790392 Microbial ecology (in Eng.)

Vorlesung und Seminar
Vortragende/r (Mitwirkende/r)
Erian, Anna Maria , Fritz, Ines
Angeboten im Semester
Wintersemester 2023/24
Unterrichts-/ Lehrsprachen


Microorganisms play a crucial role on our planet. Essentially, no place is free from microorganisms and everything that happens on the surface of earth involves the action of microorganisms.

This course informs about general principles of natural habitats for bacteria and unicellular eukaryotes, including mechanisms of adaptation, natural selection, interaction in communities and design of habitats. Further the population structures of example ecosystems, such as soil, swamp, surface/pelagic water, groundwater, sediment, hot springs, animal digestion tracts, plant surfaces and rhizosphere are examined.

The role of microbial life on a global scale will be analyzed. Examples for biogeochemical cycles will be discussed, with emphasis on natural degradation processes of carbon based materials of natural and artificial origin. Questions how a dead tree is degraded in the forest, how a plastic bottle is degraded in compost or sea water, how termites can live on wood as food and how cows can digest grass will be examined and compared. The course takes a look how complex (biochemical) tasks are distributed between many individual species and what this means for the resilience of the biosphere. Important methods to study microbial life in natural habitats will be presented and discussed all along. The course provides insight into our current understanding of environmental microbiology but also how such insight can be obtained.

Finally, this course will address the question of where well-known individual microbial species live and which role they presumably play in a wider context. Open questions and current knowledge gaps will be identified and discussed.

Inhaltliche Voraussetzungen (erwartete Kenntnisse)

basic microbiology (from bachelor studies)


By the end of this course, students will be able to:
•describe microbial populations and living conditions of microorganisms in all major habitats, as they are: surface soil including rhizosphere, deep soil, mineral surfaces, freshwater, oceans including deep sea and sediments, animal surfaces and digestion tracts.
•describe how complex biochemical tasks like the degradation of wood or plastic work, distributed over many microbial species
•understand microbe-microbe, microbe-plant and microbe-material interactions
•understand how microbial communities define and run biogeochemical cycles
•identify the appropriate method to address a given question in environmental microbiology
•analyze the role of well-known microorganisms in nature
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