Microbial Ecology (MICR3125)


This unit of study will focus on the microbial communities that dominate soil, animal, marine and freshwater environments, and on functional interactions between the organisms that make up these communities. Students will investigate how the development of molecular methods in environmental microbiology and molecular ecology has provided new insights into the function of microbial communities in the environment. The course material will build on knowledge gained in MICR2024, and will particularly emphasize the importance of complex microbial communities in processes such as nutrient cycling and species interactions. At the end of this unit, students will be able to describe modern methods of molecular microbial ecology, outline the diversity and dynamics of cultured and uncultured aquatic, human and soil microbial communities, and will understand how the interactions between the organisms in these communities govern nutrient cycling in soil and water environments. They will develop their analytical inquiry skills through the critical analysis of research papers in the field of microbial ecology, gathering and evaluating information concerning microbial communities in the environment, and practice collaboration and discussion skills through group presentations.

Further unit of study information


2 x 1hr lec, 1 x 3hr prac/wk


One 2 hour exam (60%), One group presentation (10%), Continuous Practical assessment (protocol design, attendance and participation, experimental reports) (10%), Practical project report (20%)


The course will be taught largely from recent research publications in leading journals, which will be provided in the lectures and in online material to accompany the unit of study.

In addition, there will be reference to:

Maier, Pepper and Gerba (2009) Environmental Microbiology, Academic Press
E. L. Madsen (2008) Environmental Microbiology, Blackwell
Atlas and Bartha (1998) Microbial Ecology: Fundamentals and applications, Benjamin/Cummings

Faculty/department permission required?


Unit of study rules

Prerequisites and assumed knowledge

MICR2022 or MICR2024

Fundamentals of molecular biology

Study this unit outside a degree

Non-award/non-degree study

If you wish to undertake one or more units of study (subjects) for your own interest but not towards a degree, you may enrol in single units as a non-award student.

Cross-institutional study

If you are from another Australian tertiary institution you may be permitted to underake cross-institutional study in one or more units of study at the University of Sydney.