Berkeley Lab

Flux Tower Deployment and Peak SWE Snow Sampling

Flux tower installation at Pumphouse floodplain site

Flux tower being installed at the Pumphouse floodplain site.

Tied to the DOE-funded project led by Drs. Reed Maxwell and Dave Gochis (“Diagnosing dominant controls on carbon exchanges in high altitude, western U.S. headwaters”), the long-awaited flux tower was installed at the Pumphouse floodplain intensive study site on April 13, 2017.

Flux tower installation:

Synoptic view of installation and site conditions and infrastructure:–QWs

Tony Brown (~6ft tall) standing in the 3-meter snow pit at the Upper Subalpine site.

Sampling during peak SWE (Snow Water Equivalent) conditions

On April 2-3, 2017, SFA team members dug snow pits to collect vertically-resolved measurements of snow density and samples for geochemical analysis.  Snow depths were ~50% greater than in 2016 at the same time of year.
A video highlighting conditions at the Upper Subalpine site and the headwaters of Rock Creek at the time of sampling can be found here:

Other site updates

For those who have followed the time-lapse evolution of conditions on Meander A, a video presenting conditions and infrastructure tied to the DOE-funded work of Mike Wilkins (Ohio State) investigating stream bed hyporheic exchange can be found here:

Jill Banfield named 2017 Goldschmidt Medalist

Reposted from the Berkeley Lab EESA blog

Jill Banfield, Faculty Scientist in Earth & Environmental Sciences at LBNL, Professor at UC Berkeley, and member of the SFA team, has been named 2017’s recipient of the V.M. Goldschmidt Award. This award recognizes major achievements in geochemistry or cosmochemistry. Her work focuses on geomicrobiology—natural microbial communities in the terrestrial subsurface, sediments, water, biofilms and animals. She also studies nanoparticle formation and behavior in the natural environment.

Jill will receive her award at the Goldschmidt 2017 conference in Paris, France, this August.

Read the Geochemical Society’s announcement.

Watershed Function SFA Research in Discover’s Top 100 of 2016


Cover for Discover Magazine’s “Top 100 Stories of 2016”

Watershed Function SFA research—leading to the discovery of previously unknown species throughout the bacterial branches of the Tree of Life—was included in Discover Magazine’s “Top 100 Stories of 2016“, at #97 in the list.

The accolade accentuates the abundant media coverage the research garnered in April 2016 when it was first published. In fact, the article’s Altmetric score earned it spot #79 in Altmetric’s “Top 100 Articles of 2016“.

Stelzer Embarks on “Homeward Bound” Journey to Antarctica

Times in Greenland and AntarcticaThis week, Heidi Steltzer will embark on an Antarctic voyage as one of the first participants of “Homeward Bound“, a strategic and science initiative for women.  Read her blog post here.

Watershed Function SFA Featured in Crested Butte Magazine

Crested Butte 2016/17 coverThe semiannual magazine—popular with both locals and out of town guests—featured a short story about Watershed Function SFA research activities.

Find the article on page 18 (digital page 20) of the Winter 2016/17 edition on the Crested Butte Magazine Website. Or go here for a direct link to the story.

Facebook Page “mountaindaughters” highlights Heidi Steltzer’s Homeward Bound experience

heidi on peak
Image: Heidi on a peak in Greenland.

The Facebook page serves as a forum for sharing updates on science and adventure in the world’s mountains, including Heidi Steltzer’s upcoming Homeward Bound experience. Through Homeward Bound, Heidi Steltzer will join 76 women with science backgrounds from around the world on a December 2016 voyage to the Antarctic, on which they will gain skills in leadership and strategy towards increasing the impact of science in society. Learn more here, and join the group for updates.

Blog: If you have sore legs, is it a mountain?

Image: Christian John, Eric Post, Nell Hermann, and Heidi Steltzer, July 2016, Greenland Ice Sheet

This summer, Heidi Steltzer worked in Greenland with an Arctic colleague, Eric Post, at his long-term study site, providing him with a ‘mountain’ perspective on the landscape and discussing its similarities to those the WF SFA studies in Colorado. Read her blog here.

Blog: Not as planned – First five weeks at RMBL

Image: Vole-chewed cables

In her blog, Heidi Steltzer chronicles the (unexpected) challenges faced in the first five weeks of her 2016 summer field season. Read the full story here.

Two CESD Directors Visit East River

Dr. Gary Geernaert (Director of Climate & Environmental Sciences Division, DOE-BER) and Dr. Bill Collins (Director of Climate & Ecosystem Sciences Division, Berkeley Lab) joined Dr. Kenneth H. Williams for a tour of Berkeley Lab’s Watershed Function Science Focus Area (SFA) East River field site near Crested Butte, Colorado on July 28-29, 2016.

The tour gave both directors an opportunity 1) to assess the growing DOE and EESA research footprint at the field site, including visits to both active and planned SFA study plots; 2) to assess available infrastructure, including that supported by the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory; and 3) to meet local stakeholders in the areas of water availability and water quality. Also joining the tour were Dr. Reed Maxwell (Colorado School of Mines) and Dr. Lindsay Bearup (Berkeley Lab) who described hydrological modeling activities ongoing at the field site and their relevance to broader DOE and Berkeley Lab mission areas in hydroclimate research.

Left to Right: Reed Maxwell, Gary Geernaert, Bill Collins, Ken Williams

Left to Right: Reed Maxwell, Gary Geernaert, Bill Collins, Ken Williams

SFA Team Members Get UAS-Certified


Matt explaining the operation of the DJI Phantom 2.

Six LBL researchers—including 4 Watershed Function SFA team members—traveled to Idaho National Laboratory (INL) to take an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) training.

The training course included a classroom briefing and hands-on pilot experience. Course instructor Matt Balderree offered thorough responses to attendee questions, and encouraged teamwork among participants—something which is crucial while conducting UAS operations in the field for reasons of safety, mitigating damage to equipment, and ensuring accurate collection of data.

The final test for pilot proficiency involved doing 2 figure 8’s around two pylons within a virtual rectangular box (10 x 40 meters). The test had to be completed within 2 minutes while maintaining heading in direction of travel.

Congratulations to Sebastien Biraud, Stephen Chan, Baptiste Dafflon, Emmanuel Leger, John Peterson, Craig Ulrich on successfully achieving pilot proficiency! Phil Long, also in attendance, was trained as a UAS observer.


Baptiste Dafflon starting his final flight test! John Peterson is his observer. Matt is checking to make sure his flight path meets the test requirements.