Program Domain

Environmental & Biological Systems Science

Develop a predictive understanding of environmental processes and microbial metabolic diversity that mediate biogeochemical cycles, and develop robust environmental solutions.


Coffee bean borer on coffee bean; caffeine chain upper left; bacteria image from beetle gut right. Crop 16:9.

Ecosystems Biology Program

The Ecosystems Biology Program focuses on discovering and understanding the molecular basis of plant, microbial and metazoan interactions, including specific gene functions, species interactions, and community dynamics under a variety of environmental conditions—and developing the advanced technology that enables such understanding.



Research projects in EESA’s Bioenergy Program apply synthetic biology, bioengineering, and microbiology to foster renewable fuel production. Key themes of the Bioenergy Program include: (1) developing novel biofuel pathways in bacteria, (2) exploiting microbial metabolic diversity for biofuel production and lignocellulose deconstruction, and (3) mitigating petroleum souring.


Physical, chemical and biological soil and subsurface interactions are critical to sustaining life. These interactions regulate the geochemical flux of life-critical elements, control food production, and purify water. Biologically based processes can also be used to extract or enhance natural energy resources. It is imperative to deepen our quantitative and predictive understanding of how abiotic and biotic components interact to ensure the sustainability of these critical terrestrial systems and to pursue the potential for new green solutions.

A key characteristic of EESA’s Environmental & Biological Systems Science Program Domain is its ability to interrogate and interpret small-scale biological processes within the context of larger Earth systems, such as molecules in leaves, and microbial communities in terrestrial and marine environments and in energy reservoirs. Scientists working in this Program Domain strive to expand their understanding to predict how living systems are organized and function, from molecular  to watershed and reservoir scales. Scientists also develop cutting-edge tools to facilitate such understanding, including the 2008 R&D 100 award-winning PhyloChip and the EESA-led Berkeley Synchrotron Infrared Structural Biology (BSISB) program. EESA scientists draw on extensive environmental science expertise in the Earth and Environmental Sciences Area, and have a reputation for path-breaking work in molecular environmental microbiology, microbial physiology, shallow subsurface biogeochemistry, environmental geophysics, and multiscale mechanistic modeling of microbially mediated processes.

Research in this Program Domain is aligned with the LBNL Biosciences Area strategic direction. In particular, it contributes to the quantification of how microbial communities interact with and transform the functioning of dynamic and heterogeneous Earth systems.

Research in this Program Domain is also closely aligned with the Biosphere-Atmosphere Interactions Program Domain, because quantifying the effect of climate change on biological systems (and vice versa) must consider bedrock-to-atmospheric processes.

This Program Domain is part of the Climate and Ecosystem Sciences Division.