News & Events

EESA Develops New Approach to Restock California’s Groundwater via Almond Orchards, Vineyards

Flooding of California almond orchard for groundwater recharge demonstration project

Groundwater—the water stored underneath the Earth’s surface between the cracks and spaces in soil, sand, and bedrock—is essential for the California residents and farmers who rely on it for up to 46 percent of their annual water use. Yet during the 2012-2017 drought, the state’s surface water supply was not sufficient to meet demand, resulting in excess groundwater pumping that caused land subsidence of up to 13 inches in some parts of the San Joaquin Valley. Now a team of scientists at Berkeley Lab’s Earth & Environmental Sciences Area are working with farmers and partners like the Almond Board of California and UC Davis to test on-farm banking, a new approach that has the potential to manage groundwater more sustainably. It’s an improvement on the age-old method of groundwater recharge, the process of replenishing aquifers by infiltrating water from the surface into shallow aquifers. “On-farm banking has the promise of making the most productive use of the greatest amount of land possible while increasing the reliability and resiliency of California’s groundwater supply,” says EESA scientist Peter Nico, a soil and environmental biogeochemist.

Read More

EESA Scientist Builds Cross-Border Collaborations for Geothermal Research

CICESE geothermal researchers in Mexico.

Thirty-five years ago, Berkeley Lab’s Earth & Environmental Sciences Area (EESA) scientist Patrick Dobson began his career as a graduate student by conducting field mapping, collecting fluid samples, and learning the ropes from local scientists at the Los Azufres geothermal field in Michoacán, Mexico. During his summer doing field work in Mexico, he met Berkeley Lab’s Marcelo Lippmann, who was attending a symposium on the Cerro Prieto geothermal field, the subject of a collaborative research project between the Lab (funded by the U.S. Department of Energy) and the Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE), Mexico’s state-owned utility. Now—after decades of leading geothermal exploration projects all over the world, including Indonesia, Central America, and South America— Dobson’s work has come full circle. Earlier this year, he spent two weeks in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico as a Fulbright Specialist in geothermal research. Hosted by the Center for Scientific Investigation and Higher Education in Ensenada (CICESE), one of the main hubs for geothermal work in the country, Dobson met with Mexican researchers to share knowledge, identify areas of mutual interest, and explore potential areas of collaboration.

Read More

Berkeley Lab Scientists Brief California Science Advisory Panel for Food and Agriculture

Crops in California's Central Valley

As two-thirds of the fruits and nuts—and over a third of the vegetables—produced in the United States are grown in California, it’s crucial that the Golden State cultivate healthy soils that are resilient to stresses such as climate change, drought, and groundwater overuse. Now scientists at Berkeley Lab’s Earth & Environmental Sciences Area (EESA) and Biosciences Area are contributing to the effort by sharing their expertise with the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA)’s Science Advisory Panel, a group comprised of farmers, agriculture professionals, and experts in areas such as water, conservation, and resource management. Last week, EESA scientist Peter Nico hosted the panel at the Lab to brief them on research related to developing healthy soils, sustainable groundwater management strategies, and climate-adaptive agriculture.

Read More

EESA Scientist to Lead Multimillion-Dollar Geothermal Energy Project

Berkeley Lab scientist Tim Kneafsey in his laboratory

Tim Kneafsey, a staff scientist at Berkeley Lab's Earth & Environmental Sciences Area, will lead a new $9 million project aimed at removing technical barriers to commercialization of enhanced geothermal systems (EGS), a clean energy technology with the potential to power 100 million American homes. Berkeley Lab will partner with seven other DOE national labs and six universities to develop field experiments focused on understanding and modeling rock fractures, an essential element of geothermal systems. Scientists will use the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) in South Dakota to create small-scale fracture networks in crystalline rock 1,500 meters below ground.

Read More

New Data Archive Aims to Amplify Impact of Ecosystem Research

data servers

As environmental scientists move towards understanding earth systems at greater resolution than ever before, it’s critical that they have access to needed data sets. Yet much of these data are not archived, publicly available, or collected in a standardized format, due to the multiple challenges of coordinating efforts across independent research groups and institutions worldwide. Now researchers at Berkeley Lab are taking action to address these challenges. Thanks to $3.6 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Office of Science, the Lab’s Computing Sciences and Earth & Environmental Sciences Area (EESA) are partnering on a three-year project to develop an archive that will serve as a repository for hundreds of DOE-funded research projects.

Read More

EESA Celebrates 40 Years of Innovative Research

Today we celebrate 40 years of innovative research. On July 17, 1977, Berkeley Lab formed the Earth Sciences Division (ESD) in response to the U.S. energy crisis. Now—as the Earth & Environmental Sciences Area (EESA)—it has evolved into a research group studying a broad range of the most pressing environmental and subsurface energy challenges. To commemorate the occasion, EESA has created a a collection of materials that tells the Area’s story: a timeline, a video, and an alumni and friends network page.

Read More