At-Scale Molecular and Microstructural Analysis of Soil, Air, and Water Using the EMSL Molecular Observation Network


John Bargar* (, Emily Graham, Odeta Qafoku, Satish Karra, Justin Teeguarden, Douglas Mans


Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, WA



The Molecular Observation Network (MONet) is delivering a suite of new molecular and microstructural capabilities to the BER research community for understanding biogeochemical processes occurring within soils, air, and water across terrestrial-aquatic and terrestrial-atmospheric interfaces and at ecosystem and regional scales. The first major new capability was delivered in February 2023 with the launch of the MONet Soil Function soil core solicitation (—soil-function-call/15039). Soil cores submitted to the program will be analyzed for high-resolution composition of soil organic matter using Fourier-transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectroscopy, 3D soil pore network structure using X-ray computed tomography combined with hydraulic property measurements, Illumina NovaSeq metagenome sequencing at the DOE Joint Genome Institute, and 20 additional critical soil biogeochemical parameters following standard workflows. Data will be available without embargo to the broad public in a findable, accessible, interoperable, reusable (FAIR) database that is searchable and provides visualization, mining, and manipulation tools.

The MONet program is a decadal strategic science objective at EMSL that reflects a commitment to delivering open network molecular ecosystems science opportunities at scale to the BER science community. Beyond the Soil Function call, MONet is developing automated soil molecular and microstructural analysis workflows for high-throughput analysis of soils at scale, rhizosphere sensors for quantifying small organic molecules in the laboratory and in field settings, and new methods for sampling atmospheric aerosols and particles at scale. Ultimately, MONet will enable new generations of experimental activities and multiscale models of Earth systems across entire regions.