BIO233 Experimental Environmental Microbiology

Credits (ECTS):10

Course responsible:Knut Rudi

Campus / Online:Taught campus Ås

Teaching language:Norsk

Limits of class size:24 students

Course frequency:Annually

Nominal workload:

250 hours

  • Lectures / seminars: 26 hours.
  • Laboratory exercises: 50 hours.
  • Preparations for the exercises and journal writing: 54 hours.
  • Self-study: 120 hours.

Teaching and exam period:This course starts in the Spring parallel. This course has teaching/evaluation in the Spring parallel.

About this course

The subject is an offer for students within the fields of microbiology, microbial ecology, environmental microbiology, food microbiology, human and veterinary microbiology. The course will primarily cover the UN sustainable development goal Clean Water and Sanitation (number 6) and Life Below Water (number 14).

Water is a crucial resource for all life on Earth. Therefore, it is important to manage water resources in a sustainable way to ensure that we have sufficient clean water to meet our daily needs and to maintain life in ecosystems. In this course, we will focus on microbiological issues related to water and wastewater systems.

• We will first look at drinking water and drinking water treatment. This will include studies of microbiological contaminants that may be present in drinking water and the methods that can be used to remove these contaminants. We will also look at how microbiology can be used to monitor the quality of drinking water.

• We will investigate how pollution affects life below water, and we will focus specifically on issues related to the Oslofjord. This is because the Oslofjord is under significant pollution pressure, and efforts are underway to restore life in the fjord. Microbiology can play a crucial role in this work.

• Finally, we will look at how microorganisms can be used to treat sewage. Microorganisms can, among other things, be used to break down organic matter and to remove reactive nitrogen (e.g., ammonium and nitrate) that would otherwise lead to eutrophication when discharged into natural water systems.

Through this course, you will gain a better understanding of microbiological issues related to water and wastewater systems and how microorganisms can be used to safeguard the health of society and ecosystems.

LECTURES: This subject will introduce the importance of microorganisms in the environment. Special attention will be paid to microorganisms found in water and their significance. Water is critical to life on Earth, with microorganisms playing a key role. Topics include microorganisms in the ocean and their impact on climate and global processes on Earth, microorganisms in freshwater, with a special focus on the use of freshwater as drinking water, and issues related to biological wastewater treatment.

Overall, the lectures will provide a thorough introduction to the importance of microorganisms in the environment, especially in water. Students will gain a deeper understanding of how microorganisms affect the environment and how they can be used to protect and preserve water resources.

LABORATORY EXERCISES: The laboratory exercises in this course will provide students with practical experience in the three main topics related to water: microbiological issues related to drinking water treatment, environmental impact of pollution in the sea, and biological removal of nitrogen from wastewater. For the first topic, students will gain experience in treating drinking water by examining the processes at the Oppegård water treatment plant. This will include microbiological testing to assess the quality of drinking water, and observation of various stages in the treatment process to understand how water is purified and disinfected. The second topic will focus on how pollution affects the environment in the sea. Here, students will investigate processes related to the Oslofjord. This will include sampling and testing water samples, as well as observing how pollution can affect marine life. The final topic will address the biological removal of nitrogen from wastewater, and students will investigate the processes related to the nitrogen treatment plant at the Nordre Follo wastewater treatment plant. This will include testing water samples to measure nitrogen levels, as well as observing how bacteria and other microorganisms are used to break down and remove nitrogen pollution from wastewater.

METHODS: The methods to be used in the course include bacterial cultivation and microscopy/fluorescence microscopy. In addition, students will learn DNA purification, PCR/quantitative PCR, and description of bacterial communities using nanopore sequencing. We will also use proteomic analyses to investigate the function of bacterial communities. Students will learn to use bioinformatics tools in R to study bacterial communities. Finally, an introduction will be given to techniques for measuring gas kinetics related to greenhouse gases and wastewater treatment. This will give students an understanding of how different techniques can be used to measure environmental parameters, and how this can help us understand and reduce our impact on the environment.

REPORTING: In this course, emphasis will be placed on reporting the results of laboratory exercises in a scientific manner. Students will submit three reports, one for each of the main topics related to laboratory exercises, and will receive a thorough introduction on how to write reports in a scientific format. The reports will give students the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of the application of the various methods used in laboratory exercises. The work will also provide students with the opportunity to generate new knowledge. Individual comments and evaluations will be provided for each report, so that students receive feedback on how to improve their writing skills and understanding of the subject. This will help students develop their abilities to write scientific reports, which is an important skill for anyone working in the natural sciences.

Learning outcome


Students will gain insight into the description and significance of microorganisms in key environments such as drinking water, the ocean, and wastewater. They will also learn about ecological principles and the use of microorganisms in water treatment and environmental monitoring.


In this course, students will learn how to cultivate and describe the composition of microbial communities, as well as the characteristics of microorganisms and techniques for investigating key microbiological processes.

They will be able to independently carry out the preparations, techniques, and analyses required in the course, and they will be proficient in the instruments and equipment used.


A special emphasis will be placed on teaching students how to combine traditional culture-based techniques with modern DNA techniques to describe a microbial communities. Students will gain an understanding of how to write scientific reports based on experimental data, and they will be encouraged to critically reflect on current theories.

  • Lectures. Seminars. Laboratory exercises with journal writing.
  • Contact with teachers via Canvas and e-mail. Lecture notes will be posted on Canvas.
    • Knowledge in microbiology corresponding to BIO130.
    • Knowledge in biochemistry theory corresponding to KJB200.
    • Knowledge in biochemistry lab corresponding to KJB201.
    • Knowledge in molecular biolology corresponding to BIO210.
  • Skills for interpretation of experimental data is evaluated by the filing of journals. The journal counts 40% (A-F)

    Evaluation of student learning will be based on their theoretical knowledge and understanding, being tested in a final written exam of 3.5 hours. Grade Weight 60% (A-F)

  • An external examiner approves the examination questions and marks a minimum of 25 selected examination papers.

    Internal examiner on the laboratory reports.

  • Laboratory exercises with report.
  • BIO234 = the theory part of BIO233. Because of this there is an overlap of 5 credits between BIO233 and BIO234.

    The course may replace BIO211 - please contact the student advisors at KBM for approval.

  • Lectures / tutorials: 2 hours per week for 13 weeks. Laboratory Exercises with journal writing: 2 + 3 hours per week for 10 weeks.
    • The Bachelor's program in Biotechnology
    • The Master's program in Biotechnology
  • BIO234 reduction of 5 credits
  • Special requirements in Science