Bjørndalen Integrated Gradients (BIG)

Bjørndalen Integrated Gradient (BIG) is a field-laboratory that enables close integration of research and course activities, and a great arena for students to participate and contribute to research projects.


Rebekka Ween hunts pollinating insects with a sweep net. Photo: Simen Hjelle

About the project

BIG was established in 2019 by the Department of Arctic Biology (AB) at UNIS, supported by funding from the Olav Thon Foundation and internal allocations. BIG is a strategic platform integrating biological research, learning and monitoring within and across the terrestrial, benthic and marine habitats at one location in high-arctic Svalbard.

Strategically, BIG will provide unique knowledge and education necessary for an integrated understanding of how the Arctic terrestrial, benthic and marine ecosystem are structured and functions under long-term environmental and climatic changes. Currently, BIG consists of several research projects along the Bjørndalen Integraded Gradient, including long-term marine time-series (IsA), multiseasonal of flower phenology and pollination activity interactions, seasonal capture of invertebrates at weekly intervals and monitoring of reindeer spatial population dynamics.

Students in the field in Bjørndalen. Photo: Simen Hjelle, 2021

Our field laboratory

Our field lab in a nut shell. All data collected, small and large, will be stored in NIRD Research Data Archive, and eventually be made available for the public through, for example, SIOS (Svalbard Integrated Arctic Earth Observing System).

A field laboratory will…

  • Create cost-effective research synergy between faculty
  • Give authentic research experiences for students

To succeed in this…

  • Data must be available in a common storage

This will enable the possibilities of…

  • Initiating inquiry-based student projects
  • Invite external researchers to establish within a system where background knowledge exists

And give the outcome of…

  • Piece by piece increase the overall knowledge of the study system
  • Embrace interactions in the ecosystem as a whole
  • Over time separate seasonal variations form climate change
BIG Field Laboratory during summer. Photo: Line Klausen, 2021

Research projects

Project resources

Weather Station

Data Templates

Data TypeMethodDarwin Core (Y/N)BlankExample
Vegetation Registration/DescriptionQuadrat methodY.xlsx.xlsx
Plant Trait RegistrationList of TraitsY.xlsx.xlsx
Feces Collection and MeasurementsY.xlsx.xlsx
Reindeer PopulationY.xlsx.xlsx
Table of available data template suited for BIG generated data.


Reindeer counting Click Here
Invertebrate sampling Click Here
Purple saxifrage transect establishmentClick Here
Time lapse camera set-upClick Here
Purple saxifrage flow cytometryClick Here
Quadrate SamplingClick Here
BIG relevant protocols

Sampling Sheets

Vegetation Analysis/DescriptionClick Here
Reindeer Counting Sampling SheetClick Here
Reindeer Counting Bjørndalen Sampling Map SheetClick Here
Saxifraga oppositifolia flower phenology – Bjørndalen River plotClick Here
Saxifraga oppositifolia flower phenology – Bjørndalen Slope plotClick Here
Saxifraga oppositifolia flower phenology – Bjørndalen Ridge plotClick Here
Blank sampling sheets

List of Existing Data

Type of dataMethodSeasonTime
Captured invertebrateCapture via sweep net*, fall traps (x18), malaise traps (x2)Summer2019-present
Reindeer population time seriesVisual observations along path. Sex/Age and location registeredFeb-Oct2019-2022
Silene Aculis phenology time seriesImage capture from above plant (60cm) and 1 minute (to 1 hour) intervals (n = 10**)Summer2019-2021
Dryas Octopetala phenology time seriesImage capture from above plant (60cm) and 1 minute (to 1 hour) intervals (n = 8)Summer2019-2021
Soil temperature/mositureAt several locations (~7), some also record soil moisture All year2019-present
Vegetation analysisVisual estimate of plant/soil cover within 60x60cm vegetation frame (Quadrat)One time2021
Snow melt time lapsePhotos taken from valley showing snow melt and other seasonal changes. Once per hour. All year2019-2021
Weather data (wind speeds, solar radiation, ground and air temperature, soil moisture)Data collected from weather station located in BjørndalenAll year 2020-present
Registration of vegetation (monitoring)Pin-point method, from 3 locations with 3 plots eachSummer (Biannually)2019-present
Manual soil mositurePortable soil moisture meter, every other weekSummer2019
Saxifraga oppositifolia flower stage and countManual check-up of registered plants, visual inspection. Summer2019-2021
Saxifraga oppositifolia ploidy levelFlow cytometry.One time2019
Pin-point vegetation analysisFrom a large grid plotSummer2023
*Sweep net done occasionally and not every week, **8 plants in 2019

People involved with the project

Pernille Bronken Eidesen / Project Leader 2019-2021
Steve Coulson / Project Leader 2021-
Mads C. Forchhammer / Project Member 2019-2021
Simone I. Lang / Project Member 2019-
Simen Salomonsen Hjelle / Fieldwork, Data Management 2019-2022
Tina Dahl / Fieldwork 2022
Timon Brüggemann / Fieldwork 2020
Sine Sara / Fieldwork 2020
Anne Bruls / Fieldwork 2019

Student thesis and research projects
Maria Huntstaar / Bachelor Thesis 2020-2021 & Master Thesis 2021-
Ida Christina Apalnes / AB-207 Research Project 2022
Ingrid Kleppe Normann / AB-207 Research Project 2022
Line Klaus / Master Thesis 2022-2022
Rebekka Ween / Master Thesis 2019-2022
Emma Limose Djurber / AB-207 Research Project 2021
Xenia Uffrecht / Internship (Funded by RECITE) 2021 & AB-207 Research Project 2021
Ingrid Vesterdal Tjessem / Master Thesis 2020-2021

Projects linked to BIG