autumn 2018
BIO-8020 Arctic Marine System Ecology and Climate Change - 10 ECTS

Last changed 28.02.2019

Application deadline

Registration deadline for PhD students at UiT - The Arctic University of Norway: 1 September.

Application deadline for other applicants: 1 June. 

Type of course

Theoretical. The course can be taken as a singular course.

Admission requirements

PhD students or holders of a Norwegian master´s degree of five years or 3+ 2 years (or equivalent) may be admitted. PhD students must upload a document from their university stating that there are registered PhD students. This group of applicants does not have to prove English proficiency and are exempt from semester fee.

Holders of a Master´s degree must upload a Master´s Diploma with Diploma Supplement / English translation of the diploma. Applicants from listed countries must document proficiency in English. To find out if this applies to you see the following list:

Proficiency in English must be documented - list of countries

For more information on accepted English proficiency tests and scores, as well as exemptions from the English proficiency tests, please see the following document:

Proficiency in english - PhD level studies

PhD students at UiT register for the course through StudentWeb. The registration for autumn semester starts in the middle of June.

Other applicants apply for admission through SøknadsWeb. Application code 9303.

The number of participants is limited to 10. If more than 10 applicants, priority will be given as follows:

  • Participants admitted to the PhD programme at UiT
  • Participants in the Associate Professor programme (Førstelektorprogrammet)
  • PhD candidates from other universities
  • People with a minimum of a Masters degree (or equivalent), who have not been admitted to a PhD programme

Contact Ingjerd Gauslaa Nilsen at the BFE-faculty if you have troubles or questions regarding registration to the course.

Course overlap

Du vil få en reduksjon i antall studiepoeng (som oppgitt under), dersom du avlegger eksamen i dette emnet og har bestått følgende emne(r) fra før av:

BIO-3015 Arctic Marine System Ecology and Climate Change 10 stp

Course content

The course provides an introduction to marine system ecology and climate change in the Arctic Ocean including its shelf seas and central basins. It describes the physics of the Arctic Ocean and adjacent seas, for both water and ice, and how climate change alters them. The course introduces biological communities and key organisms, life history strategies, habitats and ecosystems of the marine Arctic. Coupling between biological communities and habitats are discussed with respect to energy flow and in terms of how physical processes determine the conditions for biota and their productivity, today and in the near future. Students will be introduced to a wide range of examples of system ecological response to climate change in the Arctic Ocean, ranging from microbial organisms to marine mammals, and including biogeochemical cycles. In addition, management regimes in the Arctic are discussed in terms of their influence on the marine system. The course is taught by a large number of lecturers who have their research focus in the topic they lecture on.

Recommended prerequisites

BIO-2010 Marine Ecology, BIO-2516 Ocean Climate

Objectives of the course


At the end of the course, the student will

  • be able to evaluate the physical environment in the Arctic Ocean with respect to hydrography, currents, and sea ice cover, and discuss the role of physical drivers for the Arctic marine ecosystem.
  • be familiar with the spatial and seasonal patterns of nutrient concentrations in high latitudes and be able to discuss changes in the nutrient availability in a warming Arctic.
  • be able to explain the significance of sea ice and debate the implication of sea ice cover changes to the biodiversity and carbon cycling in the Arctic.
  • be familiar with the basics of microbial cycling and be able to define the central dogma of molecular biology and relate protein function to ecology in the Arctic Ocean.
  • have insight into the primary production in high latitudes and be able to explain how climate change may affect primary production.
  • have developed an understanding of the habitat structure and biological communities in the sea ice, water column and at the seafloor of the Arctic, from microbes to mammals, and be able to evaluate how a warming Arctic impacts both habitat and communities.
  • be familiar with the term "life history strategy" and be able to discuss this term on the example of the key species Calanus in the Arctic and the Atlantic ecosystem.
  • understand the concepts of diel vertical migrations (DVM) in the Arctic, be familiar with the proximate and ultimate factors regulating DVM, and be able to discuss how these change according to seasons.
  • be able to understand and explain the role and regulation of vertical flux and other forms of cryo-pelagic-benthic coupling and evaluate how these processes are may be impacted by climate change.
  • understand and be able to discuss the role of parasites in the Arctic ecosystem, with emphasis on the Barents Sea.
  • be able to explain the characteristics of mass flows in fjord and coastal Arctic ecosystems, and to elaborate on how external factors (e.g., invasive species, climate change) may change the mass flows.
  • be able to describe and justify the current fish distribution in the Arctic Ocean and potential future changes with regard to increasing ocean temperature and decreasing sea ice.
  • be able to evaluate the relationship between polar cod and sea ice, and the changes in their abundance because of climate warming and increased competition/predation.
  • have an understanding of the role of marine mammal top-predators in sub-Arctic/Arctic ecosystems and be able to discuss potential changes in a warming Arctic.
  • be able to explain how ecosystem comparisons can contribute to understanding ecosystem structure and functioning.
  • understand and be able to discuss basics of management regimes related to the Arctic Ocean.



At the end of the course, the student will

  • have the ability to evaluate and discuss scientific topics related to a variety of processes and dynamics in the Arctic marine environment.
  • be able to understand and critically reflect on literature about the Arctic ecosystem, as well as present this information orally and in form of an essay.
  • be aware of and be able to discuss the current understanding how climate and anthropogenic impact can influence Arctic marine ecosystems.


General competence

At the end of the course, the student will

  • be able to work independently with scientific literature.
  • have refined the ability of critical thinking, by discussing scientific literature with lecturers and fellow students.
  • be able to integrate ecosystem knowledge by combining information from single studies of separate compartments and their couplings.
  • have improved their ability to work with fellow students through various group work activities during the seminars

Language of instruction and examination


Teaching methods

12 weeks of teaching. Each week three lectures (2x45 min) and one seminar.


Coursework requirement: Essay

Oral exam. A graded scale of five marks from A to E for pass and F for fail. There will be a re-sit examination for students that did not pass the previous ordinary examination.

Recommended reading/syllabus

The syllabus consists of "At the edge¿" edited by Paul Wassmann and selected articles.
  • About the course
  • Campus: Tromsø |
  • ECTS: 10
  • Course code: BIO-8020