Erik Oerter

Staff Scientist/Research Scientist
Nuclear and Chemical Sciences Division
Phone: +19254236157


  • Ph.D., Environmental Science, University of California, Berkeley, 2015
  • M.Sc., Earth and Planetary Science, University of California, Berkeley, 2005
  • B.A., Geological Science, University of Colorado, Boulder, 2003

Research Interests

Erik Oerter is an earth scientist specializing in stable isotope geochemistry and its application to water and elemental cycling in the near-surface environment. After graduating with his PhD in environmental science, Oerter worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Utah. He joined the team at LLNL in 2016 and has since worked on projects tracking water through the “critical zone” and exploring stable isotope signatures of uranium mineral surface oxidation and the nuclear fuel cycle.

In his work, Oerter likes to closely couple laboratory measurements, experiments, and field studies to understand the record of Earth’s history recorded in geological materials and to better predict the dynamic modern environment. He places research emphasis on developing novel instrumentation techniques that can enable new insights into outstanding problems in geochemistry and material science.

Honors and Awards

  • Best Paper Award, Hydrology and Earth System Science, 2017
  • NSF iUTAH EPSCoR Postdoctoral Fellowship, University of Utah, 2015-2016
  • Professor Earl Storie Memorial Fellowship, U.C. Berkeley, 2015
  • Hans and Jean Jenny Graduate Fellowship, U.C. Berkeley, 2015
  • Clay Minerals Society Research Grant, 2013
  • Clay Minerals Society, Robert C. Reynolds, Jr. Award, Best Proposal, 2013
  • Geological Society of America Graduate Student Research Grant, 2012
  • Environmental Forum Fellow, UC Berkeley, 2012
  • Community Earth System Model Fellowship, National Center for Atmospheric Research; $1000, 2012


  1. Oerter, E, M Singleton, Z Dai, M Thaw, L Davisson, 2020, Hydrogen and Oxygen Stable Isotope Composition of Water in Metaschoepite Mineralization on U3O8, Applied Geochemistry, v. 112, no. 104469,
  2. Gomez-Navarro, C, D Pataki, G Bowen, E Oerter, 2019, Spatiotemporal variability in water sources of urban soils and trees in the semiarid, irrigated Salt Lake Valley, Ecohydrology, e2154,
  3. Oerter, E, G Bowen, 2019, Spatiotemporal heterogeneity in soil water stable isotopic composition and its ecohydrologic implications in semi-arid ecosystems, Hydrological Processes, v. 33, no. 12, p. 1724-1738,
  4. Oerter, E, G Siebert, D Bowling, G Bowen, 2019, Soil water vapor isotopes identify missing water source for streamside trees, Ecohydrology, v. 12: e2083,
  5. Oerter, E, M Singleton, M Thaw, L Davisson, 2019, Water vapor exposure chamber for constant humidity and hydrogen and oxygen stable isotope composition, Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry, v. 33, p.89-96.
  6. Oerter, E, J Mills, G Maurer, L Lammers, R Amundson, 2018, Greenhouse gas production and transport in desert soils of the southwestern USA, Global Biogeochemical Cycles, v. 32, no. 11, p. 1703-1717,
  7. Oerter, E, M Singleton, L Davisson, 2018, Hydrogen and oxygen stable isotope dynamics of hyper-saline and salt-saturated aqueous solutions, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, v. 238, p. 316-328.
  8. Bowen, G, A Putman, J R Brooks, D Bowling, E Oerter, S Good, 2018, Inferring the source of evaporated waters using stable H and O isotopes, Oecologia, v. 187, no. 4, p. 1025-1039.
  9. Oerter, E, M Singleton, L Davisson, 2017, Hydrogen and oxygen stable isotope signatures of goethite hydration waters by thermogravimetry-enabled laser spectroscopy, Chemical Geology, v. 475, p. 14-23,
  10. Oerter, E, M Malone, A Putman, L Stark, D Drits, G Bowen, 2017 Every apple has a voice: Using stable isotopes to teach about food sourcing and the water cycle, Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, v. 21, p. 3799-3810, doi: 105194/hess-2017-115.
  11. Oerter, E, G Bowen, 2017, In situ monitoring of H and O stable isotopes in soil water reveals ecohydrologic dynamics in managed soil systems. Ecohydrology, v. 10, e1841, doi: 10.1002/eco.1841
  12. Oerter, E, A Perelet, E Pardyjak, G Bowen, 2017, Membrane inlet laser spectroscopy to measure H and O stable isotope compositions of soil and sediment pore water with high sample throughput. Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry, v. 31, p. 75-84, doi: 10.1002/rcm.7768
  13. Oerter, E, R Amundson, 2016, Climate controls on spatial and temporal variations in pedogenic carbonate formation timing in the western Great Basin of North America. Geological Society of America Bulletin, v. 128, no. 7-8, p. 1095-1104, doi: 10.1130/B31367.1
  14. Oerter, E, W Sharp, J Oster, A Ebeling, J Valley, R Kozdon, I Orland, J Hellstrom, J Woodhead, J Hergt, O Chadwick, R Amundson, 2016, Pedothem carbonates reveal anomalous North American atmospheric circulation 70,000 to 55,000 years ago. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, v. 113, no. 4, p. 919-924, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1515478113
  15. Ebeling, A, E Oerter, J Valley, R Amundson, 2016, Relict soil evidence for profound Quaternary aridification of the Atacama Desert, Chile. Geoderma, v. 267, p. 196-206, doi: 10.1016/j.geoderma.2015.12.010
  16. Oerter, E, R Amundson, A Heimsath, M Jungers, G Chong, P Renne, 2016, Early to middle Miocene climate in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, v. 441, p. 890-900, doi: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2015.10.038
  17. Oerter, E, K Finstad, J Schaeffer, G Goldsmith, T Dawson, R Amundson, 2014, Oxygen isotope fractionation effects in soil water via interaction with cations (Mg, Ca, Na, K) adsorbed to phyllosilicate clay minerals. Journal of Hydrology, v. 515, p. 1-9, doi: 10.1016/j.hydrol.2014.04.029
  18. Oerter, E, 2011, Geothermometry of thermal springs in the Rico, Dunton, and West Fork Dolores River areas, Dolores County, Colorado. Colorado Geological Survey, Resource Series, 95 p.
  19. Barkmann, P, M Dechesne, M E Wickham, J Carlson, S Formolo, E Oerter, 2011. Cross-sections of the freshwater bearing strata of the Denver Basin between Greeley and Colorado Springs, Colorado. Colorado Geological Survey, Open-file Report 11-03.
  20. Oerter, E, M Sares, 2010, Geothermometry of warm springs in the Rico Area, Colorado. Geothermal Resources Council Transactions, v. 34, p. 703-707.
  21. Oerter, E, G Brimhall, J Redmond, B Walker, 2007, A method for quantitative pyrite abundance in mine rock piles by powder X-ray diffraction and Rietveld refinement, Applied Geochemistry, v. 22, p. 2907-2925, doi: 10.1016/j.apgeochem.2007.08.002
  22. Krosley, L, P Shaffner, E Oerter, T Ortiz, 2006, Digital ground-based photogrammetry for measuring discontinuity orientations in steep rock exposures, 41st U.S. Symposium on Rock Mechanics, American Rock Mechanics Society, p. 1-13.