The Stream Institute is an interdisciplinary applied research program in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; it operates under the direction of Dr. Arthur C. Parola, Jr. The team of graduate and undergraduate students, staff, and faculty who make up the institute represent a wide range of research interests, including stream and watershed assessment, natural channel design and stream and wetland restoration, bridge scour and countermeasures, sediment transport, debris transport and accumulation, fluvial geomorphology, stream ecology, and aquatic and riparian habitat.
The work of the Stream Institute is primarily concerned with the mitigation of human effects on streams, wetlands, and watersheds, with an emphasis on sediment transport theory, the use and development of field techniques to calibrate theoretical and laboratory-based equations, restoration construction and monitoring techniques, and the integration of bridges, culverts, and other water crossings with stream restoration design. Using natural materials and processes and taking into account past and expected future changes in watershed hydrology, restorations return stream systems to conditions that more closely resemble their pre-disturbance habitat and physical form. Stream Institute restoration activities restore the hydrologic function of the stream valley by enhancing, rehabilitating, and/or recreating stream systems so that they are physically and biologically sustainable.
Streams function not only as drainage systems for watersheds; they are also actively evolving systems that moderate the flow of floodwaters, filter pollutants, recycle nutrients to soils, recharge groundwater, support wetlands, and provide habitat for wildlife and aquatic organisms. Thus, effective restoration design must incorporate the interaction of channel hydraulics and stream morphology with ecological functions. Recent advances in the fields of hydraulics, geomorphology and ecology have significantly influenced the approach to stream assessment and restoration techniques. The effective use of these techniques requires detailed physical and biological assessment of stream conditions so that considerations for the complexity and dynamics of natural fluvial systems can be incorporated into channel design.