Research Centers

The Berkeley Atmospheric Sciences Center (BASC) is the home of UC Berkeley's research on the physical science of planetary atmospheres and the future of Earth's climate. Earth is unique among the planets because of the ubiquity and diversity of life. Life interacts with geochemical cycles to control atmospheric composition, which in turn determines the radiative and thermal forcing for the circulation and climate of the planet. The study of Earth's atmosphere must therefore encompass interactions with the biosphere and how one species, humans, alter the natural cycles and long-term trajectory of the planet.

The Berkeley Geochronology Center (BGC) is a non-profit scientific research institution dedicated to establishing the history of the Earth, its various inhabitants, and its interactions with the rest of our Solar System, throughout the 4.6 billion years of our Planet's existence. Using the most advanced technology available, BGC scientists determine the ages of rocks and other materials to date important events in geological and biological history.

The Berkeley Seismological Laboratory (BSL) is an Organized Research Unit with a long history in seismology and earthquake information. Since the installation of the first seismograph in the western hemisphere, in 1887, the BSL, formerly Seismographic Stations, has been involved in operating seismic and other geophysical networks in central and northern California (presently: Berkeley Digital Seismic Network, Hayward Fault Network, High Resolution Seismic Network at Parkfield, and Bay Area Regional Deformation Network), in earthquake information dissemination (Rapid Earthquake Data Integration Project) and data archival and distribution (Northern California earthquake Data Center). The BSL houses active research programs in local, regional and global seismology and tectonics.

The Center for Integrative Planetary Science (CIPS) is an Organized Research Unit at U.C. with the task to unite scientists and students from many disciplines related to Planetary Science including many faculty from the EPS Department. 

Research associated with CIPS has included:

  • adaptive optics imaging and high-resolution spectroscopy that open up a new era of observational planetary astronomy
  • recent discoveries of the first known extrasolar planets
  • new research into the life cycles of extremophile bacteria, some of which survive in environments that are very hot or very cold
  • advances in the theory of orbital dynamics that are helping us understand physical models for planetary system evolution
  • paleobiological analyses of Earth's fossil record, showing that the introduction of biological complexity occurred suddenly
  • space mission discoveries that one or more of Jupiter's moons contain oceans
  • the discovery of ultra-high pressure chemical reactions deep with the Earth, and development of the first experimental constraints on the melting temperature of iron at Earth's core pressures

These discoveries, and others during the past decade, have revealed a remarkable set of connections among many separate traditional sciences: Geophysics, Astrophysics, Meteorology, Oceanography, Organic Chemistry, Biology and Planetary Science. These disciplines are well represented at Berkeley, where strong research programs with long records of accomplishment have existed for some time in diverse campus departments, the Space Science Laboratory, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

The Center for Isotope Geochemistry consists of solid-source mass spectrometry and clean chemistry laboratories on campus and facilities for stable isotopic measurements, rare gas isotope mearsurements, and cosmogenic isotope measurements at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory. Research using the Nd, Sr, Pb, Ca, O, H, C, He, Ne, Be, and Al isotopes is directed toward studies of geological and hydrological processes and the structure and evolution of the oceans, the mantle, and the continental crust.

Center for Stable Isotope Biogeochemistry

The Center for Stable Isotope Biogeochemistry (CSIB) is an analytical facility established as a University education, research, training and service unit.  Facility operations are overseen by an operations manager and spectroscopist (Wenbo Yang), the faculty director (Todd Dawson), an associate researcher (Stefania Mambelli), and a steering committee. The center provides high precision, state-of-the-art, and instrumentation for analyzing the stable isotope composition of a diverse array of materials (e.g., plant and animal tissues samples, soils, rocks, atmospheric gasses, water, etc.) as well as space for purifying, extracting and preparing sample material for analysis. Located in rooms 1138 and 1140 of the Valley Life Sciences Building, the Center for Stable Isotope Biogeochemistry maintains and operates four Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometers (IRMS) and several interfaces for the measurement of the isotopic composition of hydrogen, carbon, oxygen, nitrogen and sulfur in biological and geological samples, gases (biogenic and atmospheric), water and chemical mixtures, and three optical based systems for the measurement of stable isotope ratios of hydrogen and oxygen in water and water vapor. In addition to the instrument laboratory, the center houses a fully equipped sample extraction and preparation laboratory for handling a full range of sample types. The specialized equipment housed in the facility serves student, post-doc and faculty research.

The Earth Sciences and Map Library develops research-level collections and services to support the teaching, research, and learning needs of the Department of Earth and Planetary Science, Department of Geography, and Seismological Laboratory. The library has one of the largest map collections in California. Large format scanning and printing services are available in the library.

Subject guides: Climate and Atmospheric ScienceEarth and Planetary ScienceGeography

California's Eel River Critical Zone Observatory (CZO) is part of the National Science Foundation CZO network. Bill Dietrich of the Earth and Planetary Science Department serves as the lead Principal Investigator for the observatory. Research at the Eel River CZO is rooted in intensive field monitoring in the critical zone, which follows watershed currencies (water, solutes, gasses, biota, sediment, energy, and momentum) through a subsurface physical environment and microbial ecosystem of the critical zone into the terrestrial ecosystem, up into the atmosphere, and out through drainage networks to the coastal ocean. The core team spans four of UC Berkeley's departments and has expertise in geomicrobiology and biogeochemistry (Banfield), low temperature geochemistry (Bishop), microbial ecology (Firestone), salmonid ecology (Carlson), food web ecology (Power), geomorphology and hydrology (Dietrich), tree physiology (Dawson), ecohydrology theory and observation (Thompson), and climate modeling (Fung). The CZO's diversity gives it the ability to pursue deeply many fundamental questions that lie at the interface of many disciplines.

The NSF supported National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping(NCALM) is operated jointly by the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, Cullen College of Engineering, University of Houston, and the Department of Earth & Planetary Science, University of California, Berkeley. NCALM uses an Airborne Laser Swath Mapping (ALSM) system based at the UH Geosensing Imaging & Mapping Laboratory. The state-of-the-art laser surveying instrumentation and GPS systems collect data in areas selected through the competitive NSF grant review process.

The LIDAR data is processed to produce highly accurate three-dimensional digital elevation models of the surveyed areas. At Berkeley we process the data from the raw laser information to the end-user GIS products, develop algorithms and tools for new processing techniques and improving the data worfklow, as well as provide a permanent archiving solution for the large amounts of data from the surveys and subsequent processing. The archiving and Unix-processing resources are managed with the cooperation and expertise of the Berkeley Seismological Lab Computing Center. At Berkeley we also develop, manage and update NCALM's Online Data Distribution Center that provides public access to research-grade LIDAR data from various project that enter their open-access stage after a period of PI exclusivity.

The UC Berkeley Paleomagnetism Lab features a superconducting rock magnetometer within a three-layer magnetostatic shield. The walk-in shield creates a low-field analytical and sample handling environment while the magnetometer is equipped with 3 very 

sensitive DC superconducting quantum interference devices (SQUIDs) to measure the remanent magnetization of earth and planetary materials. The lab is directed by Prof. Swanson-Hysell.