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Earth Systems Biogeochemistry Laboratory

The ESB laboratory supports the study of the biogeochemical cycles of carbon, nitrogen, and other elements and nutrients in soils, sediments, rocks, and surface- and groundwaters through physical and chemical analyses. 

In addition to standard practices, the ESB Laboratory develops new and innovative methods and techniques that allow the USGS to study and map biogeochemical cycles in the arid and semiarid environments of the Southwestern United States.



The primary technical capabilities of the Earth Systems Biogeochemistry (ESB) laboratory include determination of organic carbon, inorganic carbon, residual organic carbon, and total nitrogen contents in solid samples (soils, sediment, vegetation, etc.) and determination of dissolved organic carbon content in liquid samples.

General sample preparation tasks, such as air-drying, sieving, grinding, and splitting, and particle size analysis are conducted in cooperation with the Soils and Sediments laboratory. Specialized sample preparation capabilities in the ESB Laboratory include freeze-drying of liquid and solid samples, soil density fractionation, and soil and root incubations in preparation for radiocarbon analyses.


Key Equipment

Novel solid and liquid state elemental analyzers at USGS ESB Lab

The ESB Laboratory houses novel solid and liquid state elemental analyzers (pictured) and a physisorption analyzer for characterization of surface area and micro/mesopore distributions in solid materials. Additionally, the ESB lab houses standard environmental sample preparation instrumentation including a shaker table, balances and a microbalance, a centrifuge, drying and muffle furnaces, a 2.5-L freeze dryer, a ball mill grinder, an ultra-pure water purification system, a gas chromatograph, and a sonifier.


Affiliated Projects

The ESB-Laboratory supports the analytical needs of the U.S. Geological Survey Regional Assessment of Drought Impacts on Soils (RADIS) project and its collaborators.


A down valley view of the East River from the 401 Trail, with Gothic Mountain and Mt. Crested Butte visible in the distance
A down valley view of the East River from the 401 Trail, with Gothic Mountain and Mt. Crested Butte visible in the distance. (Photo: Corey Lawrence)