Advancing understanding of Earth and environmental systems from the molecular to the global scale
The Environmental Sciences Division (ESD) is an interdisciplinary research and development organization with more than 60 years of achievements 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. Focus areas include aquatic ecology, ecosystem science, environmental data science, terrestrial systems, bioenergy and water power technologies.
Researchers are studying the processes that govern the fate and transformation of trace elements, nutrients, and contaminants such as mercury in the environment. It was a cross-cutting team of scientists at ORNL who solved a 40-year mystery by discovering the two genes involved in mercury methylation. Research also focuses on developing new methods and analyses useful in the management of human health, environmental, and societal risks associated with emerging technologies and legacy wastes.
From the arctic to the tropics, scientists in the field measure key factors in the soil, water, air, and vegetation, gathering data that informs earth system models and improves predictions of environmental change. Data experts in ESD archive and publish atmospheric and biogeochemical data with more than 12,500 data products available to date. Researchers are also assessing resources, establishing sustainability metrics, and developing new technologies for bioenergy and hydropower.