AB-330 Ecosystems in Ice Covered Waters (10 ECTS)






October 15, 2022


March 27, 2023


May 05, 2023


Spring semester (March–May), every second year.

Preparing a hole for net sampling. Photo: Janne Søreide/UNIS

Grade:Letter grade (A through F)
Course Cost:Fieldwork, NOK 1400 (7 days x NOK 200 per overnight stay)
Course Capacity Min/Max:10/20 students (AB-330/830 in total)
Language of instruction:English
Examination support material:Bilingual dictionary between English and mother tongue

Course requirements

Enrollment in a relevant master programme. Students with relevant master theses will be given preference.

Academic content

This field and lab-based course gives students both theoretical and hands-on knowledge on Arctic sea ice ecosystems. The course aims to give an overview of current knowledge and state of the art methodology within sea ice biology and ecology, focusing on the lower trophic levels. This will give the students the necessary background to sample, analyse and discuss their own data collected during a week-long field excursion to ice-covered fjords in Svalbard. Introduction to physical properties of light, snow, sea ice and hydrography will be given to better understand the physical constraints and drivers for structuring Arctic sea ice communities. The mechanisms regulating the timing of key biological processes such as the ice algal and phytoplankton blooms and secondary production will be of particular focus, as well as sea ice biodiversity, and the trophic coupling and carbon flux between sea ice (=sympagic), pelagic and benthic ecosystems.

In 2023, landfast sea ice ecosystems in Spitsbergen will be studied and run in parallel with ongoing research projects on sea ice ecosystems. Transportation will be conducted using snowmobiles. Those without driving license will travel as passengers. Be aware that in 2023 there will be an Easter break from 5 to 10th April 2023.

Learning outcomes

Upon completing the course, the students will have:


  • knowledge on species diversity and community composition of protists and plankton in ice covered ecosystems in the high Arctic
  • extensive knowledge on important ecological processes in Arctic sea ice ecosystems (colonization, timing of algal blooms, succession, trophic interactions and carbon flux
  • general knowledge on physical properties of light, snow, sea ice (formation, age, structure etc.) and hydrograpy and how these environmental variables impact the biology. 


  • taxonomical skills to identify common protists, meiofauna and meso- and macrofauna living within and in close association with sea ice
  • practical skills in operating various state-of-the art field-devices for collecting physical and biological data in sea ice covered environments
  • competence to plan and carry out sea ice field studies under sometimes challenging Arctic conditions  

General competences

  • improved their written and oral skills based on assignments given during the course competence in working in a team, and that under sometimes challenging weather conditions combined with time pressure
  • experience in safety standards related to work in harsh Arctic environments, including safe snow scooter driving on land and on sea ice.

Learning activities

The course extends over ca 6 weeks and is run in combination with AB-830.

The course will start with a theoretical introduction to sea ice ecosystems and sampling techniques, and safety training (5-9 days) followed by extensive sampling activities on sea ice during a week-long field excursion. The samples will be analysed partly in field and partly back at UNIS in the laboratory. The data produced will provide the basis for the poster presentation. Students are allowed to work in pairs and are responsible for finding appropriate research questions for the poster study based on their own data collected in the field and previous course data. Seminars will be arranged to assist and discuss data analyses, results and conclusions as well as overall poster design.


  • Total lecture hours: 15 hours
  • Laboratory exercises / seminars: 15 hours
  • Excursion: Ca. 7 days
  • Data analysis and presentations: 8 hours.

Compulsory learning activities

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

  • Field excursions
  • Laboratory work
  • Technical written report from these practical activities


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
Poster presentation 30 %
Practical exam3 hours30 %
Written exam 3 hours40 %

Student life

[ct_button link=”https://vimeo.com/97340170″ target=”1″ solid=”1″ has_arrow=”0″]Slideshow from fieldwork in Svea[/ct_button]

AB-330/830 students doing net sampling in Van Mijenfjorden. Photo: Janne Søreide/UNIS
AB-330/830 net sampling in Van Mijenfjorden. Photo: Janne Søreide/UNIS
Work camp on sea ice in Van Mijenfjorden during AB-330/830 fieldwork. Photo: Janne Søreide/UNIS
Work camp on sea ice in Van Mijenfjorden during AB-330/830 fieldwork. Photo: Janne Søreide/UNIS