Ecological and Environmental Change Research Group


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MSc project

Permafrost methane emissions

Vigdis Vandvik, Hanna Lee

A landscape of melting permafrost
Hanna Lee


Understanding and quantifying methane emissions from permafrost thawing

Permafrost soils store twice more amount of carbon than what is in the atmosphere. Global scale warming has led to permafrost to thaw, releasing this large amount of carbon to the atmosphere as CO2 and CH4, and potentially accelerating global warming (aka positive feedback to climate). Climate scientists predict that permafrost carbon release could be one of the largest positive climate feedback created in the terrestrial system and therefore CH4 in the permafrost zone is one of the hottest topics environmental agencies all over EU are focused on. However, processes related to CH4 emissions are still not well understood and lack of year-long measurements are scarce. This created large uncertainty in understanding and predicting the patterns of future climate. The newly funded FRINATEK project entitled ‘Advancing permafrost carbon climate feedback – improvements and evaluations of the Norwegian Earth System Model with observations (FEEDBACK)’ will use automated observational technique to collect CO2 and CH4 under thawing permafrost to quantify CO2 and CH4 emissions from the ecosystem under permafrost thaw. The data collected will be used to evaluate and improve CO2 and CH4 dynamics under thawing permafrost within the land surface model of the Norwegian Earth System Model. This is a highly interdisciplinary and international project that will provide excellent opportunity for the student to develop a career in the academics or industry.

The MSc project

A MSc project includes field observations of CO2 and CH4 emissions in permafrost affected ecosystems of Norway. Field sites will be established this summer in Finnmark and sensors for CO2 and CH4 observations will be installed accordingly. The environmental measurements such as soil C, soil T, O2 availability, redox potential of soil, soil texture, soil pH, and etc. will be taken as well. The observational system will be highly automated and will allow observations through the winter months. The MSc student will analyse the data to 1) quantify the annual CO2 and CH4 balance, and 2) understand the processes related to CO2 and CH4 emissions.

What we can offer:

  • Scientific training on ecosystem ecology, biogeochemistry, and permafrost
  • Training in conducting field observations of CO2 and CH4 fluxes
  • Technical training in operations of complex scientific equipment (e.g. CO2 and CH4 analyzers)
  • Training in statistical data analysis
  • Training in communications and scientific writing
  • Collaborations across different discipline (biology, atmospheric sciences, geoscience, climate modelling)
  • Opportunity to visit Norwegian or international institutions for training (Oslo, USA, or Canada)


This MS project will put you in line with either a career in both the academics (field or lab manager, or a PhD position) and industry (environmental consulting, oil industry, and technological development)! Interested students should contact Prof. Vigdis Vandvik (vigdis.vandvik@uib.no) or Dr. Hanna Lee (hanna.lee@uni.no) for more information.