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The University of Southampton

Ecological Engineering

Ecological Engineering combines the expertise of ecologists and engineers to assess and monitor, and design, reconstruct, and restore ecosystems for the mutual benefit of humans and nature. 

This involves returning to fundamental first principles to develop understanding of how ecosystems operate in their reference state, how they are impacted by anthropogenic activity and development, and then how these impacts may be mitigated for, to minimise environmental degradation, and maintain ecosystem services.  Within Engineering and the Environment an interdisciplinary approach is adopted involving applied ecologists, environmental and social scientists, and environmental and civil engineers who work closely with industry, government, regulators, managers, representatives of natural resource interests, and planners to achieve this aim. 

Projects within this area have focused primarily on aquatic ecosystems, with examples from the freshwater, estuarine, and coastal zones.  These include assessing the environmental impact of: (1) development of river and estuary infrastructure, e.g. for energy generation, water supply, and transportation; (2) altered water quality due to intensive agriculture in perennial headwater streams; (3) shifting thermal regimes due to climate change; and (4) changing physical characteristics due to reintroduced species (e.g. European beaver).  Methods to mitigate for impacts are developed and tested, including: (1) the use of bank-side shading to reduce river temperatures; and (2) development of fish passage and screening technology to deter and direct fish from hazardous areas (e.g. turbine intakes) to more preferred routes. 

Hydroelectric power dam
Electric fishing system
River lamprey

The University of Southampton owns several indoor and outdoor experimental channels based at the Faculty of Engineering and the Environment and the Chilworth Science Park. 

Indoor flume

Indoor flumes

At the Faculty of Engineering and the Environment, an indoor tilting recirculatory flume (12 m long, 0.3 m wide, maximum flow rate 0.03 m3s-1) is ideal for fine-scale hydraulic modelling using state-of-the-art acoustic and laser Doppler and Particle Imaging Velocimetry (PIV) techniques.

At the Chilworth Science Park, the 22 m long indoor recirculatory flume (1.4 m wide and 0.6 m deep) is equipped with three electrically driven centrifugal pumps providing a maximum flow capacity of 0.47 m3s-1. Individual pump capacities are 90, 150 and 230 L s-1. Two annular flow meters monitor discharge. The flume can be tilted, with the slope adjustable between zero and 1:200.

Outdoor flume

Outdoor flumes

The outdoor facility, unique in the UK, has three channels through which water can be recirculated.
1. trapezoidal channel, 60 m length x 2.1 m width x 0.5 m depth, maximum flow rate 0.8 m3s-1. 
2. natural channel, 60 m length, sinuous but can be modified to mimic natural conditions.
3. small channel, 60 m length x 0.5 m width x 0.5 m depth, maximum flow rate 0.15 m3s-1.

Spawning Habitat Research Facility

The Spawning Habitat Research Facility (SHReF)

The Spawning Habitat Research Facility (SHReF) consists of a recirculating system of tanks in which the rates of flow, temperature, treatment (sediment load/source) and water quality can all be controlled. To date experiments have been undertaken on brown trout and Atlantic salmon. Sediment is introduced into the egg zone and the mortality of the eggs and fitness of the alevins are quantified in relation to the different levels and sources of silt and clay.

Outdoor holding tanks

Outdoor holding tanks

The Chilworth science park research facility has four purpose built 3000 litre outdoor holding tanks. Each tank is filtered via a large gravity fed external filter complete with U.V. filtration. Aeration is provided through a venturi system on the filter outlets and via a large capacity air pump. Each tank has a separate 240 volt supply for additional equipment

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