Øystein Varpe » Members

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Øystein Varpe

Professor (UNIS), Adjunct Senior Scientist (Akvaplan-niva) UNIS The University Centre in SvalbardArctic Biology
Address UNIS The University Centre in Svalbard Post box 156 Longyearbyen 9171 Norway Work Phone: + 47 79 02 64 63 Cell Phone: + 47 97 76 26 45 Website: Seasonal Ecology Group – Department of Arctic Biology – UNIS Website: UNIS – The University Centre in Svalbard – my main employer Website: Akvaplan-niva – adjunct position here
Photo of Øystein Varpe


Research interests:

  • Evolutionary and Seasonal Ecology
  • Main aim: understand why we observe variation in life histories and behavior and how this variation influences interactions, populations and ecosystems.

I work in highly seasonal environments and study the scheduling of annual events and the trade-offs involved. Key traits: reproduction, energy storage, dormancy and migrations. What is the scope of state-dependent responses? What is the role of phenotypic plasticity versus evolution? Most of my work is on the ecology and evolution of birds, fish and zooplankton using mathematical models and statistical analyses of data. An important component of my work is to use the insights we gain to understand and predict how organisms respond to environmental variability and change, with pollution, harvesting and climate change as central stressors.

Student project opportunities:

If you find some of our research of interest and wish to do a student project (bachelor, master or PhD), please contact me for current opportunities or with own suggestions. Examples of past master students:

  • Marine Cusa (2016) The effect of seasonality on polar cod (Boreogadus saida) dietary habits and temporal feeding strategies in Svalbard waters.
  • Tom Jasper Langbehn (2015) Feeding success in an extreme-light environment: modelling seasonal prey encounter of Arctic fish.
  • Caitlin Frankish (2015) A meta-ecosystem model: seabirds as vectors
  • Samuel Louis Eglund Newby (2015) Feeding activity and diet of Arctic and boreal fish species during the polar night
  • Zofia Burr (2014) Breeding later at higher latitudes: explaining seabird reproductive timing in the northeastern Atlantic.
  • Jordan Grigor (2011) An investigation into strategies of protandrous emergence and arrival in Calanus spp.
  • Beke Regelin (2011) Purple sandpipers (Calidris maritima) feeding in an Arctic estuary: tidal cycle and seasonal dynamics in abundance.
  • Allison Bailey (2010) Lipids and diapause in Calanus spp. in a high-Arctic fjord: state-dependent strategies?
  • Anika Beiersdorf (2009) Foraging trip duration in relation to body mass: are little auks heavier following longer or shorter trips?

Please also visit the Seasonal Ecology Group – an umbrella for my work and supervision.

Running national and international projects (some expamples):

  • SEATIME – Timing of reproduction in seabirds: large-scale comparisons, and links to population dynamics, climate and lower trophic levels. (Fram Centre Flagship Project).
  • Numerical competence and student-active research (Thon stiftelsen)
  • Stochastic fluctuations and the evolution of zooplankton life histories in high latitude marine ecosystems (Polish Research Council)

Peer reviewed publications (see also Google Scholar or ResearchGate):

