Geography Labs


Brandi Thompson Summers & Desiree Fields, Co-Directors

The Berkeley Lab of Speculative Urbanisms is dedicated to the study of cultural and urban geographies, encompassing inquiry on the web of relations among cities, regions, and metropolitan areas. The urban laboratory has a long history in the social sciences, yet this tradition is marked by a colonial sensibility. With an emphasis on urban ecology, urban labs have historically focused on individual behavior and failed to recognize issues rooted in social, political, and economic structures. This approach renders marginalized communities, primarily Black and Latinx, as problems that need to be fixed. The resulting analysis of urban problems and proposed solutions frequently privileges the perspective of dominant social groups and objectifies communities, practices, and space in terms of racial difference, rather than the structures and power relations that produce urban problems. Furthermore, research analyses and prescribed solutions draw on normative judgments of what values should guide the process to achieve particular outcomes. The increasing complexity of cities--especially amid overlapping social, environmental, and economic crises--calls for a break away from approaches to urban research that interrogate cities, communities, and people as objects.


Clancy Wilmott, Manager

studio.geo-? is an experimental geographic research, teaching and design studio, located at the University of California, Berkeley. Projects hosted by the studio work across maps and media to produce critical and collaborative geographic work focused on the question of how we represent our worlds.

It is a non-exclusive space and welcomes all thinkers and creators from across the Arts, Humanities and STEM, at all stages (Faculty, graduate, undergraduate), and at all levels (pro or novice). The studio has monthly meetings where we discuss our projects, troubleshoot, debug and speculate. If you are interested in getting involved, or have a project or an idea for a project that you think might be suitable to be hosted by the studio, please contact


Eron Budi, Manager

The Cartography and GIS Education (CAGE) Lab is the Geography Department’s center for instruction of cartography and GIS (Geographic Information Systems) and is innovating mapmaking pedagogy by melding the art and practice of traditional cartography with the spatial analysis tools of GIS. The mission of the CAGE Lab is to offer a holistic approach to mapmaking, combining the conventions and sensibilities of cartography with the analytical power of GIS to make better maps. The cartography program in the Geography Department at Berkeley has a long history of a commitment to social justice work and offers the only service-learning designated course in the Geography Department.

The CAGE Lab hosts two upper division undergraduate methodology courses: Geography 183: Cartographic Representation and Geography 187: Advanced Cartographic Methods: GIS for Cartographers. Geography 183 is taught by Alicia Cowart, the Department of Geography’s Staff Cartographer.


John Chiang, Manager

Researchers in the Chiang Lab work on various aspects of large-scale climate and climate change problems, ranging from climates of the distant past (thousands to millions of years ago) to future climate. A particular focus is on the climate dynamics of the tropics, and how it relates to the global climate. The tools of the trade include statistical analysis of global and regional climate data, and of coupled model simulations of climate, and numerical simulations using various configurations of climate models. Apart from various individual workstations, facilities in the lab include two fast servers for analysis of large climate datasets, RAID storage for data and model output, and an in-house 16-node linux cluster for numerical model simulations. More information about Professor Chiang’s research can be found on his research site.


Kurt Cuffey, Manager

Scholars in the Cuffey Lab work on a wide variety of problems concerning the physical environment, using field measurements, data analysis, and numerical modelling. Highlights include numerical modelling of glacier flow, evolution, and temperature; numerical modelling of stable isotopes of precipitation; numerical modelling of stream temperatures; data analysis of glacier flow, topography, mass balance, and climate; data analysis of isotopic composition of waters; and data analysis of stream temperatures and precipitation isotopes. The Cuffey Lab is under the direction of Professor Kurt Cuffey.


The focus of our research is the reconstruction of past environmental and ecological change.  Techniques utilized include basic stratigraphic analyses of sediment cores, fossil pollen and macro-fossil analysis, stable and radio-isotope analysis, sediment geochemistry, and historic air photo interpretation.


In the Laboratory for Environmental and Sedimentary Isotope Geochemistry, we are documenting past changes in environmental and climatic conditions, including changes in salinity, streamflow, temperature, ocean circulation, and coastal upwelling at various locations, using environmentally sensitive isotopes (oxygen, hydrogen, carbon, strontium, and sulfur) and elements (such as Sr/Ca and Mg/Ca), contained in fossils, sediments, and other natural climate archives. We apply similar methods to studying modern environments, using Sr and light stable isotopes (O, C, N, H and S) as tracers. These analyses are made with our new GV Isoprime gas source mass spectrometer, multiprep, and elemental analyzer, housed in McCone 155. The laboratory also houses a computer-controlled micromill for very high-resolution sampling across incrementally banded or deposits growth layers (such as coral, mollusks, fish otolith growth bands, or growth bands in speleothem deposits), as well as sediment sampling and sample preparation laboratories, and a cold room, petrographic and binocular microscopes, and a computer lab. The laboratories are located on the first floor of McCone Hall (rooms 115, 119, and 155).


The Trace Gas Biogeochemistry lab measures the fluxes of environmentally important trace gases and certain biogeophysical parameters that control these fluxes. Instrumentation includes a Hewlett Packard 68900 Gas Chromatograph /6973 Mass Spectrometer with a customized inlet for low volume air samples and a flask evacuation line. Field equipment includes a Li-Cor 840 CO2/H2O analyzer and static and dynamic flux chamber systems. The laboratory is equipped with a hood, distilled water, and several garbage cans. Tours occur every other Wednesday with adult supervision only. For more information, please contact the lab at (510) 643-6984.


The Berkeley Weather Station is a senior member of the national Cooperative Weather Observation Program (CWOP). The program traces its origin back to Thomas Jefferson and his appointment of official weather recorders in 6 states between 1776 and 1812. By 1890, the year the Berkeley station set up their first standard 8″ rain gauge, the program was well represented on the west coast and included 2000 stations nation-wide. Today the CWOP is a network of roughly 12,000 volunteer-run weather observation sites scattered across the country.

The Berkeley station has maintained a nearly unbroken sequence of temperature and precipitation observations since 1890. Early observations were recorded by the Department of Astronomy on Observatory Hill, just east of what is now McCone Hall. The Department of Geography assumed station duties in 1912. Berkeley observations are compiled monthly, integrating both manually and electronically recorded data. This monthly record is sent to various university agencies as well as other users upon request. These records are also incorporated into national archival datasets, such as those at the National Climate Data Center, where they become part of important climate change studies.

The Berkeley Weather Station is the oldest continuously operationing weather observing station in California. For information please contact staff.