spring 2022
BIO-2310 Arctic biology - 10 ECTS

Last changed 02.07.2022

Type of course

The course is elective in the Bachelor programme in Biology. It is required for those students who (plan to) select the Arctic Animal Physiology specialization within the Master in Biology programme. 

The course is limited to 20 students because of space limitations during the obligatory cruise to the West Ice. Candidates are accepted in the course based on the following criteria: 

  • Minimum 10 credits in animal physiology 
  • Students who have been accepted on the masters program in Biology 
  • Students in the bachelor program in Biology who aim to do a masters project specializing in "Arctic Animal Physiology" 
  • Other students on the bachelor program in biology and exchange students. These students are ranked based on grades and motivation letter 

The course is not available as singular course. 

Qualified students must apply by the 1st of December 2021 through this webform: Apply for BIO-2310

Please note! students must expect some costs associated with the purchase of clothing used during the field expedition.

Obligatory prerequisites

BIO-2002 Animal Physiology

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-3030 Extreme animal physiology 5 stp

Course content

The course describes the extremes of the arctic environment, in terms of climate/temperature and light and how this limits bioproductivity. The course describes the abiotic conditions that dictate life in this environment and gives an overview of the diversity of animals that inhabit the Arctic region. It then focusses on the physiological adaptations required to survive Arctic environmental conditions, covering arctic animals from invertebrates, fish, birds, to mammals.  

Objectives of the course

Knowledge: Candidates should be able to 

  • explain how the Arctic region is defined and delineated  
  • describe the abiotic conditions that characterize the region and that define conditions for animal life, and how these conditions change with seasons 
  • describe the biodiversity of the region and how it varies seasonally, i.e., describe the animals that inhabit the region (permanently or migratory), their general biology, life history and characteristic, at the species level 
  • understand the mechanisms of physiological adaptations that enable these animals to cope with those challenges and thereby survive in their respective habitat. Specifically, the candidate should know the basic principles for: 
    • Defense mechanisms against freezing 
    • Thermoregulation 
    • Digestive adaptations 
    • Energy homeostasis 
    • Adaptations to diving 
    • Seasonal adaptations 


Skills: Candidates should be able to 

  • apply gained theoretical knowledge to address defined practical problems related to the topics listed above 
  • use basic methodology learned from own data collection during practical exercises; e.g., basic laboratory work, basic animal ethics and handling, dissection, data analyses, in part under challenging field conditions 
  • communicate in writing, current knowledge from the recommended reading/syllabus  
  • know basic field safety/security regulations and how to take necessary precautions/ emergency preparedness when operating at sea under challenging weather conditions 

General skills: Candidates should  

  • understand the process of generating scientific knowledge 
  • analyze and reflect critically over data obtained through own data collection, or as reported by others in relevant scientific literature (scientific papers) 
  • present written scientific content clearly and in logical order while using language appropriate for the audience and occasion 
  • develop ability to work/cooperate in a group, from addressing a specific problem to writing up results and conclusions in a report 
  • appreciate the challenges involved in operating under field conditions (e.g., co-existing in a confined space in a ship under highly variable weather conditions, under outdoor Arctic climate conditions, etc.) 

Language of instruction and examination

The language of instruction is English and all of the syllabus material is in English. Examination questions will be given in English but may be answered either in English or a Scandinavian language.

Teaching methods

Weekly lectures and seminars based on the syllabus. Students are expected to participate in, and produce approved reports during, an obligatory expedition (14-17 days) to the Greenland Sea in the latter half of March/early April. The cruise includes a series of laboratory exercises that demonstrate sampling methodology and basic principles of adaptations to an aquatic lifestyle in marine mammals, with emphasis on pinnipeds. During the cruise, seals will be culled for scientific purposes and various tissues sampled for later analyses. These opportunities will be exploited to deliver research-based teaching on several aspects of the anatomy and physiology of these animals (whole carcass dissections with specific demonstrations relating to various organ systems and their functions). Students will work together in groups and write reports based on results from research and/or from the laboratory exercises that will be conducted during the cruise. Necessary safety training will be given before and at the very start of the field course. Participation in these training sessions is mandatory.

Information to incoming exchange students

This course is available for inbound exchange students.

This course is open for inbound exchange student who meets the admission requirements. Please see the Admission requirements.

Do you have questions about this module? Please check the following website to contact the course coordinator for exchange students at the faculty: INBOUND STUDENT MOBILITY: COURSE COORDINATORS AT THE FACULTIES | UiT


6 hours written exam. A graded scale of five marks from A to E for pass and F for fail.

Coursework requirements:

In order to sit an examination, the student must complete and gain approval for the following coursework requirements:

  • Mandatory participation in safety training in preparation for the research cruise to the Greenland Sea, as well as on board the research vessel. 
  • Participation on cruise and cruisereport. 

Approved coursework requirements have a duration of 3 years, from the semester in which the work requirements were taken.

Re-sit exam:

There will be a re-sit examination for students that did not pass the previous ordinary examination.


  • About the course
  • Campus: Tromsø |
  • ECTS: 10
  • Course code: BIO-2310