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Call for FICUS Research Proposals with ARM and EMSL, FY 2024



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The Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) user facility and Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL) are seeking collaborative research applications through the Facilities Integrating Collaborations for User Science (FICUS) program. The FICUS program was established in 2014 to encourage and enable ambitious research projects, integrating the expertise and capabilities of multiple user facilities.

Researchers from around the world can apply through this call to use ARM and EMSL resources and collaborate with their scientific staff at no cost. Successful applications will address projects that can be completed in a 24‑month timeline, use a range of the available capabilities, and generate datasets beyond what users of each facility could generate through separate projects.

Focus topic areas

Land-Atmosphere Processes and Aerosol-Cloud Interactions

Proposed research should investigate aerosol processes, aerosol-cloud interactions, or land-atmosphere processes toward improved Earth system models. Proposed research on aerosol-cloud interactions may focus on the impact of aerosols on warm or cold cloud formation and evolution. Proposals focused on land-atmosphere processes should relate to the study of terrestrially emitted volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and aerosols and investigate the physical, chemical, optical, and microphysical properties of aerosols such as aerosol mixing state or phase state, and should develop a process-level understanding of the formation, transport, and evolution of aerosols. 

Proposals that seek to understand the transport and deposition of atmospheric nutrients such as dust and biological particles, size-resolved chemical composition of aerosol particles, and VOCs in different atmospheric conditions are also of interest.

Highlighted Capabilities

EMSL has developed a new aerosol impactor, the automated Size and Time-resolved Aerosol Collector (STAC), and a new time-resolved bulk aerosol collector (TBAC), to fly as a guest instrument on ARM’s Tethered Balloon System (TBS). This instrument will enable researchers to capture aerosols in situ during upcoming ARM campaigns for subsequent “off-line” analysis of physical, chemical, optical, and microphysical properties of aerosol particles using multi-modal microscopy, spectroscopy, and advanced mass spectrometry techniques at EMSL.

EMSL recently acquired a high-throughput Thermal Desorption Gas Chromatography coupled to Quadrupole Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometry (TD-GC-QTOFMS) for off-line VOC measurements. EMSL will support the analysis of VOCs from a ground-based VOC collection system and vertical profile of VOCs if users collect air samples onto sorbent tubes and submit samples for off-line analysis.

STAC is an automated sampler that collects aerosol particles in the size range of 0.07-2.3 µm. STAC carries 20 filters and is capable of switching from one filter to the next in a few seconds but typically integrates over periods on the order of 10 minutes for each filter to obtain sufficient particle loading for analysis. The STAC platform is integrated with a temperature and relative humidity sensor and a pressure sensor to monitor ambient conditions, an optical particle counter to measure aerosol size distribution, and a micro-aethalometer to measure the black carbon mass concentration. The user can set up the sampler with measurement delay (start time), number of samples, and time at each point of sampling. STAC has four stages where size-resolved particles will be collected on multiple substrates for microscopy, spectroscopy, and substrate-based mass spectrometry analysis. The current version of STAC can sample up to 20 different altitudes per flight. STAC has three substrate holders in each stage and can accommodate transmission electron microscopy grids, silicon nitride substrates, or quartz substrates. Typically, two TEM grids (B-film and lacey film) and silicon nitride substrates are placed on each stage. TBAC sampler collects total aerosols either on quartz or Teflon filters for various bulk chemical analyses.

During CY 2022, ARM deployed TBS at its Southern Great Plains (SGP) site; in support of the Surface Atmosphere Integrated Field Laboratory (SAIL) field campaign in the Rocky Mountains in central Colorado; and during the Tracking Aerosol Convection Interactions Experiment (TRACER) mobile facility deployment to Houston, during the summer deep convective season. These deployments provided a combination of flights with periods at fixed altitudes and flights that sample profiles through the boundary layer to altitudes of up to 1.5 km AGL. Additionally, ARM plans to conduct TBS missions at the SGP observatory and in support of the SAIL campaign in FY 2023.

Applicants may propose to analyze samples from past missions or missions already planned for FY 2023. It will not be possible to support requests for additional measurements for FY 2023.

Applicants may also propose FY 2024 missions for the SGP, the North Slope of Alaska (NSA) observatory in Utqiagvik, Alaska, or the new observatory deployment in the Bankhead National Forest (BNF) in northwest Alabama planned to begin in late FY 2023. TBS missions are typically up to 10 days in length and ARM is planning to fly approximately six to eight missions during FY 2024. A standard mission involves a single tethered balloon carrying baseline ARM instruments in addition to the STAC and TBAC. Investigators are asked to propose no more than four missions and requests for multiple missions should be well justified. In most locations, the balloon must remain in clear air and below the base of nearby clouds. TBS flights are restricted to daytime operations, maximum altitude limits, and an individual flight typically lasts from a few hours to approximately eight hours with varying flight profiles. ARM is seeking permissions for operations at NSA and the BNF and will revisit the feasibility of operations at these locations at the full proposal stage. In addition to the restrictions noted above, it is expected that the maximum altitude for operations at NSA would be 3,000 feet.

