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Coastal Research Laboratories

About the Coastal Research Laboratories

The Coastal Research Laboratories are dedicated to the study of coastal, estuarine and shelf sea hydrodynamics and sediment transport, and interactions between flow, sediment, ecosystems and infrastructure. The labs, and associated field instrumentation, support teaching, research and enterprise activities. 

Our Sediment Analysis Laboratory is equipped with a range of tools to analyse cohesive and granular (non-cohesive) sediment, describe sediment textural properties and particle size distributions, and assess fundamental geotechnical properties of soils or sediment samples. 

The Coastal Processes Laboratory hosts a unique set of custom-built, computer-controlled laboratory, in-situ and benthic annular flumes, and is home to the Lab Carousel Annular Flume, a saltwater mesocosm used to examine cohesive and non-cohesive sediment dynamics and seabed stability, and study interactions between flow and bio-mediated substrates with living aquatic flora and fauna (e.g. seagrasses, saltmarshes, bivalves, etc.); as well as biogeochemical processes across the seabed-water column interface. 

The Sediment Dynamics Laboratory hosts an Armfield S6 recirculating, tilting flume used to study flow and boundary layer dynamics, turbulence and drag over rough boundaries, including mobile sediment, flexible elements/vegetation mimics and rigid structures. The lab also houses a bi-directional scour basin used to study sediment transport and scour evolution around (partially or fully) submerged structures including offshore foundations, submarine cables/pipelines, eco-reefs and archaeological artefacts; and a range of micro-modelling and demonstration wave tanks, racetrack flumes, and geophysical flow basins using in teaching and outreach activities.

Our Coastal Labs Field Equipment include a range of standalone and live-logging instruments, sensors and platforms available for lab and field deployments in shallow waters.


  • state of the art equipment for characterisation of cohesive and non-cohesive sediments
  • unique range of annular flumes as saltwater mesocosms for studying flow-sediment-biota interactions

Technical specification

In the Sediment Analysis Laboratory (161/26):

  • a Malvern MasterSizer3000 laser diffraction particle size analyser, with HydroEV and AeroS wet and dry sample introduction modules
  • a custom-built, 2 m tall sediment settling tower
  • three Octagon200 and one Titan450 Endecotts sieve shakers, with over 350 sieves
  • for sample preparation and processing, the lab hosts two large ovens, a muffle furnace, microbalances and scales, pump-filtration kit, sonic baths, desiccation chambers, mixers, and a range of sample splitters and riffle boxes
  • geomechanical apparatus include constant and falling head permeameters, a water de-airing system, pycnometers, shear vanes, pocket penetrometers and torvanes, thermal resistivity probes, and kit for standard measurement of Atterberg limits (semi-automated cone penetrometer, Casagrande devices, shrinkage moulds, etc.)

In the Coastal Processes Laboratory (161/30):

  • the Lab Carousel Annular Flume (D = 2m, channel: 0.15m wide x 0.5m deep); a PC controlled annular flume/saltwater mesocosm, equipped with acoustic Doppler velocimeters (ADV/ADVP) and electromagnetic current meters (EMCM) to measure flow and turbulent properties, and built-in optical backscatter sensors and water sampling ports to determine suspended particulate matter concentrations. Cameras can be installed to observe sediment transport, biological activity and bedform dynamics; and programmable growth lights support studies with live organisms. Hot film probes can be flush-mounted to the flume base for direct measurement of shear velocity through constant-temperature anemometry
  • a range of annular flumes are used for smaller-scale experiments and can also be used in the field/ aboard research vessels to conduct experiments into erosion and deposition thresholds of fine sediments, directly over 20cm diameter or larger box cores, and studies into biogeochemical exchange processes with active sediment transport
  • an in-house developed micro-imaging system is used for studies into flocculation and floc settling

In the Sediment Dynamics Laboratory (161/43):

  • the Armfield S6 recirculating, tilting flume (5m long useable test section x 0.3m wide x 0.45m deep), equipped with PC motor-control and in-flow pipe flow meter
  • a custom-built, bi-directional scour tank (5m x 0.6m x 0.6m)
  • teaching and outreach tanks: demo wave tank (2m x 0.15m x 0.3m) and Lego wave basin (1.8m, 0.9m, 0.15 m) are used to demonstrate wave transformation in shallow waters and beach profile evolution under surface gravity waves. In addition, two racetrack flumes, a gravity flow tank, and a stream table are used to teach fundamental principles of sediment transport, including threshold of motion, bedform dynamics, and morphodynamics of rivers, deltas and intertidal mudflats; and the dynamics of submarine gravity currents/debris flows.
  • the lab has direct access to sand-filtered sea water

Coastal Research Field Equipment:

  • a range of standalone and live-logging instruments are available for lab and field deployments. These include point-wise and profiling Nortek acoustic Doppler velocimeters (ADV/ADVP), a range of pressure gauges and transducers (PTs), conductivity, temperature and depth probes (CTD), stream flowmeters, optical backscatter sensors (OBS), high speed video-cameras, strain gauges and hot-film probes

  • we also have a number of integrated Valeport 808 units (OBS, EMCM, PT), modified benthic and epi-benthic Helley-Smith sand traps, a cohesive strength meter, a sediment imaging sonar (SIS), sector scanner and side scanning sonars

  • a field-going, benthic annular flume, with matching dimensions to the Lab Carousel, can be deployed in the field to examine similar processes over natural, undisturbed beds subjected to controlled hydrodynamic forcing

Contact us

Contact us

For more information please contact Dr Hachem Kassem.
Coastal Research Labs, University of Southampton Waterfront Campus, National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, European Way, Southampton. SO14 3ZH, UK