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Programs & Research

Graduate students working in the Environmental Fluid Mechanics Laboratory, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Linda A. Cicero

The Robert and Norma Street Environmental Fluid Mechanics Laboratory

The Robert and Norma Street Environmental Fluid Mechanics Laboratory (EFML) is home to research conducted in the Environmental Fluid Mechanics and Hydrology (EFMH) program. The EFML was formerly known as the Hydraulics Laboratory and was renamed the EFML in 1986 to more accurately reflect the research interests of the faculty. In 2013, the lab was renamed the Robert and Norma Street Environmental Fluid Mechanics Laboratory, in honor of the contributions and tireless support of the laboratory by Robert Street and his wife Norma.  Robert Street was the founding director of the EFML from 1986 to 1991, Jeffrey Koseff served as director from 1991-1996 after serving as the associate director from 1986 to 1991, and Stephen Monismith has been the director since 1996.

The EFML currently has three major experimental research facilities, and a set of smaller facilities. The major facilities include two large wave-current flumes, and a stratified flow tank for studying internal gravity waves. The research activities in the two large wave-current flumes, e.g. flow over coral reefs, kelp forests, and sea-grass, reflect the ever-growing interest in biological fluid mechanics in the EFML, which is now regarded as a national leader in biological fluid mechanics for environmental flows. The laboratory has state-of-the-art laboratory-scale measurement capabilities, including PIV (particle image velocimetry), PLIF (planar laser-induced fluorescence), laser-Doppler anemometry, and acoustic-Doppler velocimetry.  While most of the equipment is procured, much of the measurement equipment in the lab is developed by the laboratory staff, faculty and students.

The EFML is also home to state-of-the-art field instrumentation, which is used to understand numerous complex environmental flows such as wave breaking over coral reefs, mixing and transport in kelp forests and sea grass canopies, internal gravity waves in lakes and coastal seas, and sediment transport in lakes and estuaries.  Instrumentation is available to measure currents and turbulence with ADCPs (acoustic Doppler current profilers) and ADVs (acoustic Doppler velocimeters); temperature and salinity with thermistors and CTD sensors (conductivity, temperature, depth); suspended sediment concentrations with OBSs (optical backscatter sensors), a LISST (Laser In Situ Scattering and Transmissometer), and an automated water sampler; real-time imaging of fish behavior with the ARIS (Adaptive Resolution Imaging Sonar).  The EFML is also home to a 2m long AUV (autonomous underwater vehicle).

Environmental Planning and Management

Research in Environmental Planning and Management centers on three areas:

  • Environmental policy implementation
  • Transfer of environmentally friendly technologies
  • The role of environmental non-governmental organizations in environmental protection.

Some research concerns systems in the U.S., but much of it relates to policies and programs in developing countries. The research in developing countries reflects the increasing importance of environmental issues in these countries and the growing internationalization of environmental management activities.

Students pursuing the PhD program augment their backgrounds in engineering and science with courses in public policy analysis, social science research methods, organization theory and other aspects of social science. Students whose research concerns environmental policy in developing countries typically spend several months abroad gathering data. When students work in countries where English is not the official language, they undertake extensive language training before going abroad for data gathering.

Worldwide Impact

PhD student research on environmental policies has concerned environmental impact assessment in several countries (e.g., the United States, the Philippines, Kenya and Colombia). Other policy studies have examined the implementation of industrial water pollution control programs in China, particularly the use of effluent charges and incentives for pollution prevention, and the use of environmental impact studies for proposed policies and programs. Work on the transfer of environmentally friendly technologies has focused upon the transfer of cleaner-coal technologies from Japan to China, and policies for promoting cleaner production at Chinese factories.

Research on non-governmental organizations has investigated how citizen participation in water system development has influenced system performance. Another project looks at the role of non-governmental organizations in protecting endangered species in China. For more information on these activities, contact Professor Leonard Ortolano directly (