EcoPODs at Berkeley Lab

EcoPods - bridging the gap between lab- and field-scale experiments

What are EcoPODs? EcoPODs are enclosed environments of several meters cubed that allow direct and intensive monitoring and manipulation of replicated plant-soil-microbe-atmosphere interactions over the complete plant life cycle. These “pilot-scale” ecosystems are designed to bridge the gap between small, lab-scale experiments that are not large enough to mimic the environment and field-scale experiments that cannot be carefully controlled. The EcoPODs will be equipped with environmental controls to carefully manipulate and control temperature, humidity, and other important climatic parameters. The EcoPODs will also be outfitted with sensors capable of monitoring soil moisture, oxygen, and specific nutrients, and the output from these sensors will be integrated using computer models to gain a coherent understanding of the environment inside the EcoPOD. Multiple EcoPODs will allow scientists to examine the impact of differences in types of soils, microbes and plants on ecosystem health. Find out more in our first workshop report.

EcoPods will sit between the EcoFABs (small, cheap) and field experiments (large, expensive, difficult to replicate)

EcoPODs form part of a wider Berkeley Lab program to understand soil-microbe-plant interactions, which includes the EcoFAB program led by the Northen Group.

Why Berkeley Lab? To build the EcoPODs, our team will leverage Berkeley Lab’s unique capabilities and unparalleled commitment to team science. Physicists and engineers who build sensors for atom smashers and satellites will construct the specialized EcoTron sensors for soils. Berkeley Lab computer scientists will write code to compile and analyze “big-data” from the sensors and that control the EcoPODs' environment. Plant and microbial biologists will determine the most important plants and microbes to study. Soil and environmental scientists will design the soils that we test and climate scientists will model the environment of the future that the EcoPODs will mimic. Led by researchers from the Environmental Genomics and Systems Biology Division, part of the Biosciences Area at LBNL, the EcoPODs will be a key part of Berkeley Lab's vision for BioEPIC - a building which will house researchers from both EGSB and part of the Earth & Environmental Sciences Area. By bringing together researchers across both Areas, BioEPIC will provide the first integrated and streamlined capabilities to enable discovery, quantification, and prediction of how the environment regulates biology and how biology shapes the environment.