Groundwater Microbiology and Geochemistry (Geomicrobiology)


Course Objective

At the end of this interdisciplinary course, students will be able to
describe and explain roles of:
- growth and cellular functioning of microorganisms that are important
for geochemistry
- microorganisms in nutrient cycli
- important microbial processes in polluted and pristine groundwater
- environmental conditions in determining microbial presence and
activity in soil and groundwaters
- modern methods in microbial ecology and biogeochemistry
Students can relate the obtained knowledge to hydrology.

Course Content

Theory will consist of:

Introduction to environmental microbiology:
- Microbial growth, metabolism and kinetics in relation to environmental
- Types and diversity of micro-organisms in groundwater ecosystems.
- Interactions between micro-organisms.
- Basics of molecular microbiology; overview of modern techniques in
microbial ecology and biogeochemistry.

Impact of microbiological processes on hydrochemistry:
- Microbial contribution to important biogeochemical processes and
nutrient cycles.
- Microbe-mediated mineral dissolution and precipitation.

Degradation of organic and inorganic contaminants in groundwater:
- Biodegradation, bioremediation and "natural attenuation" of pollution.

Teaching Methods

~90 hours of guided self-study (the student will study the book 'Brock
Biology of Microbiology', on the basis of 5 modules containing
instructions and questions), 70 hours for essay writing. After each of
the five modules, the students and lecturer discuss the answers in a
group session (~2.5 h per module).

Method of Assessment

Written essay (50% of final mark) on a geo-microbiological subject
decided upon by student in discussion with the lecturer, and a written
exam on the text studied (50%).


1. Microbiology text book: Madigan, Bender, Buckley, Sattley, Stahl.
2019. Brock Biology of Microorganisms (fifteenth global edition),
Pearson: the chapters on the above subjects; indicated by the lecturer.

2. In-depth articles provided at the Canvas website of the course.

3. Handout with questions for guided self-study (via lecturer).

Additional Information

This course is an elective option for master students in Hydrology. The
course is also open to master students in Biology and Earth Sciences,
and to MSc students of the University of Amsterdam and other
Universities after consultation with the course coordinator (Prof
Westerhoff). Part of the content can be adapted to fit the interest and
educational background of the student. Students are advised to contact
the coordinator before starting.

Custom Course Registration

Students should register at least two weeks in advance of the course period indicated in the study guide. In consultation with the coordinator, the joint study sessions (see above) will then be planned.

General Information

Course Code AM_450132
Credits 6 EC
Period P4
Course Level 400
Language of Tuition English
Faculty Faculty of Science
Course Coordinator prof. dr. H.V. Westerhoff
Examiner prof. dr. H.V. Westerhoff
Teaching Staff dr. F.C. Boogerd

Practical Information

You cannot register for this course yourself; your faculty's education office carries out registration

Last-minute registration is available for this course.