05-MMG-GB2 Marine Molecular Geobiology

Representative Kai-Uwe Hinrichs

Learning Contents:

This module seeks to provide a comprehensive overview about molecular lines of inquiry in Geobiology and Paleoenvironmental Sciences. Students will learn how these techniques contribute to the exploration of the origins of life as well as the early life on Earth. Applications of molecular biomarkers will be exemplified with case studies from various eras in Earth history. Current research on the diversity of life, its functions in the environment and the limits of life in extreme environments will complement the contents focusing on past life. We will also introduce the concepts and current topics in Astrobiology. We will address fundamental questions such as: What is life and how did it originate? How did life function without oxygen and which traces did it leave in the geological record? How can we recognize and quantify consequences of life such as primary production? How can the appearance of certain life forms enable conclusions regarding past environmental conditions? What are the limits of life on Earth and other planets?

Learning Outcomes, Targeted Competencies:

1) An understanding regarding the key concepts describing the origins of life on Earth
2) An appreciation of the importance of the coevolution of life and planet Earth through geological time
3) An understanding of molecular biomarkers and their potential and limitations to track life and environmental processes in the past
4) An understanding of life in extreme environments as potential analogue to early life and life on other planetary bodies
5) Familiarity with the current literature in the field and ability to discuss and present current findings with peers

Prior Knowledge:

Attendance of Modules "Evolution of Marine Ecosystems" and "Biogeochemical Processes: Concepts" is strongly recommended.

Course Type 1: Lecture (L) 4.0 SWS ( 56.0 h)

Course Type 2: Seminar (S) 2.0 SWS ( 28.0 h)

Tutorial(s): -


84.0 h presence time
56.0 h self-study
40.0 h exam workload

180 h total workload

Exam Type:

combination exam


exam elements: 2
SL: 0

75 % oral exam
25 % seminar paper


1) Fenchel, T. (2003) The origin and early evolution of life
2) Fenchel, T., Blackburn, H., King, G.M. (2012) Bacterial Biogeochemistry: The Ecophysiology of Mineral Cycling
3) diverse research articles in the field of Geobiology, Astrobiology, Geomicrobiology and Paleo Sciences