On May 25, Berkeley Lab and Biosciences Area leadership officially welcomed the EcoPOD to its home at Potter Street in West Berkeley. The Lab’s Deputy Director for Research Horst Simon and Associate Laboratory Director for Biosciences Mary Maxon opened the doors of the EcoPOD after Maxon cut the ceremonial ribbon.
The EcoPOD was recently introduced to the world as a high-tech growing chamber. The architecture is reminiscent of a toll booth–about 10 and a half feet tall and either 5 or 6 feet on a side–and is outfitted with multiple instruments to provide a place for plants to be grown under highly controlled conditions. Aside from monitoring plant maturation, there are several sensors to measure aspects above- and below-ground. Devices precisely control multiple facets of the environment, such as water, humidity, temperature, and light intensity and wavelength, so that conditions can mimic or create a wide variety of climate scenarios.
The journey of the EcoPOD was long, beginning in 2018 with planning and procurement, continuing with a journey across the ocean from Germany, final assembly on Berkeley Lab’s Hill campus, culminating with its arrival at the loading dock of Potter Street. Maxon has always maintained that without a truly multidisciplinary team, the EcoPOD would not be a reality. The group of people working toward this goal included procurement specialists and analysts from the Office of the Chief Financial Officer (OCFO) who ordered and budgeted for this equipment; engineers from the Engineering Division who assisted with the design, assembly, and continue to participate in maintenance; scientists from the Environmental Genomics and Systems Biology (EGSB) Division who planned and will conduct experiments; and Biosciences Area operations personnel who ensured the successful placement and maintain the facility for the EcoPOD.
To honor these myriad contributions, Louise Glass (Senior EGSB Faculty Scientist), Nikki Humphreys (Biosciences Area Operations Deputy), Henrik von der Lippe (Engineering Division Director), and Susannah Tringe (EcoPOD Science Lead and EGSB Division Director), joined Simon and Maxon in the photo opportunity following the “opening ceremony” for the EcoPOD.
These Lab leaders and others were among those Horst Simon congratulated on their efforts of the past three years and wished them great success with this device. Others who were present to be recognized for their participation in the EcoPOD activities by getting their picture taken were EGSB scientists Gary Andersen, Elizabeth Carpenter, Trent Northen, Christopher Sanchez, Esther Singer, Kateryna Zhalnina; Hugo Moran, senior laborer in the Facilities Division; and Matt Kaiser and Kyle Perry, mechanical engineering technicians in the Engineering Division.
Those who could not attend were Adam Bradford, Jim Bristow, Jim Cassell, Shraddha Ravani, and Steffani Rondeau (Biosciences Area Office); Aymerick Eudes (EGSB Division); Joanna Eun, Lon Freeman, and Stan Tuholski (Facilities Division); John Heim and Julie Zhu (Environment, Health, & Safety Division); Michael Lofy (OCFO), Nigel Mouncey and John Vogel (DOE Joint Genome Institute); Jeff D’Ambrogia, Shawfeng Dong, Benjamin Sanders, and (Information Technology); Jeffrey Takakuwa (Engineering Division); and the EcoPOD Operations Lead Ray Turner II (Lab Directorate).
The EcoPOD project is funded in part by Berkeley Lab institutional funds, including the Laboratory Directed Research and Development Program, and the Office of Science through the Microbial Community Analysis & Functional Evaluation in Soils (m-CAFEs) Scientific Focus Area.