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The University of Southampton

BIOL3068 Fluxes, Cycles and Microbial Communities

Module Overview

Microorganisms are key players in all the major biogeochemical cycles on Earth. Microbial Biogeochemistry explores the microbial influence on the biological, chemical, and geological processes that shape natural environments on our planet. This is currently an area of intense research activity given the extent to which humans have been modifying the natural world, which have potential consequences for ecosystems, the biosphere and Earth’s climate. Microorganisms have a critical role in these processes as major controllers of elemental fluxes, ecosystem functioning and as producers and consumers of major greenhouse gases. This module will introduce students to the diversity of microbial life that has been shaping our biosphere since the early beginnings of life, and that continues to shape our biosphere in the Anthropocene.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Describe the role of microorganisms as drivers of biogeochemical cycles over Earth’s history
  • Describe the key microbial players in biogeochemical processes and explain their role in ecosystem functioning
  • Explain how metabolic processes occurring within individual microbial cells can shape the environment and the biosphere
  • Describe how oceans and forests cycle nutrients as a result of biotic and abiotic processes
  • Explain the role of microorganisms in the production and consumption of greenhouse gases
  • Understand how modern global change is influencing microbial transformations, and ecosystems as a result


This module examines microbial life on the planet from the origin of life to modern ecosystems. There is an emphasis on microorganisms, but we also learn about forest and ocean ecosystems. We cover microbial diversity and function and the myriad ways that microorganisms obtain energy for growth and how these drive biogeochemical cycles of elements (carbon, nitrogen, sulphur and metals). Neil Gostling: Earth history and evolution Kelvin Peh: Forests Jasmin Godbold: Oceans Marc Dumont: Microbial physiology, function and ecology

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

The module is delivered principally via lectures, supported by independent study of recommended reading material.

Wider reading or practice130
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Eugene L. Madsen (September 2015). Environmental Microbiology: From Genomes to Biogeochemistry. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 30%
Essay 40%
Journal 15%
Presentation 15%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 100%
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