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The University of Southampton

BIOL2038 Environmental Microbiology

Module Overview

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

BIOL2038 Environmental Microbiology aims to provide a comprehensive introduction to microbiology, including fundamental aspects of microbial diversity and physiology, and with a focus on selected themes that are essential features of environmental microbiology and microbial ecology. The module will be designed to include up-to-date understanding of modern research in these fields and the link between laboratory-based discovery science and contemporary applied microbiology. The structure of the laboratory sessions will provide training in the practical skills necessary for microbiology in academic research or in the workplace. This module will feed into a 3rd year modules 'Fluxes, Cycles and Microbial Communities' and 'Biofilms and Microbial Communities' that include more emphasis on Southampton's research strengths in microbiology and that will include contributions from staff in other faculties across the University.

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Describe in detail concepts in microbiology including: a) Diversity in the microbial world including bacteria, archaea, viruses, fungi, microsporidia b) The effect of microorganisms on the global environment e.g. their role in cycling of elements c) Microbial biofilms, their role in the environment, and mechanisms of microbial species-interactions within mixed microbial biofilms and between biofilms and higher organisms d) Factors that limit microbial growth and survival in natural habitats e) Methods for studying microbial populations and their function in the natural environment f) The application of microbial ecology principles for industrial, environmental or public health benefits
  • Test hypotheses in microbiology via experimental design, analyse results and discuss outcomes in the light of the current body of knowledge (e.g. published literature)
  • Critically evaluate scientific data. This includes self generated, peer generated data and published literature
  • Demonstrate effective written and verbal scientific communication skills.


Overview of module and organisation, learning outcomes and assessment processes. Introduction to Microbial Life. Bacteriology I SAW Bacteriology II 2 SAW Bacteriology III SAW Bacteriology IV 3 SAW Biofilms I SAW Biofilms II 4 ARK Virology and viral evolution I ARK Virology and viral evolution II 5 ARK Virology and viral evolution III ARK Microsporidia 6 ARK Mycology I ARK Mycology II 7 MD Microbial Ecology I MD Microbial Ecology II 8 JSW Marine Microbiology I JSW Marine Microbiology II 9 CWK Microbiology of Drinking Water I CWK Microbiology of Drinking Water II 10 PHE, or Postdocs Guest Lectures – Topics may vary, depending on current research and hot topics, e.g. AMR. PHE or Postdocs Guest Lectures - Topics may vary, depending on current research and hot topics, e.g. AMR. 11 SAW Extremophiles I SAW Extremophiles II 12 SAW/ARK Revision Lecture /CWK/RH Revision Lecture

Special Features

Transferable skills: The module will also provide students with a number of transferable skills useful in the academic or industrial workplace; for example the preparation of the laboratory report in the form of a scientific paper and the preparation of risk assessments for their practical work (see learning outcomes 2-4). Guest Lectures: A number of individuals and organisations have expressed an interest in contributing to Microbiology within Biological Sciences. We have many interactions with Public Health England at Porton Down; this interaction includes combined teaching activities between UoS and PHE of which Microbiology provides a focus for this collaboration. Others interested to contribute to Microbiology include senior postdocs in microbiology who have expressed an interest in teaching; these individuals would be well placed to deliver research-led lectures on work that is at the forefront of current microbiology.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

The contact teaching component of this module will be delivered by lecturing (22 lectures) and practical classes (3 x 3 hr practicals). A series of learning outcomes have been established and teaching and non-contact learning are closely aligned with these criteria. A variety of learning methods are employed in order to evaluate student progress and understanding including a mid-module internet-based questionnaire. A number of the learning outcomes are focused on transferrable skills including scientific report writing (the practical write-up will be in the style of a scientific paper). There will be four laboratory-based practicals each held twice in weeks 2/3, 5/6 and 7/8 and 9/10 respectively. Students will be allocated to one of the two practical groups in the first lecture. These practicals will be based on an investigation of antibiotic susceptibility in planktonic v. biofilm bacterial growth modes and will include: Practical I) aseptic technique, Practical II) determination of an antibiotic minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC); III) comparison of biofilm/planktonic susceptibility using colony forming unit (CFU) counts, IV) Bioluminescence as a biological reporter to determine antibiotic susceptibility.

Wider reading or practice117
Practical classes and workshops9
Total study time150



MethodPercentage contribution
Project report 25%
Written exam 75%

Linked modules

Pre-requisites: BIOL1007 OR BIOL1010

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