  1. Bandara K, Varpe Ø, Ji R, Eiane K. 2018. A high-resolution modeling study on diel and seasonal vertical migrations of high-latitude copepods. Ecological Modelling 368: 357-376 full text
  2. Varpe Ø. 2017. Life History Adaptations to Seasonality. Integrative & Comparative Biology 57: 943-960 full text
  3. Williams CM, Ragland GJ, Betini G, Buckley LB, Cheviron ZA, Donohue K, Hereford J, Humphries MM, Lisovski S, Marshall KE, Schmidt PS, Sheldon KS, Varpe Ø, Visser ME. 2017. Understanding Evolutionary Impacts of Seasonality: An Introduction to the Symposium. Integrative & Comparative Biology 57: 921-933 full text
  4. Espinasse M, Halsband C, Varpe Ø, Gislason A, Gudmundsson K, Falk-Petersen S, Eiane K. 2017. The role of local and regional environmental factors for Calanus finmarchicus and C. hyperboreus abundances in the Nordic Seas. Polar Biology 40: 2363-2380 abstract
  5. Langbehn TJ, Varpe Ø. 2017. Sea-ice loss boosts visual search: fish foraging and changing pelagic interactions in polar oceans. Global Change Biology 23: 5318-5330 fullt text
  6. Fauchald P, Tarroux A, Tveraa T, Cherel Y, Ropert-Coudert Y, Kato A, Love OP, Varpe Ø, Descamps S. 2017. Spring phenology shapes the spatial foraging behavior of Antarctic petrels. Marine Ecology Progress Series 568: 203-215 abstract pdf
  7. Hitchcock D, Varpe Ø, Andersen T, Borgå K. 2017. Effects of reproductive strategies on pollutant concentrations in pinnipeds: a meta-analysis. Oikos doi:10.1111/oik.03955  abstract
  8. Beumer LT, Varpe Ø, Hansen BB. 2017. Cratering behaviour and faecal C:N ratio in relation to seasonal snow-pack characteristics in a high-Arctic ungulate. Polar Research 36: 1 1286121  full text
  9. Descamps S, Tarroux A, Cherel Y, Delord K, Godø OR, Kato A, Krafft BA, Lorentsen SH, Ropert-Coudert Y, Skaret G, Varpe Ø. 2016. At-sea distribution and prey selection of Antarctic petrels and commercial krill fisheries. PLOS ONE 11(8): e0156968  full text
  10. Bandara K, Varpe Ø, Søreide JE, Wallenschus J, Berge J, Eiane K. 2016. Seasonal vertical strategies in a high Arctic coastal zooplankton community. Marine Ecology Progress Series 555: 49-64  full text
  11. Wauchope HS, Shaw JD, Varpe Ø, Lappo EG, Boertmann D, Lanctot RB, Fuller RA. 2016. Rapid climate-driven loss of breeding habitat for Arctic migratory birds. Global Change Biology 23: 1085-1094 doi: 10.1111/gcb.13404  abstract
  12. Burr ZM, Varpe Ø, Anker-Nilssen T, Erikstad KE, Descamps S, Barrett RT, Bech C, Christensen-Dalsgaard S, Lorentsen SH, Moe B, Reiertsen TK, Strøm H. 2016. Later at higher latitudes: large-scale variability in seabird breeding timing and synchronicity. Ecosphere 7(5): e01283  full text
  13. Milner J, Varpe Ø, Van der Wal R, Hansen BB. 2016. Experimental icing affects growth, mortality and flowering in a high Arctic dwarf shrub. Ecology and Evolution 6: 2139–2148  full text
  14. Jin M, Popova EE, Zhang J, Ji R, Pendleton D, Varpe Ø, Yool A, Lee YL. 2016. Ecosystem model intercomparison of under-ice and total primary production in the Arctic Ocean. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans 121: 934–948  abstract
  15. Tarroux A, Weimerskirch H, Wang S, Bromwich DH, Cherel Y, Kato A, Ropert-Coudert Y, Varpe Ø, Yoccoz NG, Descamps S. 2016. Flexible flight response to challenging wind conditions in a commuting Antarctic seabird: do you catch the drift? Animal Behaviour 113: 99-112  abstract
  16. Descamps S, Tarroux A, Lorentsen SH, Love OP, Varpe Ø, Yoccoz NG. 2016. Large-scale oceanographic fluctuations drive Antarctic petrel survival and reproduction. Ecography 39: 496-505  abstract
