Carbonate Aquifer Characterization Laboratory

Science Center Objects

The Carbonate Aquifer Characterization Laboratory (CACL) was initiated to promote collaborative research on carbonate aquifer characterization between the USGS and other governmental scientific agencies and academia. And, also to provide applied research for local, state, and federal agencies, and private industry, when research needs are within the scope of the USGS mission.

As the primary Federal science agency for water-resources information, the USGS is responsible for monitoring the quantity and quality of water in the Nation's rivers and aquifers and assessing the sources and fate of contaminants in aquatic systems. Towards this goal, a top priority for the USGS is to provide information to better define and manage the quality of the Nation's water resources. The CACL directly addresses this priority issue for the USGS by improving strategies to identify and protect drinking-water sources. The approach of the CACL is focused on the integration of the various disciplines that include core examination, sequence stratigraphy, borehole geophysics, digital optical borehole imaging, seismic, ground-penetrating radar, computational methods, and 3D geomodeling.

Our mission

The mission of the Carbonate Aquifer Characterization Laboratory (CACL) is to develop methods for carbonate aquifer characterization and conduct applied research that focuses on better understanding groundwater flow in multi-porosity carbonate aquifers. Groundwater flow in carbonate aquifers is particularly difficult to characterize because of a broad range in pore size and complicated pore connectivity. Diverse porosity and permeability networks represent a significant challenge to the accurate simulation of carbonate aquifer groundwater flow. This research is integrating the use of state-of-the-art technologies, including:

  • Study of outcrop and subsurface carbonate rocks
  • Cyclostratigraphy
  • Ichnology
  • High-multichannel 2D and 3D seismic
  • Advanced borehole geophysics
  • Digital optical borehole imagingComputational methods (eg., Lattice Boltzmann methods)
  • 3D geomodeling with ROXAR RMS™
  • Ground-penetrating radar


The capabilities of the Carbonate Aquifer Characterization Laboratory (CACL) are diverse and have largely concentrated on (1) hydrogeologic framework studies, (2) aquifer characterization, and (3) freshwater-saltwater interface delineation. Major specific technologies used by and available at the CACL include:

  • Geologic analyses (sequence stratigraphy, lithostratigraphy, paleontology, petrography, ichnology, karstology [Reese and Cunningham, 2000; Cunningham et al., 2001a,b, 2003, 2004a,b, 2006a,b, 2007, 2008, 2010a,b; Ward et al., 2003; Rigby and Cunningham 2007; Cunningham and Florea, 2009; Cunningham and Walker, 2009; Hine et al., 2009; Cunningham and Sukop, 2011; Cunningham and Sukop, 2012; Cunningham et al., 2012a,b])
  • Marine high-resolution multi-channel seismic (Kingdom Suite SMT™ software [Cunningham and Walker, 2009; Cunningham et al., 2012]) Marine high-resolution, multichannel seismic-reflection data acquired on the southeastern Florida peninsula in a canal. [larger image]
  • Advanced borehole geophysics (Cunningham et al., 2004c, 2010b; Wacker and Cunningham, 2008) Geophysical Equipment List (Available from CFLWSC-Davie) [USGS]
  • Computational simulations (Shoemaker et al., 2008; Sukop et al., 2008; Cunningham et al., 2009, 2010b, 2012; Cunningham and Sukop, 2011; Sukop et al., 2013)
  • 3D geomodeling (ROXAR RMS™ software) (Cunningham et al., 2012)
  • Ground-penetrating radar (Cunningham et al., 2001b; Cunningham et al., 2003; Cunningham 2004)
  • Tracer studies (Renken et al., 2005; Cunningham et al., 2008; Harvey et al., 2008; Renken et al., 2008; Shapiro et al., 2008)
  • Hydraulic well testing (Renken et al., 2008; Shapiro et al., 2008)
  • Nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (Florea et al., 2009)
  • X-ray computed tomography (Cunningham et al., 2009, 2010b; Cunningham and Sukop, 2011; 2012; Cunningham et al., 2012a; Sukop et al., 2013)
  • CHIRP portable sub-bottom profiler Geophysical Equipment List (Available from CFLWSC-Davie) [USGS]
  • Distributed temperature surveys Geophysical Equipment List (Available from CFLWSC-Davie) [USGS]
  • Water-based Supersting™ continuous resistivity surveys (CRP) Geophysical Equipment List (Available from CFLWSC-Davie) [USGS]
  • Geonics™ time-domain electromagnetic system (TDEM) (Scott T. Prinos, personal communication) Geophysical Equipment List (Available from CFLWSC-Davie) [USGS]
  • Geometrics™ Ohm-Mapper capacitively-coupled resistivity system Geophysical Equipment List (Available from CFLWSC-Davie) [USGS]