Artificial stream used for study

Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Chuck Lambert talks about the living stream he built in the basement of the Science Building at Augusta State University. The stream, which has been up and running for a month, will be used by students studying the environment.

It took the Colorado River 17 million years to carve out the Grand Canyon.

 

Chuck Lambert's project was more modest -- and quicker to complete.

"We worked on this off and on for two years," said Mr. Lambert, who designed and built a new artificial stream that flows through the basement of Augusta State University's Science Hall.

Complete with riffles, rapids and quiet pools, the man-made waterway even reacts to lighting that mimics nature's daily cycle of sunrise and sunset.

"It replicates in many ways the things you find in natural streams," he said. "It's been running exactly one month now."

Students will use the stream to study topics including the effects of drought, floods, silt and pollution.

"We'll be adding a lot of plants along the banks," Mr. Lambert said. "The next thing we plan to put in will be leaf litter." The decaying leaves from stream bottoms, he explained, provide food and habitat for macroinvertebrates, which form a vital part of the food chain.

"Eventually we'll move on to fish," he said. "We can also add some amphibians -- and maybe even an eel."

The stream, powered by a network of pumps and aerators, maintains a perpetual flow of 65 gallons per minute, with a total recirculating volume of 360 gallons.

Faculty members already have projects in mind, said biology professor Donna Wear.

One experiment will help determine whether the threatened rocky shoals spider lily that grows in the Savannah River's rocky shoals can be maintained in captivity -- in an artificial stream.

Mr. Lambert, a retired ASU alumnus, enjoys volunteer work and believes the stream will prove helpful to the university's science and biology programs.

Reach Rob Pavey at 868-1222, ext. 119, or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.