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ENVT5001 Biotechnology in the Natural Environment

6 points
(see Timetable)
Semester 2UWA (Perth)Face to face
Soil microbial biodiversity is a vast frontier and a potential goldmine for the biotechnology industry as it offers countless new genes and biochemical pathways to probe for enzymes, antibiotics and other useful molecules. As an example, the invisible world of microbes has given us more than 3222 antibiotics, many derived from soils. This unit covers the biology of soil micro-organisms with an emphasis on their ecology, physiology, genetics and biotechnological uses in the soil environment. Topics include soil as an environment for micro-organisms including influence of soil structure on soil micro-organisms, microbial classification and soil microbial biodiversity, microbial survival and activity in soil including involvement in nutrient cycling, microbial forensics, metabolism of soil pollutants and metal-microbe interactions. The unit investigates the use of molecular-based methods to study micro-organisms in soil. Regulations and guidelines on the biotechnological applications of micro-organisms in the soil environment are also discussed.
Students are able to (1) develop an understanding of soil as an environment for micro-organisms and soil microbial diversity; (2) discuss current perspectives on nutrient cycling and metabolism by soil micro-organisms; (3) understand of soil biotechnology—genetically engineered micro-organisms and their uses and manipulation of genes in soil bacteria; (4) gain theoretical knowledge of methods for molecular-based detection of soil micro-organisms extraction, purification and amplification by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) of soil microbial DNA; (5) understand microbial interactions in extreme environments, microbial metabolism and survival in soil and mineral-microbe interactions in the soil environment; (6) discuss guidelines on the biotechnological applications of micro-organisms in the soil environment; and (7) present the case study in a confident and logical manner.
Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) a case study assignment and (2) presentation of case study. Further information is available in the unit outline.
Unit Coordinator(s)
Dr Sasha Jenkins
Unit rules
Enrolment in 71580 Master of Biotechnology or 72510 Master of Agricultural Science or HON-BTECH Biotechnology
Contact hours
lectures/tutorials: 2 hours per fortnight; field trips/case study work: 2 hours per fortnight
  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
  • All students are responsible for identifying when they need assistance to improve their academic learning, research, English language and numeracy skills; seeking out the services and resources available to help them; and applying what they learn. Students are encouraged to register for free online support through GETSmart; to help themselves to the extensive range of resources on UWA's STUDYSmarter website; and to participate in WRITESmart and (ma+hs)Smart drop-ins and workshops.
  • Unit readings, including any essential textbooks, are listed in the unit outline for each unit, one week prior the commencement of study. The unit outline will be available via the LMS and the UWA Handbook one week prior the commencement of study. Reading lists and essential textbooks are subject to change each semester. Information on essential textbooks will also be made available on the Essential Textbooks. This website is updated regularly in the lead up to semester so content may change. It is recommended that students purchase essential textbooks for convenience due to the frequency with which they will be required during the unit. A limited number of textbooks will be made available from the Library in print and will also be made available online wherever possible. Essential textbooks can be purchased from the commercial vendors to secure the best deal. The Student Guild can provide assistance on where to purchase books if required. Books can be purchased second hand at the Guild Secondhand bookshop (second floor, Guild Village), which is located on campus.