Master’s thesis projects Below you will find an overview of Master's thesis projects that we have to offer. Besides these, we are always open for discussing your own thesis ideas! So if you are interested in working with any of our projects, don't hesitate to contact us.

MSc project: EMERALD (3 projects)

EMERALD is an interdisciplinary and nationally coordinated research project which aims to improve the representation of high latitude and alpine ecosystems, along with their climate interactions, in the Norwegian Earth System Model (NorESM). Here, we look to integrate empirical data from the projects already underway at UiB (for example SEEDCLIM, FunCAB, INCLINE) along with broader data synthesis ideas to improve our understanding and modelling of vegetation feedback processes.

We have a couple of options available this year, see below.

Project: EMERALD

Supervisor: Sonya Geange

We are developing a downscaled version of the FATES platform (a Functionally Assembled Terrestrial Ecosystem Simulator) for some of our field sites – this is led by Dr. Hui Tang from UiO. Here we have opportunities to assess how well the FATES model works when we input our local field parameters compared to literature or database derived standards. There are also exciting possibilities for asking questions related to how physiological or community shifts in parameters may influence model outcomes, including: including new physiological processes, designing new plant functional types, for example mosses or lichens; or climate and ecosystem-based questions including drought in coastal heathlands, or climate change impacts across alpine gradients. In this project you will gain experience in understanding how we turn hands on field science into modelling parameters for climate land models (FATES in particular). As there are a broad range of experimental data to draw from, there is opportunities to learn about varying plant functional traits, growth forms, and climate change experimental designs. Developing insights into the model structure and design itself will be a key outcome.

Another possibility for the EMERALD/FATES based project (see 1) here is for a more education base master’s thesis, focusing on the design and development of a graphical user interface (GUI) form of the FATES model, which allows non-specialists to engage with land surface models. This could be of particular interest for introducing undergraduate and graduate researchers to interdisciplinary research ideas, and also highlighting the importance of open science and coding-based education.

The third opportunity we have is examining how spectral imagery can be used to provide non-destructive insights into plant responses along environmental gradients. The reflectance properties of vegetation, the percentage of light reflected throughout the electromagnetic spectrum, can also provide insights into a broad range of vegetation characteristics, including: plant structural and chemical traits, plant functional types, and identifying invasive species to name just a few. As reflectance measures are able to be taken at the leaf, individual, plot, landscape and global level, and there is increased interest towards linking these responses in order to better understand patterns of plant performance, and to utilize them in large scale global models, especially as these approaches are often more time-efficient and less destructive than traditional harvest-based methods. With the wide range of experiments underway in the Between the Fjords research group, there are opportunities to looks at leaf and canopy level reflectance (NDVI) across experimental systems including; drought in coastal heathlands, responses along elevation gradients, or how alpine species respond to experimental warming. There are also databased opportunities, integrating existing data from within the Between the Fjords projects, or conducting meta-analysis or systematic reviews.

MSc project: The effects of climate change on permafrost in Northern Norway (Finnmark)

Are you interested in ...

  • climate change and its impacts on terrestrial ecosystems?
  • understanding how microorganisms and plants are affected by climate and effect climate?
  • experiencing the wild permafrost affected nature in high latitude ecosystems in Norway?

MSc internship opportunities

Climate change is having a big impact on permafrost, causing it to melt. We are interested in understanding the impacts of thawing permafrost on future climate change. We make field observations to quantify greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions where permafrost is thawing to understand how climate and environmental change affect permafrost environment and affect greenhouse gas exchange. Our site is also part of the International Tundra Experiment, and we have set up Open Top Chambers (OTC’s) to investigate how additional warming affects tundra ecosystems, plant- and microbial communities.

Thesis topics examples:

  • What is the effect of ebullition (methane bubbles) and oxidation in thaw ponds to GHG emissions?
  • How does warming (OTC) affect plant functional trait composition?
  • How does warming (OTC) affect microbial community composition, soil nutrients?
  • How does bryophyte/sedge colonization affect GHG exchange?

What we can offer:

  • Strong theoretical background in ecosystem ecology
  • Fieldwork experience in Finnmark, Norway
  • Interdisciplinary research and project development
  • Quantitative skills and training in Earth System Modeling
  • Scientific writing skill development
  • Possibility to present the results in national/international conferences

If you are interested, please contact Inge Althuizen ( to discuss possibilities.