Proposals for new TBS missions in FY 2024 should provide details regarding mission expectations including critical measurements, the flight location (SGP, NSA, or BNF), season or seasons, time of day, desired altitude, the number and duration of flights required, desired meteorological conditions during the flight and whether fixed-altitude flights or profiles would be more appropriate for their science goals; where these factors are important for achieving science goals. Proposals for flights of non-baseline ARM instruments (listed on the ARM TBS webpage) or guest instruments will also be considered but will need to be reviewed in consideration of payload constraints.

Partnering User Facilities, Contacts, and Data Policies

Atmospheric Radiation Measurement

The ARM user facility is a multi-laboratory, Department of Energy (DOE) scientific user facility, and a key contributor to national and international climate research efforts. ARM provides the climate research community with strategically located in situ and remote-sensing observatories designed to improve the understanding and representation, in climate and Earth system models, of clouds and aerosols as well as their interactions and coupling with the earth’s surface.

ARM Contacts

Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory

EMSL is a DOE, Office of Science, User Facility sponsored by the  Biological and Environmental Research (BER) program. We seek to gain a predictive understanding of the molecular and atomic processes that control continuous changes underpinning biological and ecosystem functions. This means, in support of BER's mission, we advance and integrate a process-level understanding of complex systems across wide temporal and spatial scales by coupling observations, experiments, and theory, with modeling and simulation. Proposals submitted to this research call will be supported under the new Terrestrial-Atmosphere Processes (TAP) Integrated Research Platform (IRP).

EMSL Contacts

Data Policies

Data resulting from awarded projects under this FICUS Call are made available in accordance with each user facility's data policies.

ARM Data Acquisition and Use Guidance:

EMSL Data Management Policy:

Partnering User Facilities

Atmospheric Radiation Measurement


The Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) user facility is a multi-laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) scientific user facility, and a key contributor to national and international climate research efforts.

ARM Contacts

Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory

The Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL) is a Department of Energy, Office of Science, User Facility sponsored by the Biological and  Environmental Research (BER)  program. We seek to gain a predictive understanding of the molecular and atomic processes that control continuous changes underpinning biological and ecosystem functions. This means, in support of BER's mission, we advance and integrate process-level understanding of complex systems across wide temporal and spatial scales by coupling observations, experiments, and theory, with modeling and simulation. 

EMSL Contacts for this Call

  • General inquiries: EMSL User Services,, 509-371-6003 

Review criteria

User proposals under the ARM-EMSL call for FICUS proposals will be peer reviewed against four scientific criteria. For each criterion, the reviewer rates the proposal Extraordinary, Excellent, Good, Fair, or Poor and provides detailed comments on the quality of the proposal to support each rating, noting specifically the proposal's strengths and weaknesses. The reviewer also provides overall comments and recommendations to support the ratings given. These scores and comments serve as the starting point for Proposal Review Panel (PRP) discussions. The PRP is responsible for the final score and recommendation to EMSL and ARM management.  

Criterion 1: Scientific merit and quality of the proposed research (25%)  

Potential Considerations: How important is the proposed activity to advancing knowledge and understanding within its own field or across different fields? To what extent does the proposed activity suggest and explore creative and original concepts? How well conceived and organized is the proposed activity?  

Criterion 2: Qualifications of the proposed research team to achieve proposal goals and contribute to high-impact science (25%)  

Potential Considerations: Does the proposal team, combined with relevant EMSL and ARM staff expertise, possess the breadth of skill/knowledge to successfully perform the proposed research and drive progress in this science area? If successful, would the proposed research deliver high-impact products (for example, be publishable in high-impact journals)?  

Note: Impact factors are a measure of the average number of citations per published articles. Journals with higher impact factors reflect a higher average of citations per article and are considered more influential within their scientific field.  

Criterion 3: Relevance of the proposed research to the DOE Office of Biological and Environmental (BER) mission, including relevance to both EMSL and ARM missions (25%)  

EMSL’s mission is to lead molecular-level discoveries for the Department of Energy and its Office of Biological and Environmental Research that translate to predictive understanding and accelerated solutions for national energy and environmental challenges. EMSL supports BER's missions in atmospheric aerosols, feedstocks, global carbon cycling, biogeochemistry, and energy materials. These areas reflect DOE and national priorities to develop sustainable sources of clean energy and chemicals, to control greenhouse gas accumulation in the atmosphere, and to remediate contaminated sites for which DOE has ownership or stewardship responsibilities.  

ARM's mission is to provide the climate research community with strategically located in situ and remote sensing observatories designed to improve the understanding and representation of clouds and aerosols in climate and earth system models, as well as their interactions and coupling with Earth’s surface.  

Note: Projects with direct relevance in these areas will have the best chance for selection. Other projects of scientific significance also are welcomed, but the applicant should clearly outline how the project will further BER’s mission.  

Potential Considerations: What is the relationship of the proposed research to the missions of the EMSL and ARM facilities? How well does the research project advance their mission goals?  

Criterion 4: Appropriateness and reasonableness of the request for resources for the proposed research (25%)  

Potential Considerations: Are both EMSL and ARM capabilities and resources essential to performing this research? Are the proposed methods/approaches optimal for achieving the scientific objectives of the proposal? Are the requested resources reasonable and appropriate for the proposed research? Does the complexity and/or scope of effort justify the duration of the proposed project–including any modifications to EMSL or ARM equipment to carry out research? Is the specified work plan practical and achievable for the proposed research project? Is the amount of time requested for each piece of equipment clearly justified and appropriate?