AB-830 Ecosystems in Ice Covered Waters (10 ECTS)






October 15, 2022


March 27, 2023


May 05, 2023


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

Preparing for light measurements. 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 PhD programme. Students with relevant PhD theses will be given preference.

Academic content

This research-based hands-on course gives students both theoretical and practical insight to Arctic sea ice ecosystems, as well as training in scientific thinking and writing. The course focuses on the lower trophic levels and the coupling between sympagic (=ice associated), pelagic and benthic compartments in ice covered seas. Furthermore, the course stimulates to own creative and critical thinking. We ask the students to design their own research questions for the scientific report to be written based upon the samples and data collected during the week-long field excursion with the possibility to also include earlier course data. The scientific report shall be written as a scientific paper. 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. Mechanisms regulating the timing of key biological processes such as the ice algal and phytoplankton blooms and secondary production will be emphasized 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 in sea ice dominated ecosystems in the Arctic
  • extensive knowledge on important biological processes in sea ice ecosystems (colonization, timing of algal blooms, succession, trophic interactions and carbon flux), and general knowledge on physical properties of light, snow, sea ice (formation, age, structure etc.) and hydrograpy
  • in-depth understanding of which abiotic and biotic drivers that structure these unique sea ice ecosystems, and the linkages between the sea ice (sympagic), pelagic and benthic compartments


  • the ability to species determine common protists, meiofauna and meso- and macrofauna living within and in close association with sea ice in the high Arctic
  • 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 field studies under sometimes challenging Arctic conditions
  • the ability to discuss scientific questions related to sea ice ecosystems
  • improved competence in how to design and write a scientific paper.

General competences

  • the ability to search for, critically read and extract relevant information from scientific literature
  • competence in design and implementation of research tasks
  • improved written and oral skills based on assignments given during the course
  • experience in problem solving.
  • team work experience, including leading and organizing group work
  • 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-330.

The course will start with a theoretical introduction and safety training (5-9 days) followed by extensive sampling activities on sea ice during a week-long field excursion where PhD students are expected to take an active role as group leaders for 3-4 students. The samples will be analysed partly in field and partly back at UNIS in the laboratory. The data produced from field and lab work will provide the basis for the written scientific report, which will be the main focus for AB-830 students the last week of the course.

The PhD students are allowed to work in pairs and are asked to design relevant research questions, based on the data available, for their scientific report which will be written as a scientific paper. Regular seminars will be arranged for discussing selected papers and the field results, which will stimulate to find the most appropriate data analyses and to draw conclusions.


  • Total lecture hours: 15 hours
  • Laboratory exercises / seminars: 20 hours
  • Excursion: Ca. 7 days
  • Data analysis and presentations: 10 hours

Compulsory learning activities

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

  • Field excursions
  • Laboratory work
  • Technical written reports 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
Written exam 3 hours40 %
Written scientific report + presentation 60 %

Student life

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

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
Ice core with layer of brown ice algae. Photo: Janne Søreide/UNIS
Ice core with layer of brown ice algae. Photo: Janne Søreide/UNIS