Berkeley Lab recently received federal approval to proceed with preliminary design work for a state-of-the-art building that would revolutionize investigations into how interactions among microbes, water, soil, and plants shape entire ecosystems. Research performed in the building could help address many of today’s energy, water, and food challenges.
Long ago, during the European Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci wrote that we humans “know more about the movement of celestial bodies than about the soil underfoot.” Five hundred years and innumerable technological and scientific advances later, his sentiment still holds true. But that could soon change. A new study in Nature Communications details how an improved method for studying microbes in the soil will help scientists understand both fine-grained details and large-scale cycles of the environment.
Like a tiny needle in a sprawling hayfield, a single crystal grain measuring just tens of millionths of a meter – found in a borehole sample drilled in Central Siberia – had an unexpected chemical makeup. And a specialized X-ray technique in use at Berkeley Lab confirmed the sample’s uniqueness and paved the way for its formal recognition as a newly discovered mineral: ognitite.
For years, routine testing has shown that watersheds of the Mahaulepu Valley and Waikomo Stream in southeast Kauai frequently contain high counts of potentially pathogenic fecal indicator bacteria (FIB). To better understand the cause of the high FIB counts, the DOH commissioned a study by Berkeley Lab microbial ecologists Gary Andersen and Eric Dubinsky. After using a powerful microbial detection tool called the PhyloChip, the scientists concluded that most of the past monitoring results were false positives.
The overpumping of groundwater in California has led to near environmental catastrophe in some areas – land is sinking, seawater is intruding, and groundwater storage capacity has shrunk. But researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory believe machine learning could be part of the solution to restoring groundwater to sustainable levels and quality.
Wastewater is treated by an activated sludge process in municipal wastewater treatment plants and returned to the environment for use. This treatment process has been used for over a century, and today represents the largest application of biotechnology in the world, yet there has been no effort to map the global activated sludge microbiome. A
Methane, a potent greenhouse gas that traps about 30 times more heat than carbon dioxide, is commonly released from rice fields, dairies, landfills, and oil and gas facilities – all of which are plentiful in California. Now Berkeley Lab has been awarded $6 million by the state to find “super emitters” of methane in an effort to quantify and potentially mitigate methane emissions.
When there are multiple factors at play in a situation that is itself changing, such as an El Nino winter in a changing climate, how can scientists figure out what is causing what? Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have developed an advanced statistical method for quantifying and visualizing changes in environmental systems and easily
Two Berkeley Lab scientists – climate scientist Inez Fung of the Earth and Environmental Sciences Area, and chemist Martin Head-Gordon of the Energy Sciences Area – have been elected to the Royal Society of London, the oldest scientific academic society in continuous existence.
Berkeley Lab climate experts have partnered with the City and County of San Francisco and Silvestrum Climate Associates to assess how climate change may influence the intensity of atmospheric rivers and associated precipitation, and how those changes may impact San Francisco and its infrastructure.