The Bioenergy Technologies Office supports four post-doctoral researchers at various national labs. They are an important part of the Office's portfolio of applied research and development activities happening all across the nation and our post-docs reflect our strong commitment to strengthen the bioenergy industry and create green jobs. We'll be profiling the Bioenergy Technologies Office post-docs right here over the next three days, so be sure to check back to meet them and learn more about their research. First up, we have David Lampert.

Head shot of David Lampert



Name: David Lampert

Affiliation: Argonne National Laboratory

Area of Study: Water Quality Impacts of Biofuels




Bioenergy Technologies Office Blog (BETO-B): Tell us about your research.

David Lampert: An essential component in meeting the growing demand for biofuels will be to mitigate any potential effects of feedstock production on water quality. The purpose of this study is to develop a modeling approach to predict the effects of different biofuel feedstock production techniques on water quality. This study is focused on calibrating the Hydrological Simulation Program Fortran (HSPF), a water quality model, for predicting concentrations and loadings of pesticides and herbicides in watersheds in the Midwestern United States. The calibrated model will act as a tool to predict the effects of biofuel feedstock production on water quality. The results of this study will be useful to policy-makers for weighing the water quality impacts of biofuel production against potential benefits of various feedstock productions methods. The results of the study will also help farmers and other stakeholders understand best management practices to utilize when allocating land-use.

BETO-B: How did you get started in the field of renewable energy? What initially interested you in biomass research, specifically? 

DL: Well it sounds cliché but I’d always been interested in a career where I thought would make a difference and also utilize my talents to the best of my abilities.  And I think the energy/environment issue is one of the most important ones facing modern society.  Coming from a background in water chemistry/transport/pollution, the relationship between various chemicals needed to produce biofuels and water was a natural entry point for me.

BETO-B: What are the next steps for your research moving forward? What would you like to achieve in the near term? 

DL: There have been plenty of things I’ve had to learn to really get started on this project. So progress has been slower than I’d hoped it would be. Right now I’m trying to figure out how to aggregate the geographic data from a bunch of small sub basins together into basins at the scale we are interested in for this study. However, the software I have been using doesn’t work right. Assuming I can figure out a way to work around that, I don’t see anything major slowing me down with the calibration of the hydrologic cycle within the first watershed (I’m trying to understand all the aspects of the hydrologic cycle around Lake Red Rock in Iowa). That info will be essential to figure out where the pesticides and other chemicals are going.

BETO-B: What impact do you think your research could have? What do you hope it will achieve? 

DL: Hopefully we can get all the watersheds calibrated, and in the process really figure out an efficient way to do watershed modeling. So there will be contributions to the science of watershed modeling. Beyond that in terms of the energy question, the model should provide a way to quantify the effects of different biofuel feedstock production techniques on water quality. So ideally if someone asked me: “How will increasing cellulosic biofuel output from corn stover in Iowa by 20% change the concentration of pesticides in St. Louis?” I would like to be able to answer that question (given enough time to run a simulation of course). I think this could be really important for government officials who are trying to figure out which direction to take looking at different ways to reach the goals set out in the Energy Independence and Security Act.

BETO-B: What do you see as your ‘endgame’ or ultimate long-term goal?

DL: I think alternative energy is a pretty exciting area to build a career. Coming from a background more in water, I really would like to stay in the energy-water nexus area. There will continue to be questions moving forward particularly as the technologies start to scale up. I’d like to become a leader in understanding the relationships between energy and water in the future.

BETO-B: In your opinion, what event in the last decade has contributed the most to widespread adoption of renewable energy, particularly biofuels? What do you see as the main reasons to continue to expand the bioenergy industry?

DL: I think it’s probably the increase in the price of oil. In the past the relative costs (between traditional fossil fuels and biofuels) were so different I can see how the economics didn’t make as much sense in terms of really looking at biofuels to meet the energy demand.  But now the gap isn’t so big so it really makes sense to look at other ways to produce energy.

BETO-B: What do you see as the next great development in bioenergy?

DL: I don’t know that I have a good answer to this question, but if we can figure out the separation technologies I think algae has the most potential from what I understand. The growth rates are so high. Right now I’m more focused on other biofuel technologies, but with my background in water I’d be interested to get involved with that at some point in the future.

BETO-B: Tell us a few fun facts about yourself, aside from your studies. 

DL: Well, I love to challenge myself. I spend a lot of time training for triathlons and other endurance races. Generally my day consists of getting up, then a short workout in the morning, then to work, then another workout in the evening. That ends up around 15–20 hours of training per week, plus I have three bicycles that I do maintenance on in my spare time. I’m currently building up a new road racing bike. I also like camping, travel, and I brew my own beer.

Thanks, David! To learn more about David's research, check out his publications, below. And don't forget to check back tomorrow to meet another Bioenergy Technologies Office Post-Doc!

David Lampert's Publications

Yang, W., Lampert, D.J., Chen, W., and Reible, D.D.  2012.  Journal of Soils and Sediments, 12(5):713–723.

Lampert, D.J., Sarchet, W.S., and Reible, D.D.  2011.  Environmental Science & Technology, 45(19):8437–8443.

Lampert, D.J. and Reible, D.D.  2009.  Soil and Sediment Contamination, 18 (4): 470–488.

Go, J.G., Lampert, D.J., Stegemann, J.A., and Reible, D.D.  2009.  Applied Geochemistry, 24 (7): 1347–1353.

Lampert, D.J., Frisch, M.A., and Speitel, G.E.  2007.  Practice Periodical of Hazardous, Toxic, and Radioactive Waste Management, 11(1), 60–68.