This project (2020-1-SE01-KA203-077872) has been funded with support from the European Commission. This web site reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

Governance of the microbial complexity

Admission Requirements
Bachelor’s degree in STEM topics (excluding design and engineering) with a minimum of 20 ECTS in biological topics.

Learning Outcomes

Following the successful completion of the course, the following main learning outcomes are expected:


  • Description of the microbial world.
  • Microbes and their relationship with the current social situation.
  • Microbes and their relationship with the current environmental situation.


  • Analysis of a complex problem involving microbial management.
  • Use of tools to describe the microbial world.


  • solve simulated microbial governance problems.


Brief description and motivation - Microorganisms are the invisible power that governs many aspects of the environment, agriculture, economy, health and of everyday life. The recent pandemic or the disastrous introduction of Xylella fastidiosa have focused attention on massive and negative. On the other hand, the vast majority of the effects of microorganisms are absolutely positive for all aspects of nature and anthropic situations but are largely ignored by mainstream information and rarely thought in an adequate manner. Even in some specialised settings, biodiversity study and management are restricted to plants and animals, ignoring that microbial diversity is orders of magnitude larger than that of higher eukaryotes and that its preservation is a key condition for the sustainability of the natural environment and economic activities.

Aims -The present course aims at introducing the students to the major conceptual aspects of the microbial world and on the possible approaches, systems and techniques to govern microbial diversity in both its negative and positive aspects.

Organization - The course is based on 6 fcu for roughly 40 to 50 hours, depending on the general organization of the course. It is based on lectures (in extreme cases given also remotely), visits to natural and anthropized environments and practical simulation.  The course does not require specific previous knowledge in biology or chemistry and is open to all students holding a bachelor degree in any branch of knowledge. Seminar sessions with instructors of other related courses will be proposed at the end of the course.

Articulation of the course:

  1. Basic concepts of life and living structures from an ontological and biologic point of view. The approach of this part of the course will be the use of analogy and contrast to introduce microorganisms in comparisons with organisms (humans, animals and plants) with which the students are well acquainted
  2. Microbial diversity, its qualification and quantification. Tools and analytical approaches. Culture vs culture independent approaches. The “omics” (this part of the course will interact with the course on omics and spectroscopy).
  3. Governing the potentially dangerous microorganisms, quarantine policy, limitations vs. control approach.
  4. Governing the natural biodiversity. In situ and ex situ conservation. The “Yosemite paradox” in conservation biology. Basics of legislation for biodiversity protections.
  5. Exploiting the biodiversity in agriculture and industry. Economic and sociological outcomes.

  1. The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Biodiversity - (2016) Routledge -
  2. Recent Advancements in Microbial Diversity -1st Edition - June 2, 2020 Surajit De Mandal, Pankaj Bhatt - Paperback ISBN: 9780128212653 - eBook ISBN: 9780128212660
  3. Relevant scientific reviews and original articles in the topic

Teaching Methodology

ECTS Credits
7.5 ECTS credits

II semester (STEM)

Examination methodology
The acquisition of the course topics is tested through an oral exam with questions related to the subjects presented during the lectures.

Microbes are key factors to understand and manage the complexity of the natural and anthropized world. They constitute themselves a complex network of relationships, mostly based on biochemical signals, and participate to more complex networks with animal and plants. The simplistic view of the microorganisms as primarily dangerous etiological agents of infectious diseases is mostly due to scarce knowledge, but is quite common in non-microbiologists even if involved in complex governance and management activities.

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