NIGK19001U Introduction to Geomicrobiology

Volume 2024/2025

MSc Programme in Environmental Science
MSc Programme in Geology-Geoscience


The field of geomicrobiology lies at the crossroads of geology and microbiology, where the principles and tools of microbiology are applied to the geosciences to explore the effect of microbes on geological and geochemical processes. Emphasis in this course will be placed on the ways in which uni-cellular life has impacted and continues to shape the geological landscape. We will focus on the interplay between abiotic and biotic processes in the global element cycles in the geosphere (rocks, minerals, soils, and sediments), the atmosphere, and the hydrosphere.

This course introduces students of the geosciences to some of the main themes of geomicrobiology. Lessons are included on cell structure, shape, function and key pathways of energy transfer between microbes and the terrestrial and aqueous environment. Microbial metabolic pathways and their importance for major element cycles (C, N, S, P, Fe/Mn) will be discussed along with biomineralization mechanisms and the differences between biogenic and abiogenic minerals. The final part of the course will place this theoretical background into case studies dealing with the evolution of life on Earth and other planets, as well as modern environmental issues (i.e., pollutant remediation in surface and groundwater, plastic and other contaminants in the marine environment). The course includes lecture, exercises and a field/lab component.

The themes of the course are:

The microbial world & microbial respiration

Microbial metabolism

The key element cycles


Microorganisms and earth history

Microorganisms and environmental challenges

Learning Outcome


  • Learn to incorporate biological processes into the larger picture of geological and geochemical processes on Earth.
  • Describe basic microbial cell structure, function, and key metabolic pathways found in terrestrial and aqueous environments.
  • Understand biomineralization and its impact on element transport, burial and diagenesis.
  • Explain the role of microbial life in the evolution of life on Earth and in key issues of environmental pollution today.



  • Development of basic microbial methods in the lab i.e. (cell analysis, microscopy, cell growth, biomineralization) with regards to microorganisms in the water and sediment
  • Training of field sampling methods when microorganisms are targeted
  • Identify and evaluate biosignature data to elucidate possible roles for microbial life in earth evolution.
  • Compare and evaluate common microbe-based remediation approaches used to tackle global environmental issues.



  • Demonstrate an understanding of the role of microorganisms in global element cycling, transport and diagenesis
  • Contemplate the role of microorganisms in forming our terrestrial and aqueous environment
  • Evaluate and debate the role of microorganisms in the evolution of life and the biogeosphere, as well as the potential of microbial processes as tools to remediate environmental risk
  • Critically examine scientific data and learn to communicate results orally and in written form

Please see Absalon

BSc in Geology-Geoscience
BSc in Physical Geography
BSc in Microbiology

Academic qualifications equivalent to a BSc degree is recommended.
Lectures, theoretical exercises, field & lab work plus reports.
Please see Absalon for details of the teaching plan.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Preparation
  • 171
  • Exercises
  • 35
  • Total
  • 206
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment, Ongoing
Oral examination, 20 min.
Type of assessment details
2-3 written reports based on exercises and lab work, with ongoing preparation and feedback throughout the course.
Oral exam, 20 minutes. An overall assessment is given after the oral exam.
Without aids
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Several internal examiners

Resubmission of written reports, handed in prior to the re-examination week.

Twenty minutes oral examination. An overall assessment is given after the oral exam.

Criteria for exam assesment

See learning outcome.