Bjørndalen Integrated Gradients (BIG)

Bjørndalen Integrated Gradient (BIG) is a cross-disciplinary approach to understand how short- and long-term climatic changes affect High-Arctic species and the system in which they are embedded. This field-laboratory enables close integration of research and course activities, and a great arena for students to participate and contribute to research activities.

Since 2019, several UNIS courses has utilized BIG and it has provided data for master and bachelor theses. Currently we store almost 5 million files totaling 28 terabytes of data, across multiple projects.


BIG was established in 2019 by the Department of Arctic Biology (AB) at UNIS, supported by funding from the Olav Thon Foundation and internal allocations. BIG is a strategic platform integrating biological research, learning and monitoring within and across the terrestrial, benthic and marine habitats at one location in high-arctic Svalbard.

Strategically, BIG will provide unique knowledge and education necessary for an integrated understanding of how the Arctic terrestrial, benthic and marine ecosystem are structured and functions under long-term environmental and climatic changes. Currently, BIG consists of several research projects along the Bjørndalen Integraded Gradient, including long-term marine time-series (IsA), multiseasonal of flower phenology and pollination activity interactions, seasonal capture of invertebrates at weekly intervals and monitoring of reindeer spatial population dynamics.

Our field laboratory

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Our field lab in a nut shell. All data collected, small and large, will be stored in NIRD Research Data Archive, and eventually be made available for the public through, for example, SIOS (Svalbard Integrated Arctic Earth Observing System).

A field laboratory will…

  • Create cost-effective research synergy between faculty
  • Give authentic research experiences for students

To succeed in this…

  • Data must be available in a common storage

This will enable to possibilities of…

  • Initiating inquiry-based student projects
  • Invite external researchers to establish within a system where background knowledge exists

And give the outcome of…

  • Piece by piece increase the overall knowledge of the study system
  • Embrace interactions in the ecosystem as a whole
  • Over time separate seasonal variations form climate change

Good coordination of research projects, student course work and data sharing will lead to long-time monitoring

Quick project overview

List of project with ID:

Project TitleIDContact Person
Reindeer population dynamicsBIG_RMMads Forchhammer
Invertebrate and Flower phenologyBIG_FIPSteve Coulson
Long-term Vegetation MonitoringBIG_VEGMSimone Lang
Purple Saxifraga – A model system for speciationBIG_SO19Pernille Bronken Eidesen

What type of data exists from Bjørndalen?

Data collected will be made available through our common NIRD storage arena. Contact project responsible for more information and access. Also see the map to put the data in context.

List of data that exists from Bjørndalen thus far:

Type of dataMethodSeasonTimeProject ID
Invertebrate phenology time seriesCapture via sweep net*, fall traps (x18), malaise traps (x2)Summer2019-presentBIG_FIP
Reindeer population time seriesVisual observations along path. Sex/Age and location registeredFeb-Oct2019-presentBIG_RM
Silene Aculis phenology time seriesImage capture from above plant (60cm) and 1 minute (to 1 hour) intervals (n = 10**)Summer2019-presentBIG_FIP
Dryas Octopetala phenology time seriesImage capture from above plant (60cm) and 1 minute (to 1 hour) intervals (n = 8)Summer2019-presentBIG_FIP
Soil temperature/mositureAt several locations (~7), some also record soil moisture All year2019-presentBIG_FIP,BIG_SO19,BIG_VEGM
Vegetation analysisDone within SO19 plots (see map). Visual estimate of plant/soil cover within 60x60cm vegetation frame (Quadrat)One time2021BIG_SO19
Snow melt time lapsePhotos taken from valley showing snow melt and other seasonal changes. Once per hour. All year2019-presentN/A
Weather data (wind speeds, solar radiation, ground and air temperature, soil moisture)Data collected from weather station located in BjørndalenAll year 2020-presentN/A
Registration of vegetation (monitoring)Pin-point method, from 3 locations with 3 plots eachSummer (Biannually)2019-presentBIG_VEGM
Manual soil mositurePortable soil moisture meter, every other weekSummer2019-presentBIG_VEGM
Saxifraga oppositifolia flower stage and countManual check-up of registered plants, visual inspection. Summer2019-presentBIG_SO19
Saxifraga oppositifolia ploidy levelFlow cytometry.One time2019BIG_SO19
*Sweep net done occasionally and not every week, **8 plants in 2019