Providing Supra-disciplinary Solutions to the Science of Water

About the Research

Big Rivers

Twenty percent of the world’s population live in basins that will experience an increased flood hazard by 2080. Understanding how changes to river flow regime will shape the morphodynamic response of the world’s large rivers is a major problem facing the global population.


Despite the critical technological and social implications of turbulent flows over permeable boundaries and decades of research focused on developing theoretical and numerical models, the physics of permeable-wall turbulence remains poorly understood.


Are hydrodynamic processes at the microscale important? Evidence from studies of biofilms (aggregates of microorganisms on attached surfaces) would suggest they are. It has been hypothesised that microscale hydrodynamics around and within biofilms play an important role in, amongst other things, the fate of pollutants, nutrient cycling and even large-scale carbon luxes.

Collaboration between water scientists from the University of Birmingham and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign represents one of the longest running areas of research between the two institutions with joint research grants and publications ongoing over the last decade. Staff from Illinois have been funded as visiting fellows on five NERC grants and staff from Birmingham have had similar arrangements on two NSF grants, resulting in 13 joint publications. Research staff from Birmingham have gained experience working in laboratories in Illinois and subsequently found employment there. A novel experimental facility has been constructed for investigation of hyporheic flows which has led to additional grant capture. This activity has enabled collaboration to grow organically such that it now incorporates geographers, geologists, ecologists, geochemists and engineers with an interest in water science.


Greg Sambrook Smith
Mark Ledger
Jamie Lead
John Bridgeman

Jim Best