APS 325 Life in Extreme Environments

Level 3
Semester 2B
Credits 10
Pre/Co Requisites -
Recommended Requisites -
Teaching Staff Dr Stephen Rolfe, Dr Jonathan Graves
Co-ordinator Dr Stephen Rolfe


This course will:
- Link the growth and ecology of plants, micro-organisms and animals in extreme environments with their physiology and biochemistry in order to understand the mechanisms which enable them to grow and survive.
- Examine the methods that can be used to investigate the diversity and function of life in extreme environments.


The course will examine the biology of micro-organisms, plants and some limited examples of animals in extreme environments. The importance of interactions between organisms, and particularly symbioses, in nutrient acquisition is considered. The course will identify common problems that are faced by life in extreme environments and the physical, biochemical and physiological adaptations that allow organisms to withstand these conditions. The module covers arctic ecosystems examining how plants, animals and microbes cope with the extreme conditions as well as exploring the impact of climate change. Plant adaptations to the extremes of desert conditions are discussed. In ultra-extreme environments, microbial life dominates – an area which has been revolutionized by molecular techniques. Microbial life in saline and metal rich environments, hot springs and deep sea vents, in rocks, ice and water are considered along with the challenges faced by the organisms and the scientists studying them. The unique environment of deep sea hydrothermal vents is discussed and the interactions between microbes and animals that allow life to proliferate are examined.

Delivery Method: 15 lectures

Student Contact Hours: 15

Assessment Method: 1½ hour examination (1 from a choice of 3)

Assessment Weighting: 100% Exam

Feedback: Students can receive feedback by completing a series of feedback questions that test understanding of concepts developed during the module. Students can obtain feedback on their examination performance by arranging a meeting with their personal tutor.

For more information on APS325, please go to MOLE.

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