A greater focus on the microbial component of the biosphere is warranted, since “microbes run the world.” If we are to build comprehensive and predictive models for ecosystems important to environmental and human health, we need a better understanding of how microbial communities assemble and operate.
This course will cover the ecology of microbes by highlighting their interactions with each other and the environment, and will present the latest insights into their role in ecosystems ranging from thawing permafrost to the human gastrointestinal tract. Ecological and evolutionary concepts and tools used in microbial research, including novel “omics” techniques, will be introduced. The course also aims at uncovering how concepts developed in plant and animal ecology do and do not translate to the microbial world.
Grades will be based on the midterm (15%) and the final (comprehensive) exam (30%). Exams will be short answer and essay style questions (10 on the midterm; 15 on the final). The rest of the grade will be based on participation in discussions and written assignments (10%); questions asked to guest lecturers (5%); the problem sets for the computer labs (10%); the independent project (carried out individually) (1/3 on written, 1/3 on oral presentation, 1/6 on questions, 1/6 on mid-term discussion).
Students will develop a concept from ecology in the microbial field, written as a short research proposal, and presented during the last week of classes. The week before Fall break we will have a class session based on the first summary page of their proposals. One-on-one discussions will be held where the students explain their research question and critique their fellow students specific aims.
This class is intended for juniors and seniors in any of the Program in Biology concentrations, particularly Microbiology, EEB, and Biology. Graduate students in EEB, as well as in Environmental Engineering, Public Health, Medical School, SNRE, and Earth, are also welcome.
The class is scheduled twice per week for 1-1/2 hours each. Class sessions (28) will consist of lectures (12), computer labs (3), paper discussion sessions (3), class debate/proposal discussion (2), student presentations (2), guest lectures (3), review sessions (2), and midterm (1).