UNIS emphasizes the biological studies (taxonomy, diversity, ecology, physiology) of the fauna and flora of Svalbard related to the physical and chemical environment. Easy access to key habitats gives students and staff at UNIS a unique opportunity to identify and quantify environmental threats in addition to basic knowledge of the Arctic.
Despite the apparent harshness of the High Arctic, many organisms are well adapted to this environment. The fauna and flora of Svalbard includes more than 1,800 marine invertebrate species, 1,200 terrestrial or freshwater invertebrate species and over 170 higher plant species in addition to the 21 mammal and 28 bird species.
Field activities are undertaken year-round in combination with classroom activities and laboratory exercises. This integrated approach provides students with a first-hand experience of the biological processes and the natural history of the terrestrial, limnic and marine flora and fauna in an Arctic environment.