Until death do us apart: living in a symbiotic world

Until death do us apart: living in a symbiotic world

ONLINE (short version); Done


Symbiosis is a key strategy for life on Earth. Nevertheless, although many research groups have long been committed to the study of symbiosis, its definition and functioning are not fully understood, and its ecological role and relevance are still underestimated.

Symbiotic associations vary from parasitism to mutualism and even simple persistent biological interactions, making the knowledge fragmented and focused on the details of single symbiotic systems. Knowledge of the various symbiotic relationships is rapidly increasing with the development of -omics tools, but without efforts to find common grounds.

The concept itself of symbiosis can be faced by different points of view, spanning from biology to evolution, from philosophy to artificial intelligence.

In this course, we promote a multidisciplinary approach presenting the most recent findings on the topic and challenging the traditional way of considering symbiotic associations as exceptions and not as the rule.

This course can have recognition of 3 ECTs for FCUL PhD students enrolling in it as part of their first doctoral year. These students need to deliver one report after the course. Such report is also advised for other students requesting creditation of the course in their institutions.

Minimum formation: Bachelor (“Licenciatura”) in Biology, Natural Science or related areas

Directed to: PhD or MSc students in Biology, Microbiology, Ecology, Environmental Studies or related areas, and postdocs and other professionals working in related topics

General Plan

Note: This course will be online

General plan: Starting from the definition of symbiosis, we’ll analyze the role of symbioses in evolutionary terms.

Plant-fungal-bacteria symbioses will be presented to illustrate ecological networks and ecosystem services. Examples of different symbiotic associations (lichens, biofilm, mycorrhizas) will be given by specialists in the field in theoretical-practical lessons taking in consideration morphological, physiological and ecological aspects. Part of the course will be devoted to the human microbiome and insect-bacteria symbioses and their consequences on/potentialities for human and environmental health. Philosophical aspects and challenges brought by the new discoveries in the area will be discussed. Potential applications in technology like evolutionary algorithms and industrial symbiosis will be considered as well as sociological aspects associated to agroecology.

Final program




7 February


8 February

9 February


10 February


11 February


Eukaryote evolution 1

Rhizobium 5

Human microbiome 9

Multi-species aggregates 13


symbionts 17



Mutualism -parasitism

continuum 2

Marine cleaning mutualisms 6

Agroecology 10

Wolbachia 14

Artificial intelligence 18








Arbuscular mycorrhizas 3

Plant microbiome 7

Metagenomic data analysis 11


biofilms 15

Wikipedia 19 practical exercise



Corals 4

Insect symbioses 8

Anthropogenic changes and symbiosis 12




1 Eukaryogenesis in 3D – or is it 2D? - Ricardo Melo, University of Lisbon (Portugal).

2 The symbiotic continuum: a borderless world - Ana Corrêa, University of Lisbon (Portugal).

3 Arbuscular mycorrhizas: modern approaches to an ancient symbiosis - Andrea Genre, University of Turin (Italy).

4 Cnidarian-dinoflagellate symbioses: Foundations of coral reef ecosystems and imperiled by climate change - Virginia Weis, Oregon State University (USA).

5 Root Nodule Bacteria/Nitrogen Fixing Bacteria: what they do and how they work - Isabel Videira e Castro, National Institute for Agricultural and Veterinary Research (Portugal).

6 Bio-ecological responses of marine cleaning mutualisms to climate change - José Ricardo Paula, University of Lisbon (Portugal).

7 The hidden microbial world of plants – Pablo Carril Vaglini, University of Lisbon (Portugal).

8 Insect symbioses - Martin Kaltenpoth, Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz (Germany).

9 The human oral microbiome in health and disease - Nuno Taveira, University of Lisbon (Portugal).

10 Agroecology: symbiotic processes applied to agricultural production systems - David Avelar, University of Lisbon (Portugal).

11 Application of artificial intelligence in study of environmental impacts on symbiotic systems - Manju Gupta, University of Delhi (India).

12 Anthropogenic changes and symbiosis - Erik Olm, University of Mississippi (USA).

13 Multi-species aggregates and the question of organismality - Davide Vecchi, University of Lisbon (Portugal).

14 Wolbachia - Luis Teixeira, Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência (Portugal)

15 Microbial biofilms - Cristina Cruz, University of Lisbon (Portugal).

16 Symbiosis and Communication - Maria Amélia Martins-Loução and Cristina Cruz, University of Lisbon (Portugal).

17 Who does what? How to study the different symbionts in a lichen association – Silvana Munzi, University of Lisbon (Portugal).

18 Symbiosis in Artificial Intelligence - Luís Correia, University of Lisbon (Portugal).

19 Wikipedia, a “symbiotic project” - Silvana Munzi and Lourdes Morillas, University of Lisbon (Portugal).



Students fees




Free for 1st year PhD students in  Doctoral programmes  at FCUL (e.g. Biologia), Biodiversity, Genetics and Evolution (BIODIV UL; UP) and Biology and Ecology of Global Changes (BEAG UL, UA) when the course counts credits for their formation, in which case the delivery of a final report done after the course is mandatory; the course is also free for more advanced PhD students of the BIODIV programme (ULisboa or UPorto); 15 € for other PhD students from cE3c, 30 € for PhD students from institutions of the PEERS network (CFE); 55 € for FCUL Master students, more advanced PhD FCUL students and unemployed; 80 € for BTI, BI and other PhD students; 115 € for Professional and postdocs.

When the maximum number of students is reached, 10 vacancies will be available for non-paying 1st year PhD students mentioned above, being, by order of preference students from: 1) cE3c; 2) BIODIV (not from cE3c); 3) FCUL (not from cE3c); 4) Sustainability Science (not from cE3c or FCUL); 5) BEAG (not from cE3c or FCUL).

How to apply

Candidates should send an e-mail to Silvana Munzi (ssmunzi@fc.ul.pt)  with a short cv and motivation letter. The cv and letter should be named as 1st-lastNAME-CV.pdf and 1st-lastNAME-ML.pdf (that is personalize the name of each file with your first and last name).

In the email please add the following information:

Full Name:



Professional activity: Professional/Postdoc, BTI, BI (or other non-post-doc research grant), PhD student (with/ without scholarship), Lic. (Bachelor)/Master student

PhD student of the 1st year of a Doctoral programme at FCUL, BIODIV (FCUL/FCUP), or BEAG (FCUL or UA)?

If yes to the above question, PhD student doing the Course to count credits for 1st year?:

PhD student of cE3c or CEF (Centro de Ecologia Funcional)?:

Name of the PhD programme: