students will gain insight into the taxonomy, biogeography and ecology of the main benthic species in Svalbard waters and the polar basin North of Svalbard. The course has a special emphasis on hands-on identification of benthos as well as processes important for understanding the Arctic marine ecosystem.

Lectures deal with identification of benthic species, life history and functional traits, trophic interactions and physical forcing. The practical fieldwork will be designed by the teachers and implemented into the course. Work during cruises will focus on several research projects that integrate acquired knowledge and skills, and will vary from year to year, targeting specific habitats or ecological processes.

Learning outcomes

Upon completing the course, the students will:


  • understand biodiversity patterns and ecological interactions characteristic of high Arctic ecosystems
  • have command over the taxonomy, biogeography and ecology of the main benthic species in Svalbard waters and the polar basin north of Svalbard.


  • be able to identify common Arctic marine benthic species
  • understand strengths and weaknesses of common benthic sampling techniques
  • be able to formulate hypotheses, design sampling plans, present research projects, and syntesize results.

General competences

  • have acquired practical experience relating field data into scientific contexts
  • apply basic statistical analyses to data they have collected
  • interpret field data to evaluate scientific questions and theory.

Learning activities

The course extends over 5 weeks, including compulsory safety training, and is run in combination with AB-821

A one-week theoretical introduction and preparation of field activities will be followed by a 10-day research cruise. During this cruise, sampling will be conducted in different localities around Svalbard (fjord and off-shelf). The last part of the course (around 2 weeks) will contain lab exercises focused on species identification and other relevant analysis of the collected material on which an approved lab report will be submitted.


  • Total lecture hours: 20 hours.
  • Laboratory/exercises/seminars: 25 hours.
  • Scientific cruise: 10 days.

Compulsory learning activities

  • Field excursions
  • Laboratory activities
  • Cruise report writing
  • Oral presentation.
    All compulsory learning activities must be approved in order to sit the 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
 Written exam 5 hours 60%
 Practical exam 3 hours 40%

Student life

Ghost shrimp on kelp on the ocean floor.
Ghost shrimp on kelp on the ocean floor. Photo: Geir Johnsen/UNIS.
Sorting fish onboard
AB-321/821 students sorting the day’s catch during their course cruise. Photo: Fredrik Broms/Akvaplan-niva
An Atlantic cod hiding in a cove at 35 m depth by the Kvadehuken. Photo: Bjørn Gulliksen/UNIS.
An Atlantic cod hiding in a cove at 35 m depth by Kvadehuken. Photo: Bjørn Gulliksen/UNIS.