Analysis and Control of Microbial Systems

– Combining microbial ecology and environmental biotechnology

Analysis of microbial systems represents a field of science denoted microbial ecology. On the other hand, control of such systems is an essential tool in the applied field of technology called environmental biotechnology. In the spirit of NTNU, we have combined those two fields of science and technology into one active group:

Microbial ecology may be defined as the scientific studies of interactions and basic principles that determine the distribution and abundance of microorganisms. It is therefore a basic platform for analyses of ecological problems as well as a fundament for development of new technologies.

Issues dealt with in microbial ecology may be of fundamental character or of a more applied nature, as is the case in environmental biotechnology. Key issues in microbial ecology are:

  • Limiting factors for critical processes and significant organisms
  • Identification of key biotic interactions
  • Structure and function of food webs

Environmental biotechnology is the application of biotechnology for solving environmental problems, both in the environment per se (e.g. bioremediation) or in man made ecosystems (e.g. sewage treatment plants). In open systems, this can only be achieved by applying ecological principles and cooperating with the local microbiota based on a "join them" instead of a "beat them" strategy.

In principle, Environmental biotechnology may include:

  • Cleaning of effluents and treatment of waste
  • Alternative and more environmental friendly processes
  • Alternative and more environmental friendly products

Thus, while microbial ecology tries to understand microbial ecosystems, environmental biotechnology tries to manipulate them, creating what we may denote "un-natural" or purposely man-made as opposed to "natural" ecosystems. See also Scientific Background.


News and Notices

On September 12, Elise Torbjørnsen Øygarden got her Master thesis approved, entitled: "Influence of genetic background and environmental factors on the skin microbiota of salmon fry".

On June 27, Christina Wanderås Tronstad got her Master thesis approved, entitled: "Biodegradation of oil films with different thicknesses in marine environments".

On June 23, Maja Fjellstad Knutsen got her Master thesis approved, entitled: "Robustness of nitrifying biofilter functionality: Role of competition between heterotrophic and nitrifying bacteria on ammonium removal efficiency and microbial community structure".

On April 27, Aina Alice Olsen got her Master thesis approved, entitled: "Funksjonell økologi hos pikoplankton."

New publication: K Østgaard, V Kowarz, W Shuai, I A Henry, M Sposob, H H Haugen and R Bakke (2017): Syringe test screening of microbial gas production activity: Cases denitrification and biogas formation. J. Microbiol. Meth. 132, 119-124. 

On December 8, Ingrid Annemarie Henry successfully defended her PhD thesis entitled: "Biological nitrogen removal of effluents from amine-based CO2 capture plants". Congratulations!

On December 5, Blanca Magdalena Gonzalez Silva successfully defended her PhD thesis entitled: "Salinity as a driver for microbial community structure in reactors for nitrification and anammox". Congratulations!

GEMINI Science News from NTNU and SINTEF presents professor Olav Vadstein informing about our recent research on the optical properties of diatoms. See , so far in Norwegian only.


On September 4, our Anna Synnøve also documented her great acting talent when participating in the NRK "Newton" program. Congratulations! See