U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science Office of Scientific and Technical Information

DOE Physicists at Work - Patricia Berge

DOE Physicists at Work Archive

DOE Office of Science celebrates 2005 World Year of Physics


DOE Physicists at Work


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Patricia Berge

How do you figure out what is underground without digging a hole?


Patricia Berge
Patricia Berge with team member
Eric Carlberg.


Maybe you want to find oil, or a gas line; manage underground contamination; or locate a tunnel.  A geophysicist can make measurements at the earth's surface and use that information to estimate what's underground - the structure, composition, and distribution of soil, rocks, fluids, and voids.


"Geophysics is fun," says Patricia Berge, a geophysicist by training and now Division Leader for Earth Science within the Energy and Environment Directorate at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL).  "It's also often cheaper, faster, safer, and more practical than digging holes."  For instance, you may want to avoid excavations or drilling because you have a large area to cover, or it would be expensive to dig holes, or you might spread contaminants or disturb artifacts, or it would simply take too long.


"Now, the catch is what to measure and where," says Dr. Berge.  "That is the challenge, the puzzle - where the fun really begins."


The basic idea is to identify some measurable physical property that can be observed at the earth's surface and a value that will change with changes in the subsurface.  This is a combination of physics and earth science, requiring an understanding of the earth and earth materials as well as an understanding of physical properties.  Examples of the physical properties geophysicists use for underground imaging are the speed of sound in rocks (seismic measurements), small local changes in the earth's gravity field, and electromagnetic properties of rocks and soils.  Careful placement of measurement equipment and ready availability of fast computers makes it possible to estimate the three-dimensional picture of the subsurface from the geophysical measurements.


"Sometimes making the measurements can be tricky," says Dr. Berge.  "When I worked at the U.S. Geological Survey, I flew in helicopters to put seismometers on rocky outcrops next to Alaskan glaciers."  Over the course of her career, she's donned a wet suit to check a seismometer on the bottom of a lake; measured the speed of sound in the seafloor on a research ship that happened to be caught in a typhoon ("That part wasn't so much fun," says Dr. Berge); and taken measurements in 120-degree heat in Nevada.

With all the excitement geophysics offers, still Dr. Berge chose a management path in physics.  "Although my own research was fascinating, I wanted to influence future directions of research at a larger scale and contribute toward solving bigger problems of concern to the taxpayers," says Dr. Berge.


Challenges include energy supply, environmental cleanup, hazard mitigation, and national security.  "I would like to see the U.S. invest more research dollars in geothermal energy, cheaper and more effective monitoring of environmental cleanup, innovative hazard mitigation such as satellite-based tsunami warning systems, better methods for detecting and characterizing buried bunkers, and better methods for screening cargo containers," says Dr. Berge.  "The world cannot afford to delay developing technical solutions to these difficult problems and it may take all the scientific expertise we have in the whole global population to make any progress at all," says Dr. Berge.  "I became a manager in order to contribute to LLNL's vision for the future of earth science research, what areas we should be directing our efforts toward, where we should be going to solve problems that will be increasingly important over the next ten to twenty years."


Though most of these challenges are not within her subspecialty in geophysics, significant progress will require geophysics research and interdisciplinary work by large teams of scientists - and that's where management comes into play.


"As part of the management at LLNL, I can influence the future direction of research in earth science to be relevant to the nation's and the world's problems," says Dr. Berge.


Dr. Berge received a BS in Geophysics and an AB in History from Stanford University in 1982 and worked for the Seismology Branch of the U.S. Geological Survey until 1986.  In 1991 she received a PhD in Geology and Geophysics from the University of Hawaii and then joined Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory as a postdoctoral researcher in the Earth Science Department.  She was hired in a staff position at LLNL in 1994 and worked as a research geophysicist until 2002, when she assumed her current position.


Her research at LLNL focused on how things like sand grains, clay, fluid-filled pores, and cracks might influence the speed of sound and other physical properties.  "I hope this basic research will help geophysicists to make better and better images of the subsurface, improving current techniques and inventing new ones for use in geothermal fields, environmental cleanup sites, and anywhere that we need to do underground imaging in the future," says Dr. Berge.


Dr. Berge’s articles accessed via OSTI:


Information Bridge


Ultrasonic characterization of synthetic soils for application to near surface geophysics


Ultrasonic Velocities in Unconsolidated Sand/Clay Mixtures at Low Pressures


Comparing geophysical measurements to theoretical estimates for soil mixtures at low pressures


Thermomechanical effects on permeability for a 3-D model of YM rock


Estimated bounds on rock permeability changes from THM processes


Pore compressibility in rocks


Joint inversion of geophysical data for site characterization and restoration monitoring. 1998 annual progress report


Joint inversion of geophysical data for site characterization and restoration monitoring


Estimating changes in rock permeability due to thermal-mechanical effects


Analysis of thomsen parameters for finely layered VTI media


Evaluation of models for estimating changes in fracture permeability due to thermo-mechanical stresses in host rock surrounding a potential repository


Please search the Information Bridge for additional papers by this researcher.


Energy Citations Database


FY2002 Final Report for EMSP Project No.70108 Effects of Fluid Distribution on Measured Geophysical Properties for Partially Saturated, Shallow Subsurface Conditions


Seismic Velocities Contain Information About Depth, Lithology, Fluid Content, and Microstructure

Using Laboratory Measurements of Electrical and Mechanical Properties to Assist Interpretation of Field Data from Shallow Geophysical Measurements


Status and Recent Results for EMSP Project No.70108 Effects of Fluid Distribution on Measured Geophysical Properties for Partially Saturated, Shallow Subsurface Conditions


Compressional and Shear Wave Velocities for Artificial Granular Media Under Simulated Near Surface Conditions


FY 2000 Annual Report for EMSP Project No.70108 - Effects of Fluid Distribution on Measured Geophysical Properties for Partially Saturated, Shallow Subsurface Conditions


Final Report U.S. Department of Energy Joint Inversion of Geophysical Data for Site Characterization and Restoration Monitoring


Linear and Nonlinear Ultrasonic Properties of Granular Soils


Laboratory Velocity Measurements Used for Recovering Soil Distributions from Field Seismic Data  


Estimating Rock Porosity and Fluid Saturation Using only Seismic Velocities


Imaging Simulated Field Data for Electrical and Mechanical Properties of Shallow Environmental Sites


Modeling Compressional and Shear Wave Velocities of Unconsolidated Sediments in the Vadose Zone


Load Dependence of Ultrasonic Velocities for Sand and Sand/Clay Mixtures


Transformation of seismic velocity data to extract porosity and saturation values for rocks


Analysis of Thomsen parameters for finely layered VTI media


Importance of surface preparation for corrosion control in nuclear power stations


Differential effective medium modeling of rock elastic moduli with critical porosity constraints


Ultrasonic velocity-porosity relationships for sandstone analogs made from fused glass beads







Last updated on Thursday 01 August 2013