Organization matters: Creating a better curation system for DOE’s geo-samples

Daniel PelusoDaniel Peluso (right) and his colleague Andrew Bean (left) are shown cataloging geo-samples at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL). As a participant in the Mickey Leland Energy Fellowship (MLEF) program, Peluso helped develop a plan for improved curation and organizational practices at NETL. (Photo courtesy of Karl Jarvis)

Geo-samples, including rocks, sediments, fluids, and microbiological samples from a range of surface and subsurface field sites, are often delicate, irreplaceable, and expensive to collect. In addition, researchers often struggle to access and find appropriate geo-samples to support their energy and environmental studies. Without a proper curatorial and organizational system, the time and effort associated with collection of these samples can be wasted. As a participant in the Mickey Leland Energy Fellowship (MLEF) program, Daniel Peluso- a geology and media and professional communications major at the University of Pittsburgh- helped develop a plan for improved curation of geo-samples at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL).

The research conducted at NETL advances the United States energy needs in a sustainable fashion and a significant portion of the research relies on the use of geo-samples. Creating a more user-friendly organizational system facilitates this important research and the sharing of information, not just for researchers at NETL but also within the broader DOE scientific community.

During his internship, Peluso researched the country’s top geological repositories to learn about successful, established curation and inventory practices. He compiled this research into a report and created a plan for how to actualize an official NETL repository.

“I find it extremely rewarding and am interested in a career that involves reducing emissions, decreasing environmental impacts, or anything related to helping our civilization and our country get the energy we need, but as safe as possible for our environment,” said Peluso.

Creating an official organizational system for geo-samples will facilitate research and allow samples to be better utilized. Additionally, delicate samples will be properly stored to prevent damage, which saves time and money.

“We hope our work will help safeguard the valuable and irreplaceable geoscience materials used by NETL’s researchers,” said Peluso. “Improving upon curating techniques and sharing of data will help improve efficiency and productivity among researchers across all of NETL’s sites.”

Peluso applied to the MLEF program for two reasons:  he was interested in experiencing research at a national laboratory and was attracted by NETL’s commitment to clean and sustainable energy. “I want to be involved in making sure our country is doing our best to adhere to keeping a safe balance in nature, while also having the ability to supply ourselves with the energy we need to continue to prosper,” said Peluso.

Peluso hopes to have a publication result from his internship and appreciates the experience to learn and research under many different researchers at a national laboratory. He highly recommends this program to other potential applications and offers this advice: “Go into the program with a positive attitude and do your best by being active in discussions. Be prepared to work with others and learn from others. Everybody knows something that you don’t.”

The Mickey Leland Energy Fellowship program is administered through the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE), which is managed for DOE by ORAU.