Soil Microbiology Short Course

The Soil Microbiology Short Course was presented at Ahmadu Bello University in January-March 2011 by Mary Ann Bruns of The Pennsylvania State University with support from the ASM Global Outreach Program and ABU’s Department of Soil Science.
Ahmadu Bello University Gate

Ahmadu Bello University Gate

Participants included 25 graduate students, instructors, and staff from Soil Science in the Faculty of Agriculture and Microbiology in the Faculty of Science. Some participants also attended from nearby universities and from ABU’s Biotechnology Centre.

Topics covered microbial cell components, 16S rRNA-based phylogeny of bacteria, DNA extraction, PCR, cloning and sequencing, and bioinformatics tools. Lab activities included plate counting of soil heterotrophs, soil moisture corrections, and microbial characterization. Molecular biology labs were carried out in the Biotechnology Lab of the Plant Science Department and included soil DNA extraction, extraction of microbial DNA from legume nodules, and PCR with primers for rRNA and nifH genes.

One portion of the short course involved preparation and presentation of short research proposals. Most of these presentations focused on ongoing research by ABU participants in three areas:

  • legume-rhizobium symbioses and plant-microbe-nutrient interactions,
  • bioremediation of environmental pollutants, and
  • tracking of enteric pathogens in irrigation water and irrigated soils and vegetables.

Field trips included visits to ABU’s water treatment plant, Kadawa irrigated agricultural site near Kano, and a tannery in Kano’s Challawa industrial park.

We would like to thank MoBio, Inc., for donating the PowerSoil® and PowerBiofilm® DNA extraction kits used in the short course labs. Special thanks to MoBio’s Suzanne Kennedy for sending t-shirts to short course participants.

Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria Nigeria

Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) was established in 1962 and is the largest university in SubSaharan Africa with more than 35,000 students. Located in Samaru-Zaria in Kaduna State, ABU is named after Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello, the first premier of Northern Nigeria following the country’s independence in 1960. See more at

The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) is the oldest and largest life science organization in the world. Its Global Outreach Program offers International Professorships to facilitate exchanges of microbiology professionals between institutions in different countries. The 2009–10 visit to Penn State by Fulbright Fellow and ABU Professor Joshua Ogunwole spurred Mary Ann Bruns to apply for an ASM professorship to teach a short course at ABU.

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