Human Ecology and Culture at Lake Mývatn 1700-2000: Dimensions of Environmental and Cultural Change

Description, cost, information and application instructions below

Please direct any inquiries about travels, accommodation or other logistics our program director Viðar Hreinsson:


An interdisciplinary course in the Environmental Humanities and Social Sciences will be held in August 2019 in Bárðardalur, northeastern Iceland. The course will connect local communities and issues with global developments, with a particular focus on the scenic Lake Mývatn area and the Bárðardalur valley on the banks of the glacial Skjálfandafljót River with its magnificent waterfalls. The course will provide a unique blend of lectures and experiences of cultural histories embedded in landscapes.


16 – 26 August 2019


Kiðagil, Bárðardalur, northern Iceland. Approximately 60 km (50 miles) from Iceland’s northern capital of Akureyri.

Who is the course for?

The course is designed for Master’s and Doctoral students who wish to supplement their studies with a unique site-specific curriculum in the environmental humanities and social sciences. The course also welcomes post-graduates, professors and scholars looking for new insights and inspirations in post-and transdisciplinary methods, as well as a stimulating exchange of ideas; in particular during a special workshop on the last two days of course.

Course Description

The course will engage a range of questions concerning the human dimensions of environmental change and the effects of such change on environments and societies grounded in interdisciplinary orientation to case-based study. In particular, the course foregrounds questions of long‐term societal resilience and cultural responses in the face of climate change, competition and societal conflict over natural resources, effects of early globalization and anthropogenic transformation of landscapes and ecosystems at multiple time scales.

The primary focus is the interplay between humans and nature at Lake Mývatn, and adjacent areas in northeastern Iceland, during the period 1700-2000, with a particular emphasis on rivers and water systems. Through lectures and excursions, topics focusing on: climate history; environmental history; archaeology; ecology; and socioeconomic history will be presented along with poetry, local tales, fiction, as well as official records such as trade documents. Students will become acquainted with a variety of data and documents and will have “hands on” experiences of crucial areas/landscapes such as the Framengjar wetlands, as well as being able simply to enjoy and appreciate the beautiful and dramatic local landscapes.

There will be some hiking in slightly rough terrain and even through wetlands crossing a small river, so good (watertight) footwear is recommended (a 4wd jeep ride is an option for those who might not want to hike through the wetlands).

The course will involve multiple excursions and lectures in the field and integrates perspectives, theories, case studies and methodologies from the following disciplines: Environmental Humanities; Literary Ecocriticism; Environmental and Climate History; Environmental Archaeology and Anthropology; Historical Ecology; Manuscript Studies

Course Design

The course will consist of a series of lectures on the topics and themes mentioned above, as well as field-study visits and excursions (hiking and driving along rough mountain trails) for the benefit of approximately 12-25 international participants. The course is based primarily on the ongoing work of a team investigating long-term human ecodynamics and environmental change in the Lake Mývatn area and draws on the US National Science Foundation-funded project: Investigations of the Long- Term Sustainability of Human Ecodynamic Systems in Northern Iceland (MYCHANGE)and the RANNÍS (Research Council of Iceland)-funded project The Mývatn District of Iceland: Sustainability, Environment and Change ca. AD 1700 to 1950 (MYSEAC). Senior researchers from these projects will lecture during intensive daily sessions, which also include mentoring tutorials with participating graduate students.

Course Organizers

Co-organized by: The Svartárkot Culture-Nature Project; The Reykjavik Academy; Icelandic Museum of Natural History; the City University of New York; and the Stefansson Arctic Institute, in cooperation with the Humanities for the Environment (HfE) Circumpolar Observatory; NABO (The North Atlantic Biocultural Organisation); NIES (The Nordic Network for Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies); GHEA (The Global Human Ecodynamics Alliance); and the Circumpolar Networks case of IHOPE (The Integrated History and Future of People on Earth), a core project of Future Earth. 

Course Evaluation / Requirements for a Diploma

No credits will be issued; however, the course is equivalent to approximately 7.5 ECTS and a certificate will be issued upon completion of requirements. The certificate will contain a thorough description of contents, reading material, lectures and excursions. The overall student workload estimated is approximately 200 hours. The anticipated workload breaks down as follows:

  • Readings and assignments before arrival in Iceland: 60-80 hours
  • Sessions in class (lectures and discussions): c. 30 hours
  • Field trips often with lectures included, 40 hours
  • Preparation of term paper (10-15 pages) after finishing the sessions on location 60-80 hours–due within 4 weeks of the end of the course


All lectures and coursework will be in English.


The total price of the course is $2900. A non-refundable deposit is $290. Included in the price are all lectures, excursions and other academically related activities. All meals apart from breakfast are included, but most accommodation options have breakfast included in the price.


For booking accommodation in the area use any of the search engines (e.g., and the word Thingeyjarsveit for a full list.

Accommodation is also possible at the venue Kidagil, through this link. Prices vary depending on whether single rooms with private or shared facilities are selected. Accommodation in shared rooms is also an option.

Please note that the venue is rural, and there is no public transportation available, so renting a car is necessary for those selecting another accommodation option than the course venue itself.


During transportation from Akureyri to the course venue and back at the end of the course, lectures will be delivered. It is thus a part of the curriculum and included in the cost. Participants must arrange their own travel to Iceland and on to Akureyri.

Course Plan


The application deadline is March 15, 2019. Please e-mail the following form to

Application form – docx

Application form – pdf

Svartárkot Nature-Culture Svartárkot, 645 Fosshóli

+354 844 8645 –

+354 895 4742 –

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