Biosciences Division


The Environmental Sciences Division (ESD) is an interdisciplinary research and development organization with more than 60 years of achievement in local, national, and international environmental research. Our vision is to expand scientific knowledge and develop innovative strategies and technologies that will strengthen the nation's leadership in creating solutions to help sustain the Earth’s natural resources. Scientists in ESD conduct research, develop technology, and perform analyses to understand and assess responses of environmental systems at the environment-human interface and the consequences of alternative energy and environmental strategies. We seek to understand how natural and anthropogenic factors (e.g., global and regional change, environmental stress, and energy production and use) interact to influence environmental systems and society. Our methods integrate field and laboratory methods with new theory, modeling, data systems, policy analysis, and evaluation to create solutions to complex environmental challenges.

We have six core areas of research that frame our objectives in advancing environmental science, technology, and policy:

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

  • Atmospheric and Aerosol Sciences
  • Ecological Assessment
  • Environmental Chemistry & Technology
  • Field- Scale Research
  • Subsurface Science

Ecosystem Science

Understanding mechanisms of organism-to-community responses to environmental changes at multiple scales to project the fate and function of ecosystems

  • Ecosystem Simulation Science
  • Experimental Terrestrial Ecology
  • Nutrient Biogeochemistry
  • Terrestrial Water-Carbon Cycles

Environmental Data Science & Systems

Provide data management and analysis for large, integrated environmental databases to the nation’s research community and policymakers

  • Atmospheric Radiation Measurements (ARM) Archive
  • Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center
  • ORNL Distributed Active Archive Center for Biogeochemical Dynamics(ORNL DAAC)
  • USA National Phenology Network (USA-NPN)
  • National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII) Metadata Clearinghouse

Renewable Energy Systems

Develop methods and models; conduct analyses; and produce tools that address key issues at the intersection of science, technology, society, and policy

  • BioEnergy Resource & Engineering Systems
  • Energy Analysis
  • Landscape Ecology & Regional Analysis
  • Multi-Scale Energy-Environmental Systems
  • Society-Technology Interactions

Human Health Risk & Environmental Analysis

Conduct analyses for decision-makers to assess (1) emerging technologies and products and (2) methods for identifying and managing the hazards of energy and national security projects, as well as the disposition of their related wastes

  • Environmental Analysis
  • Risk and Regulatory Analysis
  • Toxicology and Hazard Assessment
  • Sustainability & Technology Deployment

Energy-Water Resources Group

Sustainable energy production and water availability in healthy ecosystems through technology development, systems analysis, and decision support.

  • Application Areas
    – Hydropower Technology RD&D
    – Marine and Hydrokinetic Energy RD&D
    – Thermoelectric Cooling Water Availability
    – Water Supply and Competing Water Use Analysis
  • Science-to-Energy Challenges
    – Joint optimization of ecological health and water-dependent energy production
    – Organism, population, and commnunity response to energy infrastructure perturbations
    – Role of climate variability in robust energy-water infrastructure design
    – Use of hydrodynamic modeling, advanced materials and sensors for water power cost-of-energy improvements