NBIK14013U Arctic Biology

Volume 2022/2023

MSc Programme in Biology
MSc Programme in Biology with a minor subject


The course focuses on a deeper understanding of the Arctic flora and fauna, how Arctic ecosystems are structured and respond to environmental drivers.

Lectures run throughout the course and present both aquatic and terrestrial themes, where the environmental characteristics of the Arctic are defined and described. In connection with this, diversity, population dynamics in time and space as well as ecological implications are covered. Morphological, physiological as well as reproductive adaptations and strategies are discussed for selected plant and animal groups. Important aspects such as effects of climate change and effects of ice and snow are examined in details.

Involvement of the students is ensured through various types of exercises spanning from reading about fish otoliths to discussion of climate change impacts.

Learning Outcome

The aim of the course is to provide students with an understanding of:

  • Environmental growth conditions in the Arctic and how it affects living organisms and the consortia they form
  • Adaptations of animals, plants and microorganisms toin the environment
  • Biodiversity at all trophic levels
  • Biological interactions I aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems in time and space in the Arctic
  • Climate changes implications


  • Describe the special conditions for plants, animals and microorganisms in the marine, freshwater and terrestrial environments in the Arctic such as the physical and chemical conditions, low temperatures, occurrence of ice and snow as well as nutrient and light availability.
  • Describe the dynamics and the production of terrestrial and aquatic Arctic ecosystems.
  • Identify the morphological, physiological and reproductive adaptations of animals and plants in relation to the arctic conditions, especially adaptations to low temperatures, short growing period and extreme events.


  • Analyse the diversity of Arctic organisms at the community, individual and genetic level in relation to the Arctic conditions.
  • Compare the vulnerability of arctic species to environmental conditions
  • Analyse the interactions between different organisms and the life history strategies in arctic animal and plant species.
  • Explain the main features of arctic species immigration after the last glaciations.
  • Evaluate the effects of climate change on arctic ecosystems and possible feed back mechanisms to the climate.


  • Critically read, present and discuss scientific articles about arctic conditions
  • Design and carry out an experimental project
  • Mediate a specific, complex subject in a short, written form to a scientific audience (an essay)
  • assess anthropogenic impacts on Arctic ecosystems in a sustainability perspective including identifying implications of climate changes in relation to habitat loss, detoriation of food webs egradation and decline in biodiversity

See Absalon.

Academic qualifications equivalent to a BSc degree in Biology is recommended.
The course runs for 9 weeks with 3-5 lectures per week and weekly mandatory seminars and exercises. At the seminars, research topics and review papers are treated and discussed by students and the teachers. The exercises are individual and/or group based take-home tasks related to the syllabus. The detailed teaching procedures for each week are announced on Absalon. Most weeks there will be a guest lecture (from UoC or other research institutions) who will present an Arctic research topic. These presentations will be followed by a discussion of the topic based on additional reading material. These lectures are mandatory.
The course complements the bachelor course "Basal arktisk biologi" and it is optimal to take both courses if an arctic dimension is part of the study curriculum.
Students who passed "Arctic Biology" are eligible to apply for the Arctic Biology Field Course (NBIK18001U) held every year in Greenland.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 26
  • Class Instruction
  • 30
  • Preparation
  • 74,5
  • Theory exercises
  • 60
  • Guidance
  • 15
  • Exam
  • 0,5
  • Total
  • 206,0
Continuous feedback during the course
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment, (essay)
Oral examination, 25 minutes
Type of assessment details
The written exam takes place during the last few weeks of the course. Each student receives a subject and some material to produce a 5 page essay. Subjects are distributed randomly. The essas is written individually but guidance from one of the course teachers is available upon request. The essay must be handed in approximately 1 week before the oral exam (details are given during the course).

The oral part of the exam consists of a 10 min. presentation of a subject different from the subject for the essay. The presentation is followed by questions (approximately 15 min.) to the subject as well as to the Learning Outcome in general. The title for the oral exam is handed out when the submission deadline for the essay expires. The last week of the course is used for preparation of the individual oral presentation and examination.

The written and the oral exam must be passed separately, and each exam counts for 50% of the final grade. If the essay is not handed in before the deadline the student will recieve the grade -3 for this part of the exam.

The two parts of the exam do not have to be passed in the same exam period.
Exam registration requirements

Participation in at least 80% of the mandatory parts of the course (=seminars, exercises and guest lectures).

All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Several internal examiners

The same as the ordinary exam. If the essay was not passed during the ordinary exam a new essay within a different subject must be handed in.

If the requirement of 80% participation is not fulfilled the student must make a 15 minutes oral test prior to the oral exam (typical the week before). In this test the student must demonstrate a general knowledge of the subjects that has been taught during the course by answering a number of questions. If this test is approved, the oral exam can take place. The test will not be part of the evaluation.

Criteria for exam assesment

See learning outcome.