Microbiology and the Environment

Module summary

Module code: MICR1009
Level: 5
Credits: 15
School: Engineering and Science
Department: Natural Resources Institute
Module Coordinator(s): Richard Fuchs



Micro-organisms are found in every ecosystem. They affect the environment in which they are located as well as being affected by it. Their effects can be beneficial, detrimental or unobserved. This module introduces students to some of the key areas in which microbial activity has an important impact on man. It will look at the positive effects that microbial metabolic activity has on the environment through the association of microorganisms with plants, animals and man, from their use in the production of food, and through their use in bioremediation. Students will also look at the negative aspects of microbial activity including the role they play in diseases of humans, animals and plants.
The aims are:
• To develop an understanding of the diversity of microorganisms in the environment;
• To understand how micro-organisms interact with each other and the environment in both beneficial and detrimental ways;
• To demonstrate methods that are used to isolate and study microorganisms from a variety of sources

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:
1. Demonstrate an understanding of the key roles played by micro-organisms in the environments covered in the module, including aquatic and terrestrial environments, plants and animals, the human gut, and food.
2. Describe the impact of microbial contamination on the pharmaceutical and food industries and explain methods available to control contamination.
3. Demonstrate an understanding of the link between microorganisms and disease.
4. Apply basic microbiological techniques used in the isolation, identification and study of micro-organisms, as well as understanding the principles behind them.

Indicative content

• Introduction to micro-organisms and the environment
• Soil microbiology
• The role of microorganisms in nutrient cycling
• Association of microorganisms with plants and animals
• Microorganisms and disease in humans, animals and plants
• Epidemiology of disease
• Parasitism and symbiosis in host-microbe interactions
• The microbiology of water
• The microbiology of food
• Human gut microbiome
• Pharmaceutical microbiology
• Bioremediation
• Microbiological techniques

Teaching and learning activity

• Lectures and discussions on the theoretical component covering the basic subject matter, including study materials and case studies;
• Student practical sessions reinforcing theoretical aspects
• Practical demonstrations
• Case studies of relevance taken from practical experiences of staff and published


Practical Report: 40% weighting, 40% pass mark.
Learning Outcomes: 1, 4.
Word Length: 2000 words.
Outline Details: Report of one of three experiments carried out.

Test: 60% weighting, 40% pass mark.
Learning Outcomes: 1, 2, 3, 4.
Outline Details: MCQ based on lecture material.

Formative Assessment: MCQ after first lecture to familiarise students with the format of the MCQ.