home‎ > ‎


Øystein Varpe 
Professor, University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS)
Adjunct Senior Scientist, Akvaplan-niva
I am an ecologist particularly interested in population biology and evolutionary ecology, with life history theory as a long term interest. After graduate studies at University of Bergen (UiB), University Centre in Svalbard and University of Gothenburg, I did my masters at University of Tromsø, on seabird life histories, and my PhD at UiB in evolutionary and ecological modelling, with a thesis entitled Life history adaptations to seasonality. I mainly work with zooplankton, fish and seabirds, but also other organisms, depending on the research question. Traits such as energy storage, reproduction and migrations are central in my work. I have a particular interest in individual variability and in adaptations to seasonality. I use statistical analyses of data as well as mathematical models and simulations. And, I enjoy fieldwork and have performed several field studies in the Arctic and Antarctic. I was a Fulbright Arctic Initiative Scholar in 2015-2016 and I am in the steering group of bioCEED Centre of Excellence in Biology Education and leading one of the work packages there.


Maciej Ejsmond
Visiting researcher
My main research interest is in life-history evolution and involves mathematical models and numerical optimization techniques such as dynamic programming. I defended my PhD thesis at Jagiellonian Univeristy (Krakow, Poland) and worked in the group supervised by Jan Kozlowski. My recent investigation focuses on the trade-off between growth and reproduction in the context of a seasonal environment, as well as ultimate explanations of the evolution of capital breeding (i.e. strategy based on accumulation of reserves for reproduction). Parts of my work focuses on modeling of life history strategies of genus Calanus, copepods inhabiting Arctic and sub-Arctic waters, in the context of climate-driven shifts in phenology. I have a background in comparative analysis, population genetics, field ornithology and agriculture. Apart from my main interest in the evolution of life histories, my research concerns also theoretical studies in population genetics on the polymorphism of MHC genes (Major Histocompatibility Complex) and the comparative analysis of pollen morphology in plants. I am currently leading the project entitled "Stochastic fluctuations and the evolution of zooplankton life histories in high latitude marine ecosystems."
Zofia Burr

Zofia Burr
Researcher, UNIS
I am a marine ecologist interested in seabirds and the marine systems they rely on. After completing my bachelor's degree in marine biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz and working in the fields of ecology and zoology, I chose to venture to the northern Atlantic to continue my education. Through my master’s thesis with the Joint Nordic Master’s Program in Marine Ecosystems and Climate and UNIS, I investigated intra- and interspecies variability in seabird breeding timing, specifically in regards to latitudinal variation along the mainland Norwegian coast and in Svalbard. Using my thesis as a platform to further explore marine phenology at high latitudes, I have returned to UNIS to work on the project SEATIME, an initiative in the Fram Centre’s Fjord and Coast Flagship led by Øystein Varpe, Sébastien Descamps and myself. Through this project we aim to understand the underlying mechanisms for seabird breeding timing at high latitudes and investigate the relationship between breeding timing and success.


Anna Ejsmond
PhD student, UNIS
I studied Biology and Geography at the Jagiellonian University in Cracow, Poland where I did my master thesis on theory of life history evolution. I was using an evolutionary simulation model to investigate optimal life-strategies in organisms resembling water fleas, particularly the fundamental life-history trade-off between allocation of resources to growth and/or reproduction. My research interest focuses on life-history evolution, evolutionary ecology, and in particular behavioral and physiological adaptations to seasonal environments. I perform spring observations of Common eider foraging, including kleptoparasitism by glaucous gulls on the eiders. I’m highly impressed by the dynamic phenological changes in the Arctic environment. In my PhD project at UNIS I will investigate the Common eider pre-breeding and breeding adaptations to seasonality, sex-specific trade-offs and the constraints and costs involved in food acquisition.

      Daniel Hitchcock
PhD student, University of Oslo
I completed my Bachelor degree at the University of Melbourne, and from there I decided to move to Norway. I then undertook a Master degree in Environmental Toxicology at the University of Bergen before commencing a PhD fellowship at the University of Oslo within the Department of Biosciences. I am an ecotoxicologist, meaning my interests are broad, stretching from evolutionary biology, ecology and to bioaccumulation of contaminants in organisms. For my PhD project I am interested in effects of life history strategies on the bioaccumulation of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in the Arctic. I want to see whether any particular life-history strategies can explain why individuals accumulate different levels of contaminants. My supervisors are Katrine Borgå (UiO), Tom Andersen (UiO) and Øystein Varpe.

Kanchana Bandara
PhD student, Nord University and UNIS
Before coming to the Arctic, I studied biology at the South Coastal University (Ruhuna) of Sri Lanka. With the commencement of my masters degree at the University of Nordland, I developed a deep interest to study the life history strategies of high latitude marine biota. With this focus I worked on a master thesis that discussed life history strategies of a mesozooplankton community inhabiting the highly seasonal glacial fjord of Billefjorden in Svalbard. The success of my masters thesis largely paved the way for me to obtain a PhD position funded by VISTA and the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters (DNVA). My PhD project focuses on developing high-resolution mechanistic models to describe the seasonal vertical habitat dynamics of high latitude marine zooplankton. I will be working in close association with Nord University, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), and UNIS.

