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This subject will survey Earth’s microbiomes, including the terrestrial, marine, extreme environments, urban/built/engineered environments and microbiomes in symbioses (e.g., human, coral, plants). We will explore the construct of a microbial “community”, its constituent populations and diversity, and its interactions with inorganic and organic materials and processes (biogeochemical cycles – carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, etc.). We will look at approaches to microbial census taking, and key traits of cultured microbial groups. We will examine the scope and significance of the uncultured microbial majority, including the so-called “microbial dark matter” with respect to our understanding of evolution and the tree of life. We will investigate the role of viruses in the Earth’s microbiomes, and the origin and evolution of microbial life in the context of Earth’s biogeochemical cycles.
Intended learning outcomes
At the completion of the subject students should be able to:
- demonstrate an understanding of Earth's biogeochemical cycles, and their origins and evolution in relation to major microbiomes;
- describe how environmental microbiomes reflect, interact with and influence biogeochemical cycles;
- explain with clear examples the key current issues in describing and discovering microbiomes, as defined in contemporary curricula, and recent scientific advances and publications;
- describe how to investigate key environmental microbial groups and explain how they contribute to ecosystem functioning.
A student who successfully completes this subject will:
- demonstrate a high level of achievement in writing and science communication;
- apply technical skills to problem solving;
- demonstrate excellent organisational, planning and time management skills;
- apply knowledge, skills and attitudes to scientific and technological topics;
- reflect and critique information to equip them as life-long learners;
- examine critically, synthesise and evaluate knowledge across a broad range of disciplines.
Last updated: 9 June 2021