ENVT5002 Advanced Studies in Environmental Biotechnology

6 points
Not available in 2020UWA (Perth)Face to face
The environment harbours an enormous diversity of micro-organisms which can be harnessed for biotechnological exploitation, from those remediating pollutants to those that complete novel and complex biotransformations. These organisms exist at almost all extremes of life, including water, thermal and electrochemical extremes. Recent developments in molecular sequencing have accelerated biotechnology applications by cataloguing the diversity of bacteria, archaea and microbial eukaryotes and their functional genes directly in their natural environments in order to select key organisms, pathways and physiologies for biotechnological applications.

This unit covers the theory and practice of assessing microbial diversity and their functional genes directly from environmental samples as a prelude to screening for key taxa and functions for biotechnology. It demonstrates DNA extraction technologies for a range of environmental types; soils, water, sediments and downstream processing for both phylogenetic surveys and functional gene analyses. Students are encouraged to analyse their own samples within practical classes and are further provided with advanced bioinformatics directed for both phylogenetic and functional gene characterisations.
Students are able to (1) develop an understanding of the theory of environmental gene surveying, sampling and requirements for storage; (2) perform DNA extractions and amplification of environmental DNA; (3) sequence DNA for both phylogenetic and functional gene markers from natural environments; (4) complete advanced bioinformatic analyses of retrieved sequences to assess phylogenetic and functional gene markers in a statistically meaningful way; and (5) gain an in-depth knowledge of ancillary technologies associated with assessing microbial function in the environment, such as stable isotope tracers, advanced microscopy and sampling techniques.
Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) a case study assignment and (2) a practical study assignment. Further information is available in the unit outline.

Supplementary assessment is not available in this unit.
Unit Coordinator(s)
Winthrop Professor Andrew Whiteley
Unit rules
enrolment in the Master of Biotechnology (71580)
the Master of Agricultural Science (72510)
the Master of Environmental Science (72530)
Contact hours
lectures/tutorials: 2 hours per fortnight; practical classes: 2 hours per fortnight
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  • Books and other material wherever listed may be subject to change. Book lists relating to 'Preliminary reading', 'Recommended reading' and 'Textbooks' are, in most cases, available via the Booktopia Textbook Finder, which has the functionality to search by course code, course, ISBN and title, and may also be posted or available at the appropriate school's administrative offices. Where texts are listed in the unit description above, an asterisk (*) indicates that the book is available in paperback.