BSc Microbiology with a Modern Language / Course details

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:

Course unit fact file
Unit code EART30831
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 6
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The course will be delivered by Prof Lloyd, augmented with invited guest lectures as appropriate covering emerging “hot topics” in the area. Initial lectures will focus on the “microbiological basics” to make sure that all of the students on the course have the required foundations, followed by lectures (and group activities) covering fundamental elemental cycles, including an emphasis on the ways that these natural processes can be utilised in diverse areas of science of technology. These will include bioremediation, high value bionanomaterial synthesis and the safe exploitation of the subsurface.

This course unit detail provides the framework for delivery in 20/21 and may be subject to change due to any additional Covid-19 impact.  Please see Blackboard / course unit related emails for any further updates.



The aim of this course is to provide insight into the role that microorganisms play or have played in geological processes, covering the molecular-scale mechanisms of global bioprocesses, through to high technology biotechnological applications



Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

  • Describe a range of techniques important for geomicrobiological research, including the techniques of microbiology, molecular biology, mineralogy and geochemistry

  • Explain how microorganisms control the chemistry of Earth (and potentially other planets)

  • Critically analyse seminal geomicrobiological papers from the peer review literature

  • Explain how natural microbiological processes can be used for applications including bioremediation and the safe exploitation of the subsurface




Week 1:  Introduction to geomicrobiology    

Week 2: Techniques for geomicrobiology (DNA/RNA/Cell cultivation)

Week 3:  The origin of life and astrobiology 

Week 4:  Europa breakout and other exercises.  Oral presentations   

Week 5:  Microbial diversity on modern Earth

Week 6:  The geomicrobiology of carbon (+ remediation).

Week 7:  The geomicrobiology of nitrogen (+ remediation). Bioweathering

Week 8:  The geomicrobiology of sulphur (+remediation). The geomicrobiology of silica and phosphorus

Week 9: The geomicrobiology of iron and manganese (and As).

Week 10: Microbes and safe geological disposal (incl CO2 and radwaste)

Week 11: Seminal papers poster session

Week 12: Past papers and revision


Teaching and learning methods


The course typically consists of 2 hour lecture slots each week, covering 1-2 topics, with time included for discussions with the students.

The following specific topics will be included:

Techniques for geomicrobiology.

The origin of life and astrobiology.

Microbial diversity of modern Earth.

The geomicrobiology of carbon, silica, phosphorous, nitrogen, sulfur, iron, manganese, toxic trace metals and radionuclides.

Applications of geomicrobiology including bioremediation, safe geological disposal (including CO2 and radwaste) and bioenergy production.

In addition, there will be “breakout” group work and presentations on approaches for geomicrobiological sampling and analyses (e.g. for extreme environments, such as the deep subsurface, life on other planets, hydrothermal vents), and a poster session on seminal geomicrobiology papers from the scientific literature. The extreme environment group work and presentations will help the students consolidate information on key techniques used in this cross-disciplinary field, and will not be assessed for a final mark (although oral feedback will be given on the day of presentations).  The poster session will be run as a mini conference (online if necessary), and the poster presentations will carry 30% of the course marks.

There will also be a revision session towards the end of the course, where past papers from the course are discussed. The final open book assessment carries 70% of the course marks. If required, online revision tests can be provided throughout the course to help consolidate the content of the lectures.


Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 30%
Set exercise 70%


Assessment type

% Weighting within unit

Hand out and hand in dates



How, when and what feedback is provided

ILO tested

Open book assessment


After week 12

3 hours max

Written after exam



(poster) on

seminal papers from the literature


Week 11

1 hr mini conference (online if necessary)

Written after poster presentations



Feedback methods

Exam, 1.5 hours - Written feedback after exam

Oral (group) presentation on sampling & analysis, 15 minutes - Verbal feedback in the week after presentations 

Presentation (poster) on seminal papers from the literature - Written feedback after poster presentations

Recommended reading

Selected chapters from:  Brock Microbiology, Ehrlich Geomicrobiology, Konhauser Geomicrobiology.  Research papers and key reviews cited in the lectures. Direct links provided in lectures.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 18
Practical classes & workshops 4
Independent study hours
Independent study 78

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Jonathan Lloyd Unit coordinator

Return to course details