  17. Berge J, Daase M, Renaud P, Ambrose WG, Darnis G, Last KS, Leu E, Cohen J, Johnsen G, Moline M, Varpe Ø, Shunatova N, et al. 2015. Unexpected levels of biological activity during the polar night offer new perspectives on a warming Arctic. Current Biology 25: 2555-2561  abstract
  18. Varpe Ø, Daase M, Kristiansen T. 2015. A fish-eye view on the new Arctic lightscape. ICES Journal of Marine Science 72: 2532-2538  abstract   pdf
  19. Cohen JH, Berge J, Moline MA, Sørensen AJ, Last K, Falk-Petersen S, Renaud P, Leu E, Grenvald J, Cottier F, Cronin H, Menze S, Norgren P, Varpe Ø, Daase M, Darnis G, Johnsen G. 2015. Is ambient light during the high Arctic polar night sufficient to act as a visual cue for zooplankton? PLOS ONE 10(6): e0126247  abstract  pdf
  20. Ejsmond MJ, Varpe Ø, Czarnołęski M, Kozłowski J. 2015. Seasonality in offspring value and trade-offs with growth explain capital breeding. American Naturalist 186: E111-E125  abstract  press release
  21. Berge J, Renaud PE, Darnis G, Cottier F, Last K, Gabrielsen TM, Johnsen G, Seuthe L, Welsawski JM, Leu E, Moline M, Nahrgang J, Søreide JE, Varpe Ø, Lønne OJ, Daase JM, Falk-Petersen S. 2015. In the dark: a review of ecosystem processes during the Arctic polar night. Progress in Oceanography 139:258-271  abstract  pdf
  22. Descamps S, Tarroux A, Varpe Ø, Yoccoz N, Tveraa T, Lorentsen S. 2015. Demographic effects of extreme weather events: snow storms, breeding success and population growth rate in a long-lived Antarctic seabird. Ecology and Evolution 5: 314-325  abstract  pdf
  23. Webster CN, Varpe Ø, Stübner E, Falk-Petersen S, Berge J, Brierley AS 2015. Moonlit swimming: vertical distributions of macrozooplankton and nekton during the polar night. Polar Biology 38:75-85  abstract
  24. Grigor J, Marais AE, Falk-Petersen S, Varpe Ø. 2015. Polar night ecology of a pelagic predator, the chaetognath Parasagitta elegans. Polar Biology 38: 87-98  abstract
  25. Hansen BB, Isaksen K, Benestad RE, Kohler J, Pedersen ÅØ, Loe LE, Coulson SJ, Larsen JO, Varpe Ø. 2014. Warmer and wetter winters: characteristics and implications of an extreme weather event in the high arctic. Environmental Research Letters. 9 114021  abstract  pdf
  26. Jönsson M, Varpe Ø, Kozlowski T, Berge J, Kröger R. 2014. Differences in lens optical plasticity in two gadoid fishes meeting in the Arctic. Journal of Comparative Physiology A. 200: 949-957  abstract
  27. Sainmont J, Andersen KH, Varpe Ø, Visser AW. 2014. Capital versus income breeding in a seasonal environment. The American Naturalist. 184: 466-476  abstract
  28. Berge J, Cottier F, Varpe Ø, Renaud PE, Falk-Petersen S, Kwasniewski S, Griffiths C, Søreide J, G Johnsen, Aubert A, Bjærke O, Hovinen J, Juul-Madsen S, Tveit M, Majaneva S. 2014. Arctic complexity: a case study on diel vertical migration of zooplankton. Journal of Plankton Research. 36: 1279-1297  abstract  pdf
  29. Sainmont J, Gislason A, Heuschele J, Webster C, Sylvander P, Wang M, Varpe Ø. 2014. Inter and intra-specific diurnal habitat selection of zooplankton during the spring bloom observed by video plankton recorder. Marine Biology 161: 1931-1941  abstract
  30. Nahrgang J, Varpe Ø, Korshunova E, Murzina S, Hallanger IG, Vieweg I, Berge J. 2014. Gender specific reproductive strategies of an Arctic key species (Boreogadus saida) and implications of climate change. PLOS ONE 9: e98452  abstract  pdf
