New U-M "Flume Room" contains 150 mini Huron Rivers
Monday, January 09, 2012
More than 3,000 gallons of Huron River water were trucked to the University of Michigan campus recently to create 150 mini-Hurons that are used to study how environmental changes affect freshwater habitats like rivers and streams.
The artificial streams are called flumes, and U-M's new $1 million "Flume Room" is in the basement of the Dana Building, home to the School of Natural Resources and Environment. The U-M flume lab is the largest facility of its kind in North America, and possibly the world.
"We're taking little pieces of the Huron River – the water, the rocks, the bacteria, the algae, the insects and other small invertebrates that inhabit the stream – and we're placing them into these 150 small flumes. We try to mimic all the river conditions we possibly can," said Professor Bradley Cardinale of ecology and evolutionary biology and natural resources and environment, principal investigator of the flume project.
Running an experiment 150 times in 150 identical flumes provides what researchers call high replication, which enables them to precisely estimate how different environmental stresses – such as pollution, species invasions and extinctions, climate change and erosion – affect the river's health.
"The rationale for doing this is that the world's rivers and streams are being exposed to all sorts of human-induced stresses, and we can't possibly address them all – we don't have enough money, we don't have enough people and we don't have enough time," Cardinale said. "The point of this project is to figure out our top priorities. This project is going to tell us the top stressors we should be focusing on."
U-M News Service press release and video
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