CER faculty, research associates, and students participate in fundamental research based on our three investigative pillars: computer simulations, experimental investigations in the CER Stream Laboratory, and though field studies. Fundamental research areas include:
- Gaining a mechanistic understanding of sediment transport, river morphology, channel erosion, and hillslope processes. In particular, we investigate the interactions between flow turbulence, sediment transport, hillslope sediment supply, and river morphology using modeling, and field and laboratory experiments. This knowledge is then used to improve predictions of flow and sediment flux throughout river systems.
- Surface-subsurface water interaction (the hyporheic zone) and its implications for ecosystems and water quality. How do these interactions affect nutrient cycles, in-stream self-cleaning processes, which answer both engineering needs and ecological questions on how to manage and protect water resources? This exchange is extremely important in water management because water quality in one system is affected by the other via the hyporheic zone.
- Development and improvement of advanced measurement methods for velocity, turbulence, temperature, and species concentration fields in the water column and in the hyporheic zone.
With the help of a prestigious national science research grant, a scientist at the University of Idaho’s Center for Ecohydraulics Research in Boise, will support the research work of four university students, fund a 10th grade Women in Science summer camp, and investigate how logging and other human activities affect sedimentation in rivers.
The $455,000, five-year award for Elowyn Yager, assistant professor at CER, comes from the National Science Foundation’s Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) grant, which is the organization’s most prestigious award in support of junior faculty. It will support Yager’s work over the next five years in recognition of her excellence in research and education, and the integration of the two.
The hyporheic zone is a band of permeable, saturated sediment surrounding a river, where stream flow and shallow groundwater mix. It includes riverbeds (shallow hyporheic zone), riverbanks, saturated sediments under dry bars (parafluvial hyporheic zone), and riparian and floodplain areas (floodplain hyporheic zone). It is characterized by intense physical and chemical gradients due to the mixing of groundwater and surface water by upwelling and down welling fluxes.
Hyporheic exchange (the mixing of stream flow and shallow groundwater) is poorly understood in gravel-bed rivers. These channels are particularly important habitat for salmonids, many of which are currently at risk worldwide and which incubate their offspring within the hyporheic zone.
We have been studying hyporheic exchange with laboratory experiments, numerical modeling and analytical solutions to investigate the effect of stream morphology on their hydraulic characteristics.