About the Earth Sciences Division

Research in earth and atmospheric sciences is becoming increasingly important in light of the energy, climate change, and environmental issues facing the United States and the world. The development of new energy resources other than hydrocarbons and the safe disposal of nuclear waste and greenhouse gases (such as carbon dioxide and methane) are critical to the future energy needs and environmental safety of this planet. In addition, the cleanup of many contaminated sites in the U.S., along with the preservation and management of our water supply, remain key challenges for us as well as future generations. In order to address future energy and environmental issues, we think that it is critical to integrate the earth sciences and disciplines in a timely fashion. This will involve focusing on fundamental, crosscutting science common to many energy and environmental issues. A primary focus will be the characterization, imaging, and manipulation of fluids in the earth. This addresses many U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) applications from environmental restoration to energy extraction and optimization.

The Earth Sciences Division (ESD) of the Ernest Orlando Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) is currently addressing many of the key technical issues described above. Our total staff of over 200 scientists, UC Berkeley faculty, support staff and guests—performing world-acclaimed fundamental research in hydrogeology and reservoir engineering, geophysics and geomechanics, geochemistry, microbial ecology, and environmental engineering—provide the foundation for all of our programs. Building on this scientific foundation, we perform applied earth science research and technology development to support the DOE in a number of its program areas, namely:

  • Climate and Carbon Sciences—carbon cycling in the oceans and terrestrial biosphere, and regional climate modeling, the cornerstones of a major new divisional research thrust related to understanding/mitigating the effects of increased greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere
  • Energy Resources—collaborative projects with industry to develop or improve technologies for the exploration and production of oil, gas, and geothermal reservoirs
  • Environmental Remediation and Water Resources—innovative technologies for locating, containing, and remediating metals, radionuclides, chlorinated solvents, and energy-related contaminants in soils and groundwaters
  • Fundamental and Exploratory Research—fundamental research to provide a basis for new and improved energy and environmental technologies
  • Geologic Carbon Sequestration—fundamental research, field testing and analysis of geological storage and testing to demonstrate the potential for CO2 storage in deep geological formations
  • Nuclear Energy and Waste—theoretical, experimental, and simulation studies of the unsaturated zone at Yucca Mountain, Nevada

These programs draw from each of ESD’s disciplinary departments: Ecology, Geophysics, Geochemistry, Hydrogeology, and Climate Science. Program Heads and Department Heads work together to align scientific expertise to address research challenges and key technical issues.


We gratefully acknowledge the support of our major sponsors in the Department of Energy, which include the Office of Science, the Office of Fossil Energy, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management, and the Office of Environmental Management. We also appreciate the support received from other state and federal agencies such as the Bureau of Reclamation, the Department of Defense, the Environmental Protection Agency, and NASA. Lastly, we must also acknowledge and thank our industrial, as well as international collaborators, who provide both financial and in-kind support through various partnership projects, and who bring additional ideas, data, and experience to ESD.