Alpine and Glacial Ecology in Norway

The module is a field course based in Finse, Norway. Six days are spent in the field observing habitats typical of the Low alpine region. A major feature of the course is the opportunity to directly observe succession occurring at the snout of retreating glaciers. There are three related components the course:

  • 1) Observation of unique alpine and glacial habitats
  • 2) Practical experience of ecological sampling and analysis
  • 3) Student centred learning in group projects

1) Describing habitats and adaptations: The field centre is at an altitude of 1222 m in a Low Alpine environment. There are a range of classical habitats, including glaciers, within an hours walk of the field station at Finse. The various organisms and habitats will be described in the field. The direct experience of the environment will be underpinned by a series of lectures in the field station covering the underlying ecological and physiological principles. Where appropriate the experience of the Birmingham Staff will be supplemented by guest lectures from staff at the Universities of Bergen and Oslo. You will produce essays documenting the description of the local ecology

2) Collecting and analysing field data: A number of basic field techniques will be undertaken by the whole class, focusing on the sampling approaches necessary to obtain data on the flora and (mainly) invertebrate fauna of the region. These will concentrate on quadrat and pitfall trapping respectively, building on the theoretical introduction of these strategies in a previous course (BIO119). The group will analyse the collected data, concentrating on the relevant statistical methods. These individual practical tasks will be written up as a series of short practical/field reports

3) Group project: You will be assigned to groups of four. Each group will be assigned an individual ecological question that they will address in the field using the techniques and concepts introduced in the course. You will be expected to contribute to class progress meetings over the week. The finding s of group project will be presented orally to the class as a whole and written up as a formal scientific report 

By the end of the module the You should be able to:

  • Identify a number of key species in this environment
  • Document the major drivers in the low alpine/glacial environment
  • Describe the range of physiological and behavioural adaptations that allow organisms to survive and reproduce
  • Show competence in some basic techniques for sampling and analysing plant distribution
  • Show competence in some basic techniques for studying animal diversity and distribution
  • Keep a formal record of data collected in the field
  • Work in groups to experimental address an ecological question
  • Communicate research project outputs to an audience of their peers


Coursework (100%)