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Microbiomics & Metagenomics


The aim of this module is to provide students with an understanding of the role of environmental and host associated microbial communities in the driving processes in the environment and affecting the physiology of plant and animal hosts.

High throughput methodologies including next generation sequencing approaches have revolutionised the study of microbial diversity and function by metagenomics approaches. This module will provide students with the understanding of microbial diversity, the functional roles that microorganisms have both in the environment and in association with human, animal and plant hosts (microbiomics) and how the knowlegde gained from studying microbiota can potentially be exploited in the context of global change, food security, biotechnology and human health.


On completion of this module participants will be able to:

  • Discuss the diverse roles that microorganisms have in the functioning of the biosphere, both as ‘free-living’ environmental microorganisms, in engineered systems and biotechnology, as well as in association with plant, animal and human hosts
  • Discuss the role of microbial consortia in diverse environments, including the human gut, industrial processes, and the natural environment.
  • Evaluate the importance of microbial consortia in human nutrition, infection and their role in industrial plant hygiene and product contamination.
  • Demonstrate awareness of issues related to the efficacy of biocides and antibiotics on microbial consortia.
  • Critically evaluate how different methodological approaches can help to dissect structure/function relationships in microbial communities and identify the biases associated with different methods
  • Autonomously interpret original research outputs of advanced microbiomics studies and critically evaluate the findings


  • Microorganisms and evolution of life on earth, distribution of microorganisms in environment. Microbial biodiversity.
  • Microorganisms and elemental cycling of carbon, nitrogen and sulphur.
  • Roles of host (plant, animal, human)-associated microbiota
  • Microbial consortia in natural environments and human medicine.
  • Importance and control of microbial consortia in manufacture and product hygiene.
  • Use of biocides/antibiotics to control infection or microbial contamination – impact on the dynamics of microbial consortia
  • Analysing the composition of microbial communities using cultivation dependent approaches
  • Analysing the composition of microbial communities using cultivation independent approaches
  • Linking microbial identity and function using functional markers, stable isotope probing, microautoradiography-FISH, PLFA-SIP and RAMAN-FISH
  • Omics approaches for studying composition and metabolic potential (metagenomics, metatranscriptomics, metaproteomics)
  • IT workshop with practical examples of databases used for diversity and metagenomics studies