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Microbial Ecology and Global Biogeochemical Cycles



Course format Blended
Datum 2020-09-02 - 2020-12-10

Course introduction

Microorganisms play pivotal roles in the biogeochemistry of the earth, performing a range of unique processes that are essential for the maintenance of a habitable planet. Microbes have been the dominating life form through most of earth’s history and have contributed decisively to the chemical evolution of the biosphere. Their functional diversity also represents an important resource for biotechnological applications in the widest sense. 
The aim of this course is to provide the student with a theoretically and experimentally founded understanding of microbial life and the structure and function of microbial communities, which will enable the student to analyse the role of microbes in ecological and biotechnological contexts.

The course builds on the knowledge acquired in the courses in microbiology and ecology (BB509, BB510), and gives an academic basis for further studies in aquatic ecology and related subjects.

In relation to the competence profile of the degree it is the explicit focus of the course to:

  • provide competence to enter into academic collaborations and structure personal learning
  • provide skills in conducting experimental investigations, acquire knowledge in an independent and efficient manner, critically evaluate biological theories and models, and express, evaluate and solve biological problems
  • provide knowledge and understanding of scientific theories, experimental methods, and current research topics in biology, and how these are employed in biological discussions.


The following main topics are contained in the course:

  • Being small – physical and biochemical consequences of microbial cell sizes
  • Microbial taxis and quorum sensing 
  • Microbial energetics
  • Microbial food webs - trophic interactions in microbial communities
  • The roles of microbes in element cycling
  • Biotechnological aspects of microbial metabolisms


Students taking the course are expected to:

  • Have knowledge of fundamental principles in microbiology and ecology.
  • Be able to perform and analyse wet chemical and microbiological laboratory experiments.
  • Have experience in scientific reporting in written and oral form.
  • Be able to engage in scientific discussions

Learning outcomes

The learning objectives of the course are that the student demonstrates the ability to:

  • acquire knowledge from text books and primary litterature in the field
  • describe and explain fundamental principles in microbial ecology and biogeochemistry
  • perform experiments to analyse the structure and function of microbial communities
  • interpret experimental results in a microbial ecological and biogeochemical context, evaluate associated uncertainties, and derive justified conclusions
  • present the results and interpretations in a clear and concise manner, orally as well as in writing.


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