Office of Biological and Environmental Research
U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science
Complex Systems Science for Subsurface Fate and Transport
Report from the August 2009 Workshop
In August 2009, BER held the Subsurface Complex
System Science Relevant to Contaminant Fate and Transport workshop to assess the merits and limitations
of complex systems science approaches to subsurface
systems controlled by coupled hydrological,
microbiological, and geochemical processes. Important
objectives were to
Define complex subsurface systems, identify their
distinguishing features, and establish why they are
important to different DOE mission outcomes.
Consider how the coupling of subsurface hydrological,
microbiological, and geochemical processes
defines complex system response and dynamics,
and identify research challenges that, if resolved,
would lead to high-impact subsurface science
Evaluate the need for new research approaches that
identify and account for the influence of smallerscale
processes and their mechanisms on largerscale
Conceptualize models and associated knowledge
needed to describe and predict complex system
behavior at different scales.
Identify significant, long-term, interdisciplinary
research opportunities associated with complex
The workshop was attended by participants from
universities and DOE national laboratories with broad
expertise in the environmental, microbiological,
Earth, and marine sciences. These researchers represented
different perspectives spanning mechanistic
investigations at the molecular level to intermediatescale
laboratory studies to field investigations of
natural environments at scales ranging from meters to
kilometers. Participants also included practitioners of
complex systems science. They concluded that effectively
managing subsurface systems requires a comprehensive
understanding of their controlling processes,
interactions, and response to change as well as a means
to predict their integrated effects at multiple spatial
and temporal scales within a heterogeneous framework.
This great challenge can be met only by first
recognizing these attributes and then looking beyond
the tenets of any one single research approach (such as
reductionism and complexity science).
Publication date: March 2010
Suggested citation for this report: U.S. DOE. 2010. Complex Systems Science for Subsurface Fate and Transport: Report from the August 2009 Workshop, DOE/SC-0123, U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science (http://www.science.doe.gov/ober/BER_workshops.html).
Order multiple copies: To order multiple copies of this report, contact Anita Alton at 865-574-0597.
DOE Office of Science Graduate Student Research (SCGSR) program is now accepting applications! Detailed information about the program, including eligibility requirements and access to the online application system, can be found at: https://science.energy.gov/wdts/scgsr/. Applications due May 16, 2017 5:00PM Eastern Time
Unless otherwise noted, publications and webpages on this site were created for the U.S. Department of Energy Subsurface Biogeochemical Research program and are in the public domain. Permission to use these documents is not needed, but please credit the U.S. Department of Energy Subsurface Biogeochemical Research program and provide the URL http://doesbr.org when using them. Materials provided by third parties are identified as such and are not available for free use.