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

Fundamental Earth Sciences Program Area

Research Mission is to...Quantify fundamental processes that govern subsurface flow and transport through the development and application of cutting edge experimental and simulation methods.


Optimizing environmental and subsurface energy strategies requires understanding of the Earth’s responses to perturbations caused by energy extraction, waste storage and environmental change. Predicting these responses requires knowledge of geomechanical, geochemical, and hydrological processes that govern interactions between subsurface rocks and fluids. Research in the Fundamental Earth Sciences Program Area focuses on the use of cutting edge analytical and simulation capabilities to investigate the phenomena that operate at molecular-to-pore length scales, which control subsurface processes at larger scales. The fundamental knowledge gained through this research is critical to the long-term energy security of the United States and underpins many aspects of energy-related research in ESD and across Berkeley Lab.

Fundamental Earth Sciences imageExamples of ESD’s Fundamental Earth Sciences capabilities include:

  • Molecular-scale characterization of mineral-fluid and fluid-fluid interfaces, mineral nanoparticles and interfacial geochemical reactions using synchrotron x-ray, isotope ratio mass spectrometry, and neutron-scattering techniques
  • Ab initio and molecular-dynamics-simulations of structural and mechanistic aspects of geochemical processes
  • Experimental approaches to geochemistry, hydrology, and geomechanics under environmentally relevant physical and chemical conditions
  • Multiscale and multiphase reactive transport modeling to understand larger-scale geological system behavior and the effects of nanoscale and mesoscale processes
  • Rock physics and advanced geophysical imaging of subsurface systems

Program Area Leads

Donald J. DePaolo | | 510-486-7506

Ernest L. Majer | | 510-486-6708


  • Fundamental Geosciences
  • Laboratory Directed Research and Development

Fundamental Geosciences Program

Ernest L. Majer | | 510-486-6708

The Fundamental Geosciences Program, which is the primary program within the Fundamental Earth Sciences Program Area, is supported by the DOE-Basic Energy Sciences (BES). The three ESD projects funded by BES-Geosciences (Geophysics, Theoretical and Experimental Geochemistry, and Isotope Geochemistry) provide a world-class scientific expertise needed to underpin many subsurface energy strategies critical to the Nation. The BES-supported Energy Frontier Research Center at Berkeley Lab, which is focused on nanoscale control of CO2 in subsurface systems, is one of two geoscience-relevant Centers in the U.S. and the only one to be led by a National Laboratory.


Laboratory Directed Research and Development

Susan S. Hubbard | | 510-486-5266

Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) grants are also housed in the Fundamental Earth Sciences Program Area, although in practice ESD LDRDs are associated with all four ESD Program Areas. LDRDs are used to shape the evolution of ESD. They are used to support exciting research that is aligned with the Division’s research directions, as well as for strategic recruitment and retention. LDRDs are competitively funded by the Berkeley Lab Directorate, and can support both single investigator and multi-investigator projects.