Seasonal Ecology Group

Seasonal Ecology

Seasonality is a central template in nature and an important selective force. We aim to understand how seasonal environments shape ecological processes and evolutionary adaptations and how human stressors impact these processes. Most of our research questions have an annual cycle perspective to them. We run both theoretical and empirical studies. Coastal and marine organisms form the main part of our work, but with some studies also in terrestrial systems including links between sea and land.

The Seasonal Ecology Group forms Øystein Varpe's research lab, based at the Department of Biological Sciences, University of Bergen.

Coasts - where sea and land meet


Zooplankton sampling all year round

Two generations - and spectators. Larus hyperboreus


Our field is evolutionary ecology, with particular attention to how seasonality shapes ecological processes and evolutionary adaptations.

Central topics in the group:

  • Life history theory

  • Phenology

  • Marine and coastal ecology

  • Sea - land interactions

  • Population biology

  • Predator-prey interactions

  • Foraging ecology

  • Ecosystem connections & meta-ecosystems

  • Ecological modelling

Some current projects

The Nansen Legacy. Sub-task leader and PhD adviser. Funded by the Research Council of Norway (RCN).

Assessment of ecosystem vulnerability and functioning of coastal fish. Fram Centre project with Tromsø collaborators.

Coastal ecology and fish distributions in the north - connecting latitudes and disciplines. Nansen-initativet. UiB

Community dynamics in a rapidly warming high Arctic: trophic synchrony in time and space (INSYNC), with CBD as lead. Funded by RCN.

The fundamental role of mesopelagic fishes for the structure and change of Northeast Atlantic marine ecosystems. Lead by Christian Jørgensen, UiB. Funded by RCN.

The impact of artificial light on arctic marine organisms and ecosystems during the polar night (Deep Impact). UiT leads. Funded by RCN.

ClimateNarratives - exchanging local narratives and scientific understanding of climate changes in indigenous communities of Greenland and the southwest Pacific. Lead by Kerim Hestnes Nisancioglu, UiB. Funded by RCN.

Øystein Varpe - group leader. Evolutionary ecology, Population biology, Marine ecology

Robynne Nowicki - PhD candidate. Energy content and contaminants in zooplankton and fish

Rebecca Duncan - PhD candidate. Sea ice algae and trophic interactions.

Tom Langbehn - affiliated researcher. Zooplankton-fish interactions

Martyna Syposz - affiliated researcher. Seabird ecology

Zofia Burr - affiliated researcher. Seabird phenology

Nora Stampe - MSc student. Seabird foraging ecology

Torunn Stople Kallelid - MSc student. Seabird ecology and toxicology

Joseph Lawrence - MSc student. Population connectivity in sponges

Christian Stolz - research assistant. Ecology of tundra birds

More about us

Three recent publications:

Bandara et al. 2021. Two hundred years of zooplankton vertical migration research. Biological Reviews open access

Hobbs et al. 2021. A marine zooplankton community vertically structured by light across diel to interannual timescales. Biology Letters open access

Samplonius et al. 2021. Strengthening the evidence base for temperature-mediated phenological asynchrony and its impacts. Nature Ecology & Evolution abstract

and some "classics":

Varpe Ø, Daase M, Kristiansen T. 2015. A fish-eye view on the new Arctic lightscape. ICES Journal of Marine Science 72: 2532-2538 abstract pdf

Ji R, Jin M, Varpe Ø. 2013. Sea ice phenology and timing of primary production pulses in the Arctic Ocean. Global Change Biology 19: 734-741 abstract

Varpe Ø. 2012. Fitness and phenology: annual routines and zooplankton adaptations to seasonal cycles. Journal of Plankton Research 34: 267-276 full text

Varpe Ø. et al. 2007. Early is better: seasonal egg fitness and timing of reproduction in a zooplankton life-history model. Oikos 116: 1331-1342 pdf

Full list of publications

Collaborators and networks

Centre for Biodiversity Dynamics, NTNU. bioCEED - Centre for Excellence in Biology Education. ARCTOS - Arctic marine ecosystem research network. Section for Aquatic biology and toxicology (AQUA), University of Oslo. DEEP - Department of Ecology, Environment and Plant Sciences, Stockholm University. Department of Zoology, Stockholm University. The University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS). Farallon Institute, California. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). Association of European Marine Biological Laboratories Expanded Assemble Plus.

Theoretical Ecology Group, University of Bergen.

Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA) - where Øystein has an adjunct position.

Nordic Society Oikos

Videos of talks

"Sea ice and ecosystem change: the new Arctic lightscape and its impacts on fish" - Fulbright Arctic Symposium at the National Academy of Sciences, Washington, 27 Oct 2016


Reflections on Papers Past - revisiting old papers in ecology and evolution through interviews.

From Lund University - The equation of the month.

Life history evolution. Online lecture by Steven Stearns, Yale University.

We have at all times acknowledged seasons. Vivaldi's musical conception in The Four Seasons (Le quattro stagioni) is a splendid artistic reminder - here an amazing performance of Winter (L'inverno).