Project: EMERALD

Supervisors: Inge Althuizen and Vigdis Vandvik

MSc project: Climate change and alpine plants

The INCLINE project focuses on the indirect effects of climate change, and particularly the impact of novel species colonising upland plant communities.
We conduct field experiments to investigate and disentangle the impacts of (i) direct effects of climate warming, (ii) indirect effects of changes in interactions between already-present species, and (iii) indirect effects of introduced novel species interactions. These experiments, conducted in the SeedClim grid in Western Norway, will help us understand how plant populations, plant communities, biodiversity and ecosystem functioning are affected by climate change directly, indirectly, and through novel interactions.

Project: INCLINE

Supervisors: Ragnhild Gya, Joachim Tøpper and Vigdis Vandvik


MSc project: Global change and grazing in alpine ecosystems

Are you interested in how warmer climate affects plants and soils? How more nitrogen will change alpine grasslands? And why grazing is an important tool to mitigate negative global change impacts.

In the THREE-D project we study how warmer climate, nitrogen addition and grazing affect alpine grassland in Norway and China. We use a large-scale field experiment where we transplant vegetation patches to lower elevation to simulate a warmer climate and combine this with adding nitrogen and grazing. Over time we monitor plant species composition, biomass, decomposition, soil carbon fluxes and nutrients in the soil.

Climate warming and nitrogen deposition both affect the ecosystem by increasing nutrient availability, decomposition, and plant productivity. This has often negative impacts on the ecosystem, for example a decrease in biodiversity. Grazing has similar effects on an ecosystem by increasing the nutrient input and productivity, but at the same time removes part of the biomass. Therefore, grazing can be beneficial for biodiversity.


Possible thesis topics:

How does plant biomass and plant functional groups respond to a warmer climate, nitrogen deposition, and grazing?

How does global change affect seedling survival in alpine grasslands?

How does decomposition respond to a warmer climate, nitrogen deposition, and grazing?


What we can offer:

  • Global change ecology background
  • Fieldwork experience in Western Norway
  • Labwork experience
  • Statistical and data management skills with a focus on reproducibility and Open Science practice
  • Scientific writing skill development
  • Possibility to present the results in national/international conferences

If you are interested in one of these questions or if you have another idea, please contact Aud Halbritter  to discuss possibilities.

Project: THREE-D

Supervisor: Aud Halbritter


MSc project: Tracing the impact of grazing on the carbon balance of grassland ecosystem: implement grazing management in FATES and evaluate at Three-D sites

Grasslands comprise more than 40% of Earth’s terrestrial surface, and store approximately 10% of the organic carbon in global terrestrial ecosystems. A healthy and well-functioning grassland ecosystem is crucial for the global carbon budget. However, the degradation of grassland has been widely observed, posing big threats to the carbon balance and biodiversity of the grassland ecosystem and the social-economic sustainability of the regions. Grazing at a high intensity has long been recognized as a major stressor for the grassland ecosystem, however at intermediate intensities grazing has been shown to be beneficial for carbon storage and biodiversity. How different grazing managements affect the ecosystem function and service (especially carbon storage) remain unclear. 


Grazing management has been implemented in several land surface models, which have shown great potential to quantify the impact of grazing on grassland carbon balance, and to uncover the underlying mechanisms (e.g., Chang et al. 2013; Hidy et al. 2016). In this project, the master student will firstly incorporate different grazing intensities  (mainly the proportional removal of above ground biomass) into the newly developed dynamic vegetation demographics model FATES. FATES will be used as the vegetation component in the Community Earth system model (CESM) and the Norwegian earth system model (NorESM) in the next phase of coupled model intercomparison project (CMIP), but currently lack descriptions of grazing and its impact on the ecosystem. The master student will particularly focused on (1) parameterizing the impact of grazing on the allocation of above-  and below-ground biomass of grass, photosynthetic activities and decomposition of soil organic matter; (2) parameterizing the systematic changes of plant functional traits in response to grazing (e.g., DÍAZ et al. 2007; Li et al. 2017).


The newly developed grazing module in FATES will be validated against observation data mainly from the Three-D project, led by Dr. Aud Halbritter, University of Bergen. The Three-D project is a large-scale field experiment with 3 semi-natural alpine grassland sites located along an elevational gradient in Aurland, western Norway. Different grazing management intensities are simulated by clipping the above ground biomass. Systematic measurements on the ecosystem response (i.e. decomposition, carbon stocks and fluxes) to grazing will be conducted in the next few years. The FATES model platform developed at MetOs will be employed to facilitate the set up of the FATES model simulations for those sites. The grazing module, if tested to be valid, will be potentially applied to address Hypothesis 3 and 4 of the Three-D project. The model code will also be incorporated into the official FATES model version, and applied to broader regions with different grassland ecosystems. The master student in the project will have the opportunity to join the field and lab work of the Three-D project.