BIOSCI 751 : Plant-microbial Interactions


2024 Semester Two (1245) (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 three 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.

Course Requirements

No pre-requisites or restrictions

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: People and Place
Capability 2: Sustainability
Capability 3: Knowledge and Practice
Capability 4: Critical Thinking
Capability 5: Solution Seeking
Capability 6: Communication
Capability 7: Collaboration
Capability 8: Ethics and Professionalism

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 3, 4, 5 and 6)
  2. Describe and explain how pathogens cause disease in plants (Capability 3, 4 and 5)
  3. Describe and explain the properties of a virus that influence the spread of the pathogen and the potential for epidemics (Capability 2, 3, 4 and 5)
  4. Critically evaluate the factors that make a plant pathogen a biosecurity risk. (Capability 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8)
  5. Describe and explain the mechanisms of pathogen evolution (Capability 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7)


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


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Key Topics

There are three modules delivered in this course:
The epidemiology of plant viruses
The molecular basis of plant pathogen interactions
Assessing biosecurity risk

Special Requirements

Attendance at all seminars is compulsory.
There is no final examination for this course.

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 6 hours of lectures, 12 hours of seminars, 22 hours of reading and thinking about the content and 80 hours of work on assignments and presentations.

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

Attendance is required at scheduled activities including lectures, class presentations and site visits to receive credit for components of the course.
Lectures will be available as recordings. Other learning activities including seminars will be available as recordings.
The course will include live online events including group discussions and seminars.
The activities for the course are scheduled as a standard weekly timetable.

This course has no final exam.

Learning 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.

There are no specific text books for this course.  For each topic or module a set of research papers will be provided that will form a basis for further reading that you will require.

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.


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 for potential plagiarism or other forms of academic misconduct, using computerised detection mechanisms.

Class Representatives

Class representatives are students tasked with representing student issues to departments, faculties, and the wider university. If you have a complaint about this course, please contact your class rep who will know how to raise it in the right channels. See your departmental noticeboard for contact details for your class reps.


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.

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

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.

Learning Continuity

In the event of an unexpected disruption, we undertake to maintain the continuity and standard of teaching and learning in all your courses throughout the year. If there are unexpected disruptions the University has contingency plans to ensure that access to your course continues and course assessment continues to meet the principles of the University’s assessment policy. Some adjustments may need to be made in emergencies. You will be kept fully informed by your course co-ordinator/director, and if disruption occurs you should refer to the university website for information about how to proceed.

The delivery mode may change depending on COVID restrictions. Any changes will be communicated through Canvas.

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 students may be asked to submit 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. In exceptional circumstances changes to elements of this course may be necessary at short notice. Students enrolled in this course will be informed of any such changes and the reasons for them, as soon as possible, through Canvas.

Published on 06/11/2023 08:36 a.m.