Biogeochemistry: Microbes, Rocks, and Soils

Spring 2016 quarter

Taught by

biology, genetics, microbiology
geology, earth science, biogeochemistry


Previous college-level study required in geology (one quarter), mathematics (one quarter), chemistry (one year) and biology with a molecular emphasis (one year).

This upper-division science program will examine the interplay between the biological and chemical processes of the Earth's hydrosphere and lithosphere. Many environmental processes occur as a result of specific microbial processes that are intrinsically controlled by the substrate (geology) and the geochemical parameters (redox, pH), making these studies inherently interdisciplinary.

Over the quarter, we will investigate biotic and abiotic controls on the cycling of important elements (specifically key biological and chemical elements of carbon, nitrogen, iron, etc., and elements we often consider toxic such as arsenic and heavy metals) in both "pristine" and polluted systems, and in aerobic to anaerobic systems. Students will cover topics in environmental microbiology examining the roles microorganisms play in the environment, their metabolism, and the broad diversity of the ecosystems they occupy. Likewise, students will cover topics in geochemistry and geobiology examining the role of microbes in element cycling at the Earth's surface. Laboratory work will focus on both classical microbiological methods, as well as newer biochemical and molecular procedures to determine the biodiversity of soil and water samples and the activity of specific organisms within an ecosystem. In addition, students will learn field sampling techniques, collect soil and/or water samples in the field during day trips, and conduct relevant geochemical analyses in the laboratory to elucidate element cycles. Weekly seminars and student presentations discussing recent research from the primary literature will be important components of the program.

Program Details

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

geology, chemistry, microbiology, molecular biology, biochemistry, environmental analysis, and environmental fieldwork.

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day

Advertised schedule: First spring class meeting: Monday, March 28 at 8:30 am (Sem 2 B1105)


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Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning: Access to web-based tools required, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.

Upper Division Science Credit

Students who successfully complete the program requirements will be awarded upper division science credits.

Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Spring)

Class standing: Sophomore–Senior

Maximum enrollment: 50


Course Reference Number

So - Sr (16 credits): 30121

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