AG-218 International Bachelor Permafrost Summer Field School (10 ECTS)






February 15, 2024


June 03, 2024


July 05, 2024

Students retrieving permafrost cores in Adventdalen, June 2022 Photo: Marjolaine Verret

Grade:Letter grade (A through F)
Course Cost:Fieldwork, up to NOK 200 (1 day 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

Contact person

Course requirements

60 ECTS within general natural science, of which 30 ECTS within the field of geology/geosciences, and enrolment in a relevant bachelor programme. 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.

Academic content

Permafrost underlies approximately 25% of the terrestrial environment and is virtually ubiquitous in the unglaciated surfaces of Svalbard. This course draws examples from the Svalbard landscape and literature to introduce the basic principles of permafrost and ground thermal regime, ground ice and cryostratigraphy, periglacial geomorphology, frozen ground infrastructure and geohazards, and fundamentals of carbon and nutrient cycling in permafrost landscapes. Emphasis is placed on developing transferable research skills through practical exercises and group work in the field and laboratory.

Learning outcomes

Upon completing the course, the students will:


  • be familiar with the distribution and thermal state of permafrost in the Arctic region
  • be able to analyze ground temperatures, collect frozen sediment cores and quantify and describe ground ice, perform basic geomorphological mapping, and identify the importance of permafrost in the carbon cycle.


  • drill and retrieve sediment cores from the upper permafrost
  • perform cryostratigraphic logging of ground ice
  • quantify ground ice content in the laboratory
  • instrument boreholes for ground temperature monitoring
  • retrieve permafrost-related data from online databases
  • analyse and interpret ground temperatures to identify spatial and temporal variations
  • identify coastal processes and permafrost and periglacial landforms in the field and from aerial images.
  • Students will develop a general competence in Arctic fieldwork with a focus on skills required for permafrost and geomorphological investigations.

General competences

  • be able to conduct fieldwork under summer Arctic conditions and combine different types of data into a joint result
  • demonstrate active participation in group work and be able to communicate fieldwork results through oral presentations and scientific writing
  • be able to read and analyse scientific literature, identify existing knowledge gaps, and develop a proposal for an independent research project.

Learning activities

The course extends over 5 weeks including two-days of compulsory Arctic survival and safety training.

The course is organized as a combination of in-house activities (lectures, exercises, and laboratory work) and field activities (excursions and fieldwork). Students will learn from an international group of active researchers.

Focus during the first two weeks of the course is on developing a basic knowledge of permafrost and ground ice. Weeks three and four will focus on applied topics of permafrost research including infrastructure design, coastal geomorphology, periglacial and permafrost geomorphology, and greenhouse gases from permafrost. The final week is reserved for student report writing.

During the first four weeks, students will participate in a two-day field and laboratory exercise where they will obtain and analyze frozen sediment cores from the active layer and upper permafrost, and at least six excursions to visit key sites in the Longyearbyen area. In addition, students will work in groups to complete exercises on the analysis of the ground temperatures and climate data and analyze field data for a final oral presentation. Finally, students will work independently during the last week of the course on a written report.


  • Total lecture hours: 25 hours.
  • Exercises: ca. 15 hours.
  • Fieldwork/excursions: 4–6 days.

Compulsory learning activities

All compulsory learning activities must be approved in order to be registered for the final assessment.

  • Exercises
  • Fieldwork/excursions
  • Data analyses


  • 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
Oral group presentation of fieldwork33%
Written report (submitted at the end of the course)67%

Student life

Isfjord: Students investigating the unique periglacial geomorphology of Vardeborgsletta, June 2022
Isfjord: Students investigating the unique periglacial geomorphology of Vardeborgsletta, June 2022 Photo: Marjolain Verret
Students visiting the Lagoon Pingo in Adventdalen, a unique site emitting methane, June 2023
Students visiting the Lagoon Pingo in Adventdalen, a unique site emitting methane, June 2023 Photo: Marjolain Verret