Earth and Aquatic Sciences

Create and apply new knowledge across multiple scales to aid decision-makers on the stewardship of air, water, and land resources.

Many factors affect the fate, transport, transformation of metal and radionuclide contaminants found on DOE lands. A fundamental understanding of environmental inorganic and biological interactions is needed for deriving practical solutions to management of DOE land.  ORNL applies molecular to field-scale chemistry, hydrology, and microbiology expertise, together with neutron scattering, nano-materials sciences facilities, computing resources, and comprehensive models in the environmental remediation sciences research.  Multiple research projects are carried out with aims of improving scientific understanding of contaminant behaviors in environments including atmosphere, subsurface and stream sediment-water interface, and aquatic ecosystems. Two examples are given below:

The Integrated Field Research Challenge project focuses on quantifying the key coupled parameters such as pH, redox species, and microbial activity along contaminant pathways that control the transformation, transport and attenuation of uranium, technetium and nitrate.

At the Poplar Creek Watershed, research focuses on elucidating the abiotic and biotic  transformation pathways for mercury methylation/demethylation processes. This research aims at a fundamental understanding that will lead to means of enhancing demethylation and inhibiting methylation in the ecosystem thus limit the accumulation of the highly toxic methylmercury in the food chain.