  31. Grigor J, Søreide JE, Varpe Ø. 2014. Seasonal ecology and life history of the high-latitude predatory zooplankter Parasagitta elegans. Marine Ecology Progress Series 499: 77-88  abstract  pdf   online appendix
  32. Lydersen C, Assmy P, Falk-Petersen S, Kohler J, Kovacs KM, Reigstad M, Steen H, Strøm H, Sundfjord A, Varpe Ø, Walczowski A, Weslawski JM, Zajaczkowski M 2014. The importance of tidewater glaciers for marine mammals and seabirds in Svalbard, Norway. Journal of Marine Systems 129: 452-471  abstract   pdf
  33. Daase M, Varpe Ø, Falk-Pedersen S. 2014. Non-consumptive mortality in copepods: occurrence of Calanus spp. carcasses in the Arctic Ocean during winter. Journal of Plankton Research 36: 129-144  abstract
  34. Daase M, Falk-Petersen S, Varpe Ø, Darnis G, Søreide JE, Wold A, Leu E, Berge J, Philippe B, Fortier L. 2013. Timing of reproductive events in the marine copepod Calanus glacialis: a Pan-Arctic perspective. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 70: 871-884  abstract
  35. Ji R, Jin M, Varpe Ø. 2013. Sea ice phenology and timing of primary production pulses in the Arctic Ocean. Global Change Biology 19: 734-741  abstract   pdf
  36. Kraft A, Berge J, Varpe Ø, Falk-Petersen S. 2013. Feeding in Arctic darkness: mid-winter diet of the pelagic amphipods Themisto abyssorum and T. libellula. Marine Biology 160: 241-248  abstract
  37. Berge J, Varpe Ø, Moline M, Wold A, Renaud PE, Daase M, Falk-Petersen S. 2012. Retention of ice-associated amphipods: possible consequences for an ice-free Arctic Ocean. Biology Letters. 8: 1012-101  pdf
  38. Welcker J, Beiersdorf A, Varpe Ø, Steen H. 2012. Mass fluctuations suggest different functions of bimodal foraging trips in a central place forager. Behavioral Ecology. 23: 1372-1378  abstract   pdf
  39. Gabrielsen TM, Merkel B, Søreide JE, Johansson-Karlsson E, Bailey J, Vogedes D, Nygård H, Varpe Ø, Berge J. 2012. Potential misidentifications of two climate indicator species of the marine arctic ecosystem: Calanus glacialis and C. finmarchicus. Polar Biology 35: 1621-1628  pdf
  40. Varpe Ø. 2012. Fitness and phenology: annual routines and zooplankton adaptations to seasonal cycles. Journal of Plankton Research 34: 267-276  pdf
  41. Renaud PE, Berge J, Varpe Ø, Lønne OJ, Nahrgang J, Ottesen C, Hallanger I. 2012. Is the poleward expansion by Atlantic cod and haddock threatening native polar cod, Boreogadus saida? Polar Biology. 35: 401-412  abstract
  42. Enberg K, Jørgensen C, Dunlop ES, Varpe Ø, Boukal DS, Baulier L, Eliassen S, Heino M. 2012. Fishing-induced evolution of growth: concepts, mechanisms, and the empirical evidence. Marine Ecology. 33: 1-25  pdf  most read 2012
  43. Nygård H, Wallenschus J, Camus L, Varpe Ø, Berge J. 2010. Annual routines and life history of the amphipod Onisimus litoralis: seasonal growth, body composition and energy budget. Marine Ecology Progress Series. 417: 115-126.  pdf
  44. Varpe Ø, Fiksen Ø. 2010. Seasonal plankton-fish interactions: light regime, prey phenology, and herring foraging. Ecology. 91: 311-318  pdf
  45. Vogedes D, Varpe Ø, Søreide JE, Graeve M, Berge J, Falk-Petersen S. 2010. Lipid sac area as a proxy for individual lipid content of arctic calanoid copepods. Journal of Plankton Research 32: 1471-1477  pdf  cover photo
  46. Varpe Ø. 2010. Stealing bivalves from common eiders: kleptoparasitism by glaucous gulls in spring. Polar Biology. 33: 359-365  pdf  online appendix
  47. Hanssen SA, Bustnes JO, Tveraa T, Hasselquist D, Varpe Ø, Henden JA. 2009. Individual quality and reproductive effort mirrored in white wing plumage in both sexes of south polar skuas. Behavioral Ecology. 20: 961-966  pdf
