• Offered by Biology Teaching and Learning Centre
  • ANU College ANU Joint Colleges of Science
  • Course subject Biology
  • Areas of interest Immunology and Microbiology
  • Academic career UGRD
  • Mode of delivery In Person

You can’t open a newspaper these days without hearing how important gut microbiota are for our health. But what’s the evidence, and how do they affect us? And how do health officials decide it it’s safe for a swim in the local lake or at the local beach? Bacteria affect us in every way, every day, and that’s true throughout the animal world. In this course, you’ll gain a deeper insight into the influential world of bacteria, focussing on their ecology and evolution.


In the course we will cover how the ecology and epidemiology of bacteria play an important role in animal health. For example, what are the effects of the gain and loss of different strains on a host? We will consider the relationship between within host population dynamics, such as those arising from competition between different bacteria, and among host dynamics, involving transmission of bacteria from one host to another. We will look at recent studies on the importance of social networks for disease transmission. Many of these questions will be addressed by looking at individual bacterial species and a variety of hosts, both human and animal. We will also look at animal microbial communities, and their role in nutrition, disease prevention, and as a cause of disease, and how these communities can impact behaviour. Is it true, for example, that so-called faecal transplants can improve the health of the recipient? The course will cover topics related to the diversity of host associated microbial communities, including the factors affecting the composition and stability of these communities.


The course will include a significant section on the evolution of bacterial genomes and accessory elements, in particular the evolution of virulence and bacterial adaptation. We will emphasise the fact that bacteria evolve in ‘real time’, as it were, and that new pathogens are continually emerging. For example, newly evolved E. coli intestinal pathogen that have caused disease outbreaks in Europe. Covid 19, albeit it is a virus, is a stark reminder that organisms that treat humans as hosts have a profound effect on our daily lives. They can even change the course of history as shown by past plagues, like the bubonic plague. Everyone should want to learn a little more about our ongoing battles, and occasional alliances, with the bacteria that live with, on and in every human, including you.


Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. Investigate the processes responsible for shaping the clonal composition of a bacterial species as well as the bacterial community composition within a host.
  2. Critically evaluate how the human gut microbiota influences human health.
  3. Critically evaluate how spatial relationships and social interactions determine bacterial transmission among hosts.
  4. Investigate and analyse quantitatively the processes that underlie bacterial genome evolution.
  5. Apply a range of bioinformatics techniques used in comparative genomics.
  6. Employ high order laboratory techniques.

Other Information


Indicative Assessment

  1. Practical report (20) [LO 1,2,3,4,5,6]
  2. Major assignment report (50) [LO 1,2,3,4,5]
  3. Final examination (30) [LO 1,2,3,4,5]

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The expected workload will consist of approximately 130 hours throughout the semester including:

  • Face-to face component which may consist of 2 x 1 hour lectures per week (total 24 hours). 1 x 3 hours of practical sessions per week for 4 weeks.
  • Approximately 94 hours of self directed study which will include preparation for lectures, presentations and other assessment tasks.

Students are expected to actively participate and contribute towards discussions.

Inherent Requirements

To be determined

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must have completed 96 units toward a degree, including any BIOL 1000 or 2000 level courses.

Prescribed Texts


Assumed Knowledge

Have completed 1st and 2nd year biology courses and completion of 96 units toward a degree


Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

Commonwealth Support (CSP) Students
If you have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). More information about your student contribution amount for each course at Fees

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are a domestic graduate coursework student with a Domestic Tuition Fee (DTF) place or international student you will be required to pay course tuition fees (see below). Course tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2021 $4110
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2021 $5880
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

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There are no current offerings for this course.

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