Kent Laboratory University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

NRES 598: Microbial Ecology Methods

Fall 2011

Course Description:

Microbial Ecology is a synthesis of many scientific disciplines including microbiology, molecular biology, ecology, and bioinformatics. Microbial ecology is closely linked to ecosystem function and environmental quality. Without microorganisms, our lakes would fill with detritus and water quality would be degraded, productive soils would be depleted of fertility and buried under layers of litter, ecosystems would cease to support plant and animal life, and natural and synthetic chemicals would accumulate to toxic levels in the environment.

Emiquon Nature Preserve, Lewiston, IL:

This field course is intended for graduate students interested the application of microbial ecology methods to their research on environmental quality and conservation. We will focus on wetland microbial ecology project for Fall 2011, but the methods that will be introduced are broadly applicable to a wide range of microbial ecology topics. We will focus our efforts on a restored floodplain wetland in central Illinois (The Nature Conservancy's Emiquon Preserve). Restoration began at this site in 2007, as the floodplain was allowed to reclaim previously drained farmland (below).

We will explore the effect that the newly restored lake has on the soil microbes, and discuss microbial ecosystem functions that The Nature Conservancy hopes to restore in this floodplain ecosystem. The course introduces students to methods involved with the study of microbial community structure and function. We will discuss both theory and application of various approaches for examining microbial communities.

Course topics include:

  • Methods for sampling microbial communities
  • Metabolic screening of microbial communities
  • Molecular biology techniques (DNA extraction, PCR, DNA sequencing)
  • Bioinformatics tools for interpretation of molecular biology data
  • Experimental design
  • Analysis of ecological data

Angela Kent

Class location and time:
M5 Turner Hall (basement)
1:00 - 2:50PM Monday and Wednesday (lecture and lab)

S509 Turner Hall
1:00 - 1:50PM Fridays (literature discussion)

Participation in a weekend field trip will be required.

CRN: 54707