Visualizing Microbial Activity in the Subsurface


The transport of metal and radionuclide contaminants in groundwater can be greatly influenced by microbial activity. Geophysical methods provide a way to detect microbial activity across larger spatial scales in subsurface environments than can be accomplished by point source drilling-intensive techniques. Detection of in situ microbial activity is important for developing realistic conceptual models of contaminant fate and transport at DOE sites. Results obtained from researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the University of California at Berkeley working at a field test site in Rifle, CO show that geophysics techniques can detect geochemical changes attributable to specific microbial activities in the subsurface across large spatial areas at field sites. These techniques provide a more spatially resolved assessment of microbial activity in the subsurface and can be used to inform conceptual and quantitative models of contaminant transport in the subsurface.


Environmental Science and Technology, 2009. 43(17): 6717-6723