  48. Berge J, Renaud PE, Eiane K, Gulliksen B, Cottier FR, Varpe Ø, Brattegard T. 2009. Changes in the decapod fauna of an Arctic fjord during the last 100 years (1908-2007). Polar Biology 32: 953-961  pdf
  49. Varpe Ø, Jørgensen C, Tarling GA, Fiksen Ø. 2009. The adaptive value of energy storage and capital breeding in seasonal environments. Oikos 118: 363-370  pdf
  50. Berge J, Cottier F, Last K, Varpe Ø, Leu E, Søreide J, Eiane K, Falk-Petersen S, Willis K, Nygård H, Vogedes D, Griffiths C, Johnsen G, Lorentzen D, Brierley AS. 2009. Diel vertical migration of Arctic zooplankton during the polar night. Biology Letters 5: 69-72  pdf
  51. Heino M, Baulier L, Boukal DS, Dunlop ES, Eliassen S, Enberg K, Jørgensen C, Varpe Ø. 2008. Evolution of growth in Gulf of St Lawrence cod? Proceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences 275: 1111-1112  pdf
  52. Titelman J, Varpe Ø, Eliassen S, Fiksen Ø. 2007. Copepod mating: chance or choice? Journal of Plankton Research 29: 1023-1030  pdf
  53. Varpe Ø, Jørgensen C, Tarling GA, Fiksen Ø. 2007. Early is better: seasonal egg fitness and timing of reproduction in a zooplankton life-history model. Oikos 116: 1331-1342  pdf   online appendix
  54. Bustnes JO, Tveraa T, Varpe Ø, Henden JA, Skaare JU, 2007. Reproductive performance and organochlorine pollutants in an Antarctic marine top predator: the south polar skua. Environment International 33: 911-918  pdf
  55. Bustnes JO, Tveraa T, Henden JA, Varpe Ø, Janssen K, Skaare JU. 2006. Organochlorines in Antarctic and Arctic avian top predators: a comparison between the South Polar Skua and two species of northern hemisphere gulls. Environmental Science & Technology 40: 2826-2831  pdf
  56. Varpe Ø, Fiksen Ø, Slotte A. 2005. Meta-ecosystems and biological energy transport from ocean to coast: the ecological importance of herring migration. Oecologia 146: 443-451  pdf
  57. Varpe Ø, Tveraa T 2005. Chick survival in relation to nest site: is the Antarctic petrel hiding from its predator? Polar Biology 28: 388-394  pdf
  58. Varpe Ø, Tveraa T, Folstad I. 2004. State-dependent parental care in the Antarctic petrel: responses to manipulated chick age during early chick rearing. Oikos 106 (3) 479-488  pdf
  59. Fiksen Ø, Varpe Ø, Kaartvedt S. 2004. Reply to Horizons Article ‘Some ideas about the role of lipids in the life cycle of Calanus finmarchicus’ Irigoien (2004): II. Journal of Plankton Research 26: 980  pdf

Selected other publications:

  • Burr Z, Varpe Ø. 2016. Seabird breeding timing at high latitudes. FRAM FORUM 2016. 18-21. full text
  • Hansen BB, Isaksen K, Loe LL, Haugen JE, Benestad R, Milner J, van der Wal R, Varpe Ø. 2015. Varmere og våtere svalbardvintre: konsekvenser for natur og samfunn. METreport No. 20/2015. ISSN 2387-4201 pdf
  • Varpe Ø, Baardsen BJ. 2014. Adventdalsdeltaet og fjæreplyttens sesongmessige bruk av det marine habitat. Akvaplan-niva rapport nr 6280-1 pdf
  • Varpe, Ø. 2007. Life history adaptations to seasonality. PhD thesis. University of Bergen. synthesis popular abstract (in Norwegian)
  • Varpe Ø, Fiksen Ø. 2005. Zooplankton-fish interactions and the fat conveyor-belt in the Norwegian Sea. GLOBEC International Newsletter (11 No. 2) 4-6  pdf

Selected popular science and outreach:


Fulbright Arctic Initiative Scholar 2015-2016

Video of talk on ecological consequences of sea ice changes in the Arctic.

View from the roof of my office: camera

Favourite mainland retreat – Bremanger: you-tube movie