Berkeley Lab has funded 89 LDRD projects for FY19 at a total value of $22.2M. Proposals have been accepted from 11 EESA research scientists as part of the FY19 LDRD program. Eight of these project teams were awarded renewal funds to continue work begun during the previous fiscal year, and there are three new projects.

Collectively, these EESA project teams are working to improve insights into matters such as the impact of extreme events on water quality and supply, and to develop revolutionary technologies capable of assessing everything from regional seismic hazard and risk to the electro-conductivity present within soils of the shallow subsurface.

Other projects are focused on leveraging machine learning for the identification of scalable approaches to groundwater management, and on exploring changes of subsurface rock fractures at pore scale.

Research scientists Hang Deng, Michelle Newcomer, and Baptiste Dafflon are new LDRD awardees. Their investigations alone are a stunning example of how EESA is contributing to solving some of society’s most critical environmental problems that stem from atmospheric changes or burgeoning population growth. Read about them in detail below.


David Romps
Atmospheric Observation and Forecasting
Trevor Keenan portrait
Trevor Keenan
Developing theory of photosynthetic acclimation from first principles

Baptiste Dafflon
UAV-mounted Passive ElectroMagnetic (EM) Sensor for Spatiotemporal Imaging of Shallow Subsurface Pro
*NEW LDRD – Read more>>

Michelle Newcomer
Climate and Hydrological Controls on Coastal Algal Blooms
*NEW LDRD – Read more>>

Daniel Stolper
Isotopic constraints on the chemical and thermal conditions of thermogenic methane formation

Erica Woodburn
A New Approach to Predicting the Effect of Climate Extremes on California’s Water Supply

Kurt Nihei
High-Resolution Ultra-Dense Seismic Array Imaging of Geological Properties for Regional Seismic Hazard and Risk Assessment
Nicolas Spycher
Nicolas Spycher
Efficient Desalination through Better Predictive Models

Peter Nico
Developing Science-Based Approaches to Groundwater Recharge

Hang Deng
Pore-scale Investigation of Fracture Alteration in Multiphase Systems
*NEW LDRD – Read more>>

Da Yang
Toward Accurately Predicting California Hydroclimate by Cracking the Tropical Storm King


Algal blooms, such as the one pictured here, are the subject of one of 11 EESA research projects funded under Berkeley Lab’s Fiscal Year 2019 LDRD program.


Michelle Newcomer is one of three EESA research scientists to receive funding for new projects under the FY19 LDRD program. Her study, “Hydrological and Climate Controls on Coastal Algal Blooms,” is focused on improving understanding of how hydrology and climate can impact rivers and coastal systems to lead to harmful, costly algal blooms. Algal blooms create toxic oceanic dead zones worldwide, cripple coastal power and seawater desalination facilities, and shut down fishery and crab industries due to human health hazards. Despite increasing regulations, the occurrence of harmful blooms has doubled, resulting in economic impacts costing the U.S. over $2 billion annually. A major scientific gap exists for predicting algal bloom onset and degradation to toxic conditions given the myriad of non-linear drivers: climate and ocean conditions, terrestrial exports and bloom delivery, biogeochemical loads, food-web collapse and trophic cascades, predator-prey interactions, and species competition. Missing from this paradigm is a fundamental understanding of how terrestrial, aquatic, and coastal processes correlate to facilitate this perfect storm. The purpose of this research is to create a new ‘systems-based’ paradigm, that links together these influencers for improved predicting and understanding of algal bloom occurrence.


Pore-scale understanding of the coupling between multiphase fluid dynamics and reactions is important for accurate prediction of fracture evolution and assessment of different subsurface systems.


Hang Deng is a research scientist with expertise in experimental and numerical investigations of fracture evolution in heterogeneous porous media triggered by geochemical reactions. She received Early-Career LDRD funding for “Pore-scale Investigation of Fracture Alteration in Multiphase Systems.” Rock fractures are ubiquitous throughout Earth systems and act as preferential conduits for chemicals and fluids within the Earth’s subsurface. Better information about how fluids from natural- and anthropogenic activity impact these rock fractures can help scientists predict the migration of water, nutrients, and contaminants in Earth’s critical zones—and potentially facilitate safer access to clean energy sources derived from the subsurface, and the sustainable use of the subsurface for energy and waste storage through methods such as CSS (carbon capture and sequestration). Hang’s project is focused on understanding how pore-scale dynamics arise from the presence of multiple fluids (for example, oil and water) impact fracture evolution in comparison with systems involving a single fluid, about which far more is known. Such understanding is also critical in order to improve current treatments of multiphase reactive fluid flow in fractured rocks in large-scale computer simulations.

Baptiste Dafflon collects monitoring data of an Arctic ecosystem using a UAV.

Baptiste Dafflon collects monitoring data of an Arctic ecosystem using a UAV. (Photo credit: EESA/Berkeley Lab)

.A major challenge in managing the terrestrial environment and infrastructure is to understand and quantify the spatial and temporal distribution of soil properties. Geophysical techniques hold potential for providing subsurface property information at high resolution and in a non-invasive manner, and for complementing sparse yet direct point-scale measurements. Dafflon has received FY19 LDRD funding for developing a “UAV-Mounted Passive ElectroMagnetic (EM) Sensor for Spatiotemporal Imaging of Shallow Subsurface Properties” to continuously capture dynamics of soil electrical conductivity in the top 10-20 meters of soil. To improve the prediction of water and heat fluxes and investigate interactions between surface and subsurface processes, the project team is developing a UAV-mounted ElectroMagnetic (EM) sensor with mapping, inversion, and merging capability to remotely monitor the subsurface in high resolution. EESA has previously documented the utility of electrical signature, but ground-based methods are laborious, invasive, and expensive. Baptiste’s team plans to leverage recent technological breakthroughs in hardware components that show potential for developing a novel UAV-based EM sensing approach.