From Lawrence Berkeley National Lab: “Berkeley Lab Receives DOE Support for Building to Study Microbe-Ecosystem Interactions for Energy and Environmental Research”

Berkeley Logo

From Lawrence Berkeley National Lab

July 3, 2019

Research related to the Microbial Community Analysis and Functional Evaluation in Soils (mCAFES) project. (Credit: Marilyn Chung/Berkeley Lab)

Members of the Ecosystems and Networks Integrated with Genes and Molecular Assemblies (ENIGMA) research consortium at work. (Credit: Marilyn Chung/Berkeley Lab)

Soil sampling work conducted as part of the Terrestrial Ecosystems Science Scientific Focus Area (TES). (Credit: Roy Kaldschmidt/Berkeley Lab)

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (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.

BioEPIC (for Biological and Environmental Program Integration Center) would integrate pioneering research in the prediction of biological and environmental processes – from microbes to watersheds – now underway in the Lab’s Biosciences Area and Earth and Environmental Sciences Area. This includes the Ecosystems and Networks Integrated with Genes and Molecular Assemblies (ENIGMA) Scientific Focus Area, the Watershed Function Scientific Focus Area, the Terrestrial Ecosystems Science Scientific Focus Area (TES), and the Microbial Community Analysis and Functional Evaluation in Soils (m-CAFEs) project. These projects leverage innovative research at field sites around the country (ENIGMA, Watershed, TES) and in controlled, fabricated laboratory ecosystems (m-CAFEs). The projects are supported by the Office of Biological and Environmental Research (BER) within DOE’s Office of Science.

BioEPIC is envisioned to enhance this existing research through a suite of next-generation research tools now being developed that would dramatically improve scientists’ ability to conduct carefully controlled experiments on soil-microbe-plant interactions. These tools would include instruments and computing infrastructure to virtually connect BioEPIC to relevant field sites, enabling the rapid transfer of insights discovered under laboratory conditions to the sites’ dynamic environments.

One new research tool planned for BioEPIC would be an EcoPOD. About the size of a phone booth, EcoPODs are envisioned to allow scientists to study plants, microbes, soil, and air in a fully instrumented and contained miniature ecosystem.

Another component proposed for BioEPIC would be a SMART (Sensors at Mesoscale for Autonomous Remote Telemetry) soils testbed, which would enable the exploration of soil-microbe-plant interactions under controlled yet “realistic” conditions that include soil and plant variability and hydrogeochemical gradients.

At the other end of the environmental biology scale range, a new BER-funded cryo-electron microscopy resource in BioEPIC would enable researchers to interrogate microbial interactions at the atomic level.

Co-locating these capabilities in one building would enable researchers to quantify how microbes influence the environment and how the environment influences microbial processes, across scales – from molecules to ecosystems, and from seconds to years. In addition to scientific discoveries, these new capabilities could lead to entirely new ways to harness microbes for game-changing solutions. Examples include more efficient methods for improving soil and water quality, enhanced terrestrial carbon storage, better drought-tolerance in crops, and higher-yield plant precursors for biofuels.

“We are pleased that the Office of Biological and Environmental Research is entrusting us to develop the new capabilities needed to advance our understanding of these complex ecosystems, which will further our predictive understanding of biological-environmental processes across scales,” says Berkeley Lab Director Mike Witherell.

The recent DOE approval, called Critical Decision 1, or CD-1, authorizes Berkeley Lab to begin preliminary architectural and engineering design work for BioEPIC, a proposed four-story, 72,000-square-foot laboratory and office building capable of housing approximately 200 scientists and visitors. BioEPIC is proposed to be located on a cleared lot that formerly held Berkeley Lab’s famed Bevatron particle accelerator. The building would be funded by the Office of Science’s Science Laboratories Infrastructure (SLI) Program.

BioEPIC research would benefit from the five DOE Office of Science User Facilities now located at Berkeley Lab: the Advanced Light Source (ALS), Molecular Foundry, National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), Energy Sciences Network (ESnet), and Joint Genome Institute (JGI).

See the full article here .


Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

Stem Education Coalition

Bringing Science Solutions to the World

In the world of science, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) is synonymous with “excellence.” Thirteen Nobel prizes are associated with Berkeley Lab. Seventy Lab scientists are members of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), one of the highest honors for a scientist in the United States. Thirteen of our scientists have won the National Medal of Science, our nation’s highest award for lifetime achievement in fields of scientific research. Eighteen of our engineers have been elected to the National Academy of Engineering, and three of our scientists have been elected into the Institute of Medicine. In addition, Berkeley Lab has trained thousands of university science and engineering students who are advancing technological innovations across the nation and around the world.

Berkeley Lab is a member of the national laboratory system supported by the U.S. Department of Energy through its Office of Science. It is managed by the University of California (UC) and is charged with conducting unclassified research across a wide range of scientific disciplines. Located on a 202-acre site in the hills above the UC Berkeley campus that offers spectacular views of the San Francisco Bay, Berkeley Lab employs approximately 3,232 scientists, engineers and support staff. The Lab’s total costs for FY 2014 were $785 million. A recent study estimates the Laboratory’s overall economic impact through direct, indirect and induced spending on the nine counties that make up the San Francisco Bay Area to be nearly $700 million annually. The Lab was also responsible for creating 5,600 jobs locally and 12,000 nationally. The overall economic impact on the national economy is estimated at $1.6 billion a year. Technologies developed at Berkeley Lab have generated billions of dollars in revenues, and thousands of jobs. Savings as a result of Berkeley Lab developments in lighting and windows, and other energy-efficient technologies, have also been in the billions of dollars.

Berkeley Lab was founded in 1931 by Ernest Orlando Lawrence, a UC Berkeley physicist who won the 1939 Nobel Prize in physics for his invention of the cyclotron, a circular particle accelerator that opened the door to high-energy physics. It was Lawrence’s belief that scientific research is best done through teams of individuals with different fields of expertise, working together. His teamwork concept is a Berkeley Lab legacy that continues today.

A U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratory Operated by the University of California.

University of California Seal

DOE Seal