Skip to main content


NES1506 : Marine Microbiology and Primary Producers

  • Offered for Year: 2023/24
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Grant Burgess
  • Lecturer: Professor Pip Moore, Dr Gary Caldwell
  • Owning School: Natural and Environmental Sciences
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System


To provide an introduction to the identification, biology and ecology of marine micro-organisms (viruses, bacteria, fungi) and marine primary producers (micro- and macroalgae, angiosperms) that are collectively responsible for up to 50% of global carbon fixation, are at the base of most aquatic food webs and contribute to global biogeochemical cycling. To understand some common techniques used to quantify primary productivity, culture and identify microbes in marine environments. To gain an understanding of microbial taxonomy and interactions with macro-organisms. Microbes as beneficial organisms, also as agents of disease and deterioration in marine systems. To gain an appreciation of the potential uses and applications of marine microbes, algae and algal products in commercial, industrial and biomedical contexts with an introduction to marine microbial biotechnology.

To learn about the biology of the plants, algae and cyanobacteria which provide the foundation of almost all marine food webs including the physiological, morphological and life history adaptations which have evolved in this hugely successful group of organisms. To learn how these organisms fix carbon dioxide and about the techniques scientists apply to determine the amount of CO2 fixed. To consider how humanity can exploit algae and algal products for dietary, medicinal and industrial purposes. There is a growing awareness of the key role that microbes play in biogeochemical processes in the oceans. This module will include recent developments in marine microbiology which have helped our understanding of these processes, many of them built upon technological advances in sampling and genetic analysis methods. Advances in our understanding of the microbiology of the ocean surface, microbiology of the deep sea, and marine extreme environments will be covered. In addition, the use of proteomics and genomics to understand the physiology and activity of marine microbes will be explained, including the methods used.

Outline Of Syllabus

A lecture based module that will cover topics including an introduction to the evolution and diversity of marine bacteria; bacterial genetics; marine viruses; nutrient cycling and gene transfer; marine microbiomes. This will be followed by lectures on the evolution of algae and plants; photosynthesis and the photosynthetic apparatus; photosynthetic bacteria; macro-and micro-algal diversity; algal trophic ecology; and applied phycology.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion12:002:00Completion of end of semester assessment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion210:0020:00Completion of formative and summative coursework assessment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion26:0012:00Preparation of formative and summative coursework assessment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion240:3012:00Revision for end of semester assessment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture301:0030:00Lectures
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading322:0064:00Lecture follow up: Wider reading
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study302:0060:00Lecture follow up and reading of supplementary material
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures are designed to give students a broad factual knowledge of key biological principles and essential details relating to marine microbiology and primary producers.

Directed research and reading will support the information received through formal lectures by guided independent study using key texts. Students will be encouraged to become more independent in their learning at this stage in their programmes.

Lectures are intended to be delivered as present-in-person.
Assessment preparation and completion will allow students to fully prepare for their summative coursework and written examination. They will have the opportunity to consolidate and build upon knowledge gained in the taught sessions.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written exercise2M301,000 word or equivalent coursework assessment
Written exercise2A7024 hour seen written summative assessment but students are not expected to spend 24 hours on the task.
Formative Assessments

Formative Assessment is an assessment which develops your skills in being assessed, allows for you to receive feedback, and prepares you for being assessed. However, it does not count to your final mark.

Description Semester When Set Comment
Written exercise2M1000 word (or equivalent) formative coursework 1
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The 1,000 word formative assessment will allow staff to monitor student learning and provide timely feedback to students to support their learning. This will help students identify their strengths and weaknesses.

The 1,000 word summative coursework will assess student’s knowledge of specific aspects of the course through a combination of written work and data interpretation, in addition to examining their use of the relevant literature to support their ideas and their ability to present information in an appropriate scientific format.

The 24 hour end of semester assessment will assess the level of knowledge and understanding of all key themes of the module and allow students additional time to carefully synthesise knowledge from diverse sources of literature.

Reading Lists