Svalbard Reindeer Project: The effects of drying and wetting of habitats on senescence of key forage species for Svalbard reindeer – a field experiment

Research question

1) Does moisture determine timing of senescence? 2) Is timing of senescence a fixed trait?

Project description

As soil moisture regimes shift with climate change, so may the vegetation communities wildlife of Svalbard rely on. Yet, little is known about how plants of specific habitats respond to changes in soil moisture—especially shifts in moisture later in the growing season—and it is possible some species may be able to adapt to shifts in moisture while others may not. We aim to evaluate how plant species in key habitats used by Svalbard reindeer respond to changes in moisture regimes in the late summer and early autumn.

The project involves

At targeted vegetation communities, we will implement 3 treatments: drying, wetting, and control. For each treatment, we will cut a 20x20cm turf block where treatments will be implemented. The wetting and drying treatments will have plastic bag placed around the turfs and then placed in their hole of origin. We will then routinely water the wet treatment and leave the dry treatment untouched. We will then monitor senescence of marked individuals of key species of a weekly basis.

Starting date/period: Jul 04, 2022 – Sep 30, 2022

Experience/skills to be acquired

Students will gain knowledge on experimental design and become familiar with techniques in measuring plant characteristics. Also, they will learn plant identification of common species of Svalbard. Finally, students will gain experience with working outdoors, in an Arctic environment.


We are seeking aid with establishment of this field experiment and assistance with collecting measurements of plant senescence within experimental plots. Work typically entails 6-8 hours of data collection for four days each week.


Participants must be able to work outdoors in inclement weather and be able to take detailed notes for data collection. Also, students will need to be able to walk up to 10 km in a day and carry loads up to 25 kg for relatively short distances.

Interested in this project or need more info? Contact:

Samantha Dwinnell (

Project number: 20

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