Earth Sciences Division (ESD) Department of Energy (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL)

Earth Sciences Division Staff: Ernest L. Majer

Ernest Majer

Ernest L. Majer


Senior Advisor, Deputy Division Director - Operations

Geophysics Department


Phone: 510-486-6709

Fax: 510-486-5686


Biographical Summary

Ernie Majer has had a distinguished career as an energy geophysicist at LBNL. While a graduate student in geophysics at U.C. Berkeley, he came to work at LBNL in the late 1970s and early 1980s to do seismic wave analyses for field studies in geothermal and petroleum regions. As part of seismological explorations in Nevada and Northern California, he tested exploration instruments and data processing/interpretation techniques for locating and assessing potential geothermal and petroleum sources. This work led to characterizing acoustic emissions and microseismic activity associated with geothermal and petroleum reservoir management, the underground storage of nuclear waste (thermal and radiation effects), determining the path of hydrofractures associated with stimulation and stress measurement activities, and tracking fluid injection fronts.

Throughout this period, Majer was developing the Automated Seismic Processor, or ASP, the first mobile, computerized processor to identify, locate, and measure very small seismic events (micro-earthquakes) in real time. The motivation for developing the ASP was the need to simplify routine micro-earthquake data acquisition and reduction, as well as improve the cost effectiveness of geothermal investigations. The ASP made it practically and economically feasible to do advanced seismic surveys as part of geothermal exploration. The ASP won an R&D 100 award in 1984. Soon after, to take advantage of dramatic improvements in CPU and memory in the late 1980s, Majer and his team built an updated, faster version of the ASP, which could also save waveforms.

Taking over as Group Leader of ESD’s Geophysics/Geomechanics Department in the late 1980s, Majer expanded his work to include wave propagation studies of reservoir sites. Activities focused on utilizing multicomponent vertical seismic profiling (VSP) and high resolution tomographic mapping techniques, with an initial emphasis on fractured rock sites and then on heterogeneous near-surface soils--with the goal of linking transport parameters to the geophysical parameters through laboratory studies of rock and soil physics. In conjunction with these projects, Majer also carried out work to develop in-field, seismic data acquisition and processing systems for crosswell and single well systems.

As Head of the ESD Subsurface Geosciences, Geophysics/ Geomechanics Department in the 1990s, and later as ESD Deputy Director and Acting ESD Director in the early- and mid-2000s, Majer extended his subsurface geophysics work to include not only recovery of conventional and alternative energy sources, but also the application of geophysical methods to study subsurface bacterial transport (in connection with environmental remediation) and CO2 sequestration Work has focused on complex geologic environments such as fractured reservoirs, heterogeneous environments, and multiphase/multifluid reservoirs. Recent emphasis has been on using geophysical methods to allow improved energy efficiency for extraction of resources from tight gas sands and oil sands,  through application of alternative methods  such as seismic stimulation, microbially enhanced oil recovery, and high resolution imaging of  in situ processes.


  • Ph.D., June 1978 Geophysics, University of California, Berkeley
  • M.A., December 1972 Geophysics, University of California, Berkeley
  • B.S., June 1971 Mining Engineering-Applied Geophysics Option, Columbia University,  New York, New York
  • B.A., June 1971 Math-Physics, Whitman College, Walla Walla, Washington

Professional Experience

  • Staff Scientist, Earth Sciences Division, 1978 - 1986 Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory
  • Staff Scientist, Group Leader Geophysics/Geomechanics Group Earth Sciences Division, 1986 - 1994 Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory
  • Staff Scientist, Department Head/Subsurface Geosciences, Geophysics/ Geomechanics Earth Sciences Division, 1994 - 2002 Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory
  • Staff Scientist, Earth Sciences Division Deputy Director, 2002 – present, Acting Division Director  2006 – 2007  Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Honors and Awards

  • American Geophysical Union
  • American Association for the Advance of Science
  • Environmental and Engineering Geophysical Society
  • Seismological Society of America
  • Society of Exploration Geophysicists
  • Associate, Seismographic Stations, University of California
  • IR100 Award, Development of ASP
  • Patent for Borehole Shear-wave Source #5131488

Lab Service

  • Panel on Annual Review of U.S. Progress in Rock Mechanics, National Research Council 1987-1989.
  • Coordinator of Geophysics for Management and Organization Team, USDOE Yucca Mountain Project. 1995 - 1999
    • Duties include coordinating and advising on all geophysical work among the individual participants of the Project (USGS, LLNL, LANL, SNL, LBNL, SAIC).  This covers all well logging, surface and subsurface geophysics.
  • Co-subprogram Coordinator, (with Dr. F. Brockman PNL), Subsurface Science Program on Bacterial Heterogeneity, U. S. Dept. of Energy, Office of Health and Environmental Research, 1993 - 1999.
    • Planning and implementation of a fundamental research program in defining physical and chemical properties controlling natural bacterial heterogeneity.  Principle investigators from four national laboratories and five universities are involved.
  • Interdisciplinary Committee on Rock Mechanics, (G. Cooper, chair), University of California, Berkeley, 1992-present.
    • Advising on future research directions in rock mechanics and facilitating interaction between Berkeley Lab and campus.
  • Co-chair Non-Invasive Monitoring for DOE Site-Wide Vadose Zone Road Mapping, 2001-2002
  • Science Advisory Panel for INEEL Subsurface Science Initiative 2003-2005