Aims and Objectives
Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:
- Analyse the metabolic functions and phylogenetic relationships among organisms based on molecular biological analyses.
- Compare and contrast applications of different molecular methods in addressing specific research questions in marine microbial ecology and biotechnology.
- Assess the scopes and applicability of molecular techniques in marine biotechnology.
- Describe the fundamental principles of molecular evolution, the evolution of genes and metabolic pathways.
- Perform and evaluate key findings from molecular biological analyses.
- Evaluate the nature of relationships among marine microbes, their interactions with other organisms, and the biogeochemical functions and ecosystem services of the overall microbiome and/or holobiont.
Recent advances in molecular biology have made it possible to study the enigmatic, immense microbiomes of diverse organisms and environments, ranging from within tiny marine worms, sponges and coral reefs, to those inhabiting vast open-ocean gyres and those forming the basis of rich chemosynthetic, deep-sea hydrothermal vent communities, or those responsible for the production/consumption of greenhouse gases – all without the need to cultivate these organisms whose living conditions are hard to mimic. The application of PCR-based and lately 'omics'-based molecular biological technologies have allowed e.g. the identification of previously unknown microbes that are key to the evolution of complex lifeforms, the realisation of unusual symbiosis between unlikely partners, and the recognition of how microbial community structure helps to drive marine biogeochemical cycling and ecosystem services. Molecular biology has further enabled the discovery of novel bioproducts that can help clean up pollutants and toxins, and is facilitating immunological and antimicrobial resistance studies, and new ways to enhance food security, energy production, marine conservation and monitoring.
This module will focus on (1) the underlying principles and applications of molecular biological techniques commonly used in current marine and environmental research, particularly though not limited to microbial ecology and biotechnology; (2) the significance of microbial interactions with other organisms and their environments in global biogeochemical cycling and ecosystem functioning, as enabled by molecular biological analyses; and (3) key marine biotechnology applications (e.g. in biofuel production, aquaculture, oil spill clean-up, heat tolerance in corals). Lectures will revise our current knowledge of molecular evolution integrated at organismal to system levels; will examine the basis of molecular techniques available and the key ecosystem functional and biogeochemical roles of microbial interactions; and will discuss common applications of marine biotechnology. Practicals will provide hands-on experience of molecular laboratory protocols and computer-based bioinformatics analyses.
Learning and Teaching
Teaching and learning methods
Formal Lectures: 24 x 50 minute lectures provide a fundamental understanding of the molecular dimensions of marine microbial interactions and biotechnology. An outline of each lecture is provided at the start of lectures. Lectures are complemented by extensively illustrated ‘handouts’ via Blackboard. Where relevant, lecturer's own research experience is brought into the lecturing sessions. Examples would be given by internal and external experts in the field. References and recommended materials for further reading are provided for each lecture.
Laboratory practical sessions: allow students to develop appropriate practical skills in molecular biology protocols. Interactive practical sessions start with a short introductory talk highlighting techniques to be employed and the goals to be attained. Practicals include the basic techniques involved in the extraction of nucleic acids, preparation of samples for next-generation sequencing, as well as computer-based bioinformatic analyses of the data acquired above to address a contemporary research question. These practicals are integrated closely with the lectured materials.
Other activities: Additional formative in-class quizzes, as well as interactive discussions, will complement materials covered in lectures and practicals, to foster deeper understanding of the working principles and ethics behind biotechnological applications. You will also be informed of any relevant research seminars and research news.
A wide range of support can be provided for those students who have further or specific learning and teaching needs.
|Total study time||150|
Resources & Reading list
Other relevant references and recommended materials for further reading are provided for each lecture..
• Madigan, M. T. et al (2019), Brock Biology of Microorganisms (15th Ed.), Pearson Education Ltd., Harlow, UK..
• Munn, C. B (2019) Marine Microbiology: Ecology and Applications (3rd Ed.), CRC Press, Taylor and Francis Group..
• Alberts B., et al. (2017) Molecular Biology of the Cell (6th Ed.), Garland Science, Taylor and Francis Group, New York, USA..
• Clark, D. P. and Pazdernik, N. J. (2015) Biotechnology (2nd Ed), Academic Cell Press, London, UK..
• Kirchman DM and Gasol, JM (2018), Microbial Ecology of the Oceans (3rd Ed.), Wiley, Blackwell, Hoboken, USA.
• Clark, D. P. et al. (2019) Molecular Biology (3nd Ed.). Academic Press, London, UK..
This is how we’ll formally assess what you have learned in this module.
Repeat type: Internal & External