Estella Atekwana's Laboratory


Department Head, Regents Professor of Geology
Sun Company Clyde Wheeler Chair Professor of Hydrogeology
Biogeophysics, Tectonics, Near Surface Geophysics

Office:    103B Noble Research Center
Phone:   1.405.744.6358
Fax:        1.405.744.7841

PhD:       1991 Dalhousie University
M.S.        1986 Howard University
B.S.         1983 Howard University


Welcome to the Atekwana Biogeophysics Research Lab

Our biogeophysics laboratory is housed in the Henry Bellmon Research Center.
The Biogeophysics lab studies the changes in geophysical signatures catalyzed by microbial interactions with subsurface geologic media. We exploit this knowledge to find novel geophysical applications of microbial processes. Our research is highly multidisciplinary and lies at the interface of environmental microbiology, biogeochemistry, geophysics, and engineering. We combine geophysical tools such as spectral induced polarization, seismic, electrical resistivity, magnetic susceptibility, self potential with biological tools such as molecular microbiology, microbial ecology, biogeochemistry chemistry, to gain a better understanding of how microbes impact the petrophysical properties of rocks at the nanoscale, microscale and macroscale and how this translates into changes in the geophysical signatures. We take this knowledge further and apply it to petroleum microbial systems (such as bioremediation, microbial enhanced oil recovery, CO2 sequestration, microbial impacts in petroleum reservoirs), heavy metal and radionuclide contaminated sites and the search for life in extreme environments (Mars and deep ocean basin).

Our research is divided into there main thrusts:


We are interested in the optimization of biogeophysical tools for bioremediation of hydrocarbon contaminants.  Our current focus is on hydrocarbon and other organic rich contaminated sites such as landfills. With funds from Chevron Energy Technology Company we are investigating the spectral induced polarization and self potential signatures at the Bemidji, MN site. Our intent is to determine the main driving SIP and SP source mechanisms and to test the biogeobattery model.

RELATED PROJECTS:        BGP OPTIMIZATION                             BP OIL SPILL


This project is funded by DOE’S Office of Science Subsurface Biogeochemical Program. The goal is to quantify and characterize major components and processes within bacterial biofilms contributing to detectable biogeophysical signals.


In this project, we use knowledge gained from our biogeophysical research to explore for hydrocarbons. Oil seeps bring hydrocarbons to the shallow subsurface providing a carbon source for microorganisms. This results in the cycling of metals such as iron resulting in a detectable induced polarization and magnetic susceptibility signatures. Projects include the characterization of magnetic susceptibility from producing and non producing fields and the characterization of petroliferous and non petroliferous shales.



Welcome to the Atekwana Tectonic Research Lab

Our tectonics research lab is housed the Noble Research Center.
Our tectonics research is focused on extensional terranes with particular attention to continental rifting. We are particularly interested in understanding mechanisms of rift initiation. We want to understand the role of pre-existing lithospheric heterogeneity in rift initiation, strain localization, rift segmentation and termination. We employ a variety of techniques such as remote sensing, gravity, magnetic, structural geologic mapping. We also collaborate with seismologists and magnetotelluric experts to image the deep subsurface beneath the rifts. Our primary focus sights include the Okavango rift in NW Botswana, Luangwa, Mweru rifts in Zambia, Albertine and Rhino grabens in Uganda and the Malawi rift. At all of these locations there is no evidence of surface magmatism allowing us to elucidate the relative roles of magma and preexisting lithospheric structures on rift initiation and evolution.



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