ARCHIVED CONTENT: In December 2020, the CZO program was succeeded by the Critical Zone Collaborative Network (CZ Net) ×

Multiple Disciplines

Critical Zone Observatories are community resources for research across several scientific, engineering, and social disciplines. We are especially suited for addressing interdisciplinary research questions on the coupled physical, biological, and chemical processes of the critical zone.

© Southern Sierra Critical Zone Observatory

Critical zone science unites researchers from several disciplines and institutions. Our interdisciplinary research pairs biogeochemists with hydrologists, and ecologists with geophysicists. 

Meeting the goals of Critical Zone science requires researchers with deep disciplinary knowledge as well as collaboration and integration across multiple disciplines. 

  • Discipl​inary - Specialists are vital members of our teams since progress in Critical Zone Science requires deep knowledge of many portions of the combined physical, chemical, and biological system.
  • Multidisciplinary - Close cooperation between specialists, each employing their own approach, helps to better understand interconnected Critical Zone processes.
  • Interdisciplinary - Concerted integration across disciplinary boundaries has been invaluable for solving questions that require a holistic approach.

An interdisciplinary approach across an array of sciences, especially in the broad fields of geological and biological sciences, is applied to better understand the complex interconnection of Critical Zone processes. Examples include pedology, hydrology, geomorphology, geophysics, ecology, and biogeochemistry.

Close collaboration between Critical Zone Observatories has also facilitated the development of infrastructure and protocols that allow measurements to be directly compared across CZOs. See our datasets for a collection of currently available measurements.


Research groups from several institutions are involved at the Southern Sierra Critical Zone Observatory, including:

Mountain Hydrology Research Group, UC Merced

Critical Zone Lab, U. Wyoming

Intelligent Infrastructure Lab, UC Berkeley

Ecohydrology Research Lab, UC Santa Barbara

Vadose Zone Hydrology Lab, UC Davis

Ecosystem Ecology Lab, UC Irvine

Soil Biogeochemistry Lab, UC Merced

Kings River Experimental Watersheds Program, Pacific Southwest Research Station, USFS

Ecosystem Ecology Lab, UC Merced

California Soil Resource Lab, UC Davis

Environmental Systems Research Group, UC Merced

Note that this is not a comprehensive list.


Below are downloadable summaries of select multi-disciplinary activities and findings.

Vegetation‐Water‐Regolith Interactions: pdf  

Outreach to CaliforniaWater Providers: pdf

Structure and Formation of Regolith: pdf

Advances in Measurement Design: pdf

SSCZO PI Roger Bales installing soil moisture probes at Upper Met Station site

Why do dense forests of the Sierra Nevada abut bare, exposed bedrock without litte vegetation? Research on the structure and formation of regolith is exploring rates of weathering and erosion to answer this question.

UC Merced grad students Paige Austin (left), and Morgan Barnes (right) help the dust project with the 2014 preparation for the prescribed burn. 

Zhiyuan Tian (Tina, UC Davis graduate student) replaces a drill casing section on the geoprobe. The team cored 4 points at this site, where we deployed a 3D Nodal seisic array a few days afterward. 

© Margot Wholey December 2015

Photo by Erin Stacy, 2015 

© Southern Sierra Critical Zone Observatory

© Southern Sierra Critical Zone Observatory

© Southern Sierra Critical Zone Observatory

© Southern Sierra Critical Zone Observatory

© Southern Sierra Critical Zone Observatory

© Southern Sierra Critical Zone Observatory

© Southern Sierra Critical Zone Observatory

© Southern Sierra Critical Zone Observatory

© Southern Sierra Critical Zone Observatory

© Southern Sierra Critical Zone Observatory

Photo by Erin Stacy, 2015

sierra Research Groups

View people and their activity per working group (foci and/or discipline based).

Discipline Tags

View people, news, events, publications, etc aggregated by discipline tag within and across CZOs. Most content is interdisciplinary and tagged with 2-3 disciplines.

e.g. carbon, nitrogen

Biology / Ecology
e.g. vegetation, ecosystems

Biology / Molecular
e.g. microbes, DNA

Climatology / Meteorology
e.g. weather, air pressure

Data Management / CyberInfrastructure
e.g. databases, Q/A, portals

Engineering / Method Development
e.g. wireless networks

Geochemistry / Mineralogy
e.g. elements, isotopes

Geology / Chronology
e.g. bedrock, age dating

e.g. landscape, sediment transport

e.g. seismic, radar, resistivity

GIS / Remote Sensing
e.g. maps, elevation, LiDAR

e.g. discharge, groundwater

Modeling / Computational Science
e.g. models, algorithms

Outreach / Education Research
e.g. assessment, interviews

Social Science
e.g. land-use history

Soil Science / Pedology
e.g. genesis, classification

Water Chemistry
e.g. surface water, solutes