Marina Chelak
PhD student, Nord University
I completed an Erasmus Mundus Master Program in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at the University of Gent in 2012. A year later I started a PhD in Marine Ecology at the University of Nordland (UiN). In this PhD project I study how Calanus finmarchicus and C. hyperboreus vary in time and space. I use data from three locations: a fjord station in Northern Norway, a transect at the west coast of Svalbard, and a transect north of Iceland. The objectives of the project are to understand the drivers of variability in abundance and I do so by contrasting fjord versus shelf stations, the two species and the three locations. I hope that project will help us understand how Calanus spp. respond to changes in high-latitude marine ecosystems. The PhD project is part of the Akvaplan-niva lead project Impact of the variability in the Norwegian and Barents Sea Calanus complex on ecosystems and commercial fish stocks. My supervisors are Ketil Eiane (UiN), Claudia Halsband (Akvaplan-niva) and Øystein Varpe.

Elinor Tessin
Master studentUiT - The Arctic University of Norway and UNIS
I completed my Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences at the University of Konstanz in Germany. After spending two semesters at the University of Tromsø as an Erasmus Student, I decided to stay in Norway, and am now taking a Master’s degree in Marine Biology at the University of Bergen. My master project, where I will examine the drivers of variability in the timing of pelagic primary production with latitude, is co-supervised by Dag Aksnes at UiB and Øystein Varpe at UNIS.

Ella Weissenberg
Master student, University of Helsinki and UNIS
My marine biology studies have a strong background in the Baltic sea. I got interested in the Arctic Ocean during my bachelor studies when my project was on the abundance and ecology of Arctic ctenophore Mertensia ovum. Now my interest is in arctic marine zooplankton in general. My master's thesis is about spatial structures of macrozooplankton communities in the high-Arctic, working in collaboration with the Institute of Marine Research (IMR). My supervisors are Øystein Varpe at UNIS, Tor Knutsen at IMR and Jaanika Blomster at University of Helsinki.

Amalia Keck
Master studentUiT - The Arctic University of Norway and UNIS
My primary research interest is in Arctic marine ecology and the focus of my thesis is recolonization and succession of a shallow rocky-bottom epi-benthic community in Smeerenburgfjord, NW Svalbard. I aim to explain the observed community patterns in terms of both taxonomic and functional diversity and relate this to different environmental factors over a 37-year period. I finished my bachelors degree in Biology at the University of Copenhagen after spending a year at the University of Tasmania and decided to continue my studies at the University of Tromsø to gain more knowledge on Arctic ecosystems. My supervisors are Øystein Varpe at UNIS and Bodil Bluhm and Raul Primicerio (UiT).  

Completed student projects (since 2014)

Calum Bachell
MSc 2017 - The role of the male Common Eider Somateria mollissima as a protector against nest-predationUiT - The Arctic University of Norway and UNIS
Svenja Halfter
MSc 2017 - Large-scale phenology of marine plankton in the North Atlantic and Arctic ocean. University of Kiel & UNIS.
Marine Cusa
MSc 2016 - The effect of seasonality on polar cod (Boreogadus saida) dietary habits and temporal feeding strategies in Svalbard waters. UiT - The Arctic University of Norway and UNIS    
Preben Danielsen 
MSc 2016 - Climate trends, weather fluctuations and calving phenology in Svalbard reindeer (Rangifer tarandus platyrhynchus). NTNU and UNIS. 
Jon Runar Lorentzen 
MSc 2015 - Marine biomass consumption by wild Svalbard reindeer: fecal stable isotope analysis as a tool to detect climate change effectsNTNU and UNIS.
Tom Langbehn
MSc 2015 - Feeding success in an extreme-light environment: modelling seasonal prey encounter of Arctic fish. University of Bremen & UNIS.
Kim Scherrer  
MSc 2015 - Light, temperature and competition: understanding the causes for climate-driven regime shifts in arctic marine benthos. University of Uppsala and UNIS.
Caitlin Frankish
MSc 2015 - A meta-ecosystem model: seabirds as vectors. University of Southampton & UNIS.
Sam Eglund Newby 
MSc 2015 - Feeding activity and diet of Arctic and boreal fish species during the Polar nightUniversity of Southampton & UNIS. 
Elida Skøien
MSc 2015 - Causes and consequences of breeding synchrony in the snow bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis). NTNU and UNIS.
Charlotte de Vries
MSc 2015 - Disentangling mortality and development rates in an arctic copepod population. University of Amsterdam and UNIS.
Hannah Wauchope 
MSc 2014 - Climate change could truncate the world's major migration flyways for Arctic breeding species
University of Queensland.
Zofia Burr 
MSc 2014 - Breeding later at higher latitudes: explaining seabird reproductive timing in the northeastern Atlantic. University of Bergen and UNIS.
Kanchana Bandara
MSc 2014 - Mesozooplankton community dynamics in a high Arctic fjord. Nord University and UNIS.
Larissa Beumer

MSc 2014 - F
eeding behaviour and diet quality of high-Arctic wild reindeer in response to changes in snow-ice conditions during winterEberswalde University and UNIS.