BIOSCI 751 : Plant-microbial Interactions


2020 Semester Two (1205) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

Addresses selected topics in plant microbial interactions. Modern research on issues relating to plant pathogens and biosecurity, plant disease spread (epidemiology) and plant-microbial interactions (both pathogenic and mutualistic) will be investigated and discussed. A basic understanding of microbiology and molecular biology is assumed.

Course Overview

This paper investigates the interactions between pathogenic microbes and plants.  The course has three main threads: dissecting the molecular mechanisms of pathogenicity; understanding the epidemiology of pathogen spread; and evaluating the risk new pathogen incursions might incur in a biosecurity context.  The course involves a mix of essay writing, presentations and class discussions.  There is no final exam.  The course will also include two visits to research institutions to enable students to understand how the skills they learn in this course can be used in both postgraduate research and employment. The skills developed in this course are particularly useful for those wishing to have a career in biosecurity or plant pathology.

During the course, students will become familiar with the current literature and critical issues in selected topics in molecular plant microbe interactions.
Students will learn how to read papers carefully and critique them, determining the key experimental findings of the paper, and assessing the contribution the paper makes to the field.

A recorded version for the introductory lecture and all presentations will be available for overseas-based students.

Course Requirements

No pre-requisites or restrictions

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: Disciplinary Knowledge and Practice
Capability 2: Critical Thinking
Capability 3: Solution Seeking
Capability 4: Communication and Engagement
Capability 5: Independence and Integrity

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Present in a clear and concise manner the main findings of a scientific paper. (Capability 2, 4 and 5)
  2. Describe and explain how pathogens cause disease in plants (Capability 1, 2 and 5)
  3. Describe and explain the properties of a virus that influence the spread of the pathogen and the potential for epidemics (Capability 1, 2, 3 and 5)
  4. Critically evaluate the factors that make a plant pathogen a biosecurity risk. (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  5. Describe and explain the mechanisms of pathogen evolution (Capability 1, 2, 3 and 5)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Essays 60% Individual Coursework
Presentations 30% Individual Coursework
Discussions 10% Individual Coursework
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5

Key Topics

There are three modules for this course:
  1. Molecular Epidemiology 
  2. Host-Pathogen Interactions
  3. Biosecurity
Each module includes an introductory lecture followed by presentations by each student on individual topics.  Each topic has an essay assignment.  Class discussions are encouraged and your participation in these is marked.

Included in the course are two site visits to the Ministry for Primary Industries Plant Health & Environment Laboratory and Landcare Research both at Tamaki, and to Plant and Food Research in Mt. Albert.  The aim of these visits is to introduce you to work places where the skills and knowledge you learn in this course can be used in both postgraduate research and employment.

Learning Resources

No specific textbook required.

Special Requirements

Compulsory attendance of lectures, individual and group discussions. Students who are approved to take this course remotely will have alternative arrangements made.

Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 15 point course and students are expected to spend 10 hours per week involved in each 15 point course that they are enrolled in.

For this course, you can expect 2 hours of lectures or tutorial/discussion per week, 2 hours of reading and thinking about the content and 6 hours of work on assignments and/or presentation preparation.

Digital Resources

Course materials are made available in a learning and collaboration tool called Canvas which also includes reading lists and lecture recordings (where available).

Please remember that the recording of any class on a personal device requires the permission of the instructor.


The content and delivery of content in this course are protected by copyright. Material belonging to others may have been used in this course and copied by and solely for the educational purposes of the University under license.

You may copy the course content for the purposes of private study or research, but you may not upload onto any third party site, make a further copy or sell, alter or further reproduce or distribute any part of the course content to another person.

Academic Integrity

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting their learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the internet. A student's assessed work may be reviewed against online source material using computerised detection mechanisms.

Inclusive Learning

All students are asked to discuss any impairment related requirements privately, face to face and/or in written form with the course coordinator, lecturer or tutor.

Student Disability Services also provides support for students with a wide range of impairments, both visible and invisible, to succeed and excel at the University. For more information and contact details, please visit the Student Disability Services’ website at

Special Circumstances

If your ability to complete assessed coursework is affected by illness or other personal circumstances outside of your control, contact a member of teaching staff as soon as possible before the assessment is due.

If your personal circumstances significantly affect your performance, or preparation, for an exam or eligible written test, refer to the University’s aegrotat or compassionate consideration page:

This should be done as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the affected test or exam date.

Student Feedback

During the course Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the staff responsible for the course and staff-student consultative committees.

At the end of the course students will be invited to give feedback on the course and teaching through a tool called SET or Qualtrics. The lecturers and course co-ordinators will consider all feedback.

Your feedback helps to improve the course and its delivery for all students.

Student Charter and Responsibilities

The Student Charter assumes and acknowledges that students are active participants in the learning process and that they have responsibilities to the institution and the international community of scholars. The University expects that students will act at all times in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights of other students and staff so that the learning environment is both safe and productive. For further information visit Student Charter (


Elements of this outline may be subject to change. The latest information about the course will be available for enrolled students in Canvas.

In this course you may be asked to submit your coursework assessments digitally. The University reserves the right to conduct scheduled tests and examinations for this course online or through the use of computers or other electronic devices. Where tests or examinations are conducted online remote invigilation arrangements may be used. The final decision on the completion mode for a test or examination, and remote invigilation arrangements where applicable, will be advised to students at least 10 days prior to the scheduled date of the assessment, or in the case of an examination when the examination timetable is published.

Published on 04/08/2020 12:48 p.m.