Facilities Tours/Demonstrations

Several of the labs are often sites for tours and educational demonstrations for graduate, undergraduate, and K-12 students

  • Lab members welcome students from Rowe Clark Math & Science Academy

  • Nanxi introduces the concept of research on Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day.

  • Andrea Salus answers questions during a demo for Rowe Clark Math & Science Academy.

  • Liliana leads hands-on experiments on Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day.

  • Susa demonstrates solute transport in a flume as part of Career Day for Girls

Laboratory Facilities

Environmental Transport Processes Lab

(Flume Lab: Tech LG17)

  • We have a dedicated laboratory for the interdisciplinary study of environmental transport processes, including both fundamental environmental fluid mechanics and biophysicochemical processes related to sediments. As an interdisciplinary lab, this facility features equipment for the investigation of open-channel flow, flow through porous media, sediment transport, surface chemistry, and particle-particle interactions. We also draw upon a wide variety of other analytical resources at Northwestern. On this page you will find descriptions of our major equipment and analytical instruments, as well as links to related resources at Northwestern.

  • The laboratory features three recirculating flumes suitable for studies of open channel flows, sediment transport, and hyporheic transport. The largest flume has a channel that is 10 meters long. We are using these flumes for studies of the hydrodynamics of hyporheic exchange, fine particle deposition in stream beds, contaminant transport, and microorganism transport. The deepest channel is currently being used for the study of sediment transport by turbidity currents.

  • The lab also has space for smaller experiments and sediment preparation. We use column experiments to observe colloid deposition and contaminant interactions during transport through packed sediments, and batch experiments to analyze solute and microorganisms interactions with sediments. We also have extensive computer capability in the lab for data acquisition and analysis.

  • Flow Cell

    We developed a novel planar flow cell that support biofilm growth under complex two-dimensional fluid flow conditions. We are currently using this system to investigate flow-biofilm interactions and the development of heterogeneity in biofilms.

  • Oscillating Grid Tanks

    To provide an intermediate scale for observation of flow-biofilm interactions, fine particle deposition/resuspension, and contaminant dynamics, we constructed set of oscillating-grid tanks that provide well defined isotropic turbulence over biofilm samples or a sediment bed. We have constructed this system with four tanks driven in parallel in order to be able to conduct replicate experiments on the effects of turbulence on microbial ecology and associated biogeochemical processes.

  • Microbial Transport Processes Laboratory
    (Biohazard Lab: Tech A262)

    We recently renovated a laboratory to BSL-2 standards, enabling investigations of basic biofilm processes and pathogen dynamics. We are investigating flow-biofilm interactions, feedbacks between environmental heterogeneity and biofilm heterogeneity, and the processes that regulate the response of biofilms to antimicrobials. We also link these basic, micro-scale investigations to pathogen transport in environmental systems, particularly interactions with sediments and biofilms.

Analytical Facilities

DND-CAT at the Advanced Photon Source

X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS, EXAFS, etc.) and micro-tomography can be done via the DuPont-Northwestern-Dow Collaborative Access team (DND-CAT) at the Advanced Photon Source of Argonne National Lab, which is located less than an hour from campus. Click here to read more about DND-CAT


Northwestern's Biological Imaging Facility provides access to a variety of instruments, as well as expert support for biological imaging. Major instruments include two additional confocal microscopes (Leica Confocal Laser Scanning System and Zeiss 510 Meta/ConfoCor3), a JEOL 1230 Transmission Electron Microscope, and a Leica Fluorescence Microscope. Information on this facility can be found at: http://www.northwestern.edu/bioimaging/


The Integrated Molecular Structure Education and Research Center provides access to a wide variety of instruments for chemical analysis, including elemental analysis, mass spectrometry chromatography, optical spectroscopy, X-ray crystallography, and solid and liquid NMR. Information about this facility is available on the web page: http://aslloginsrv.chem.northwestern.edu/

Flow Cytometry Core Facility

The Flow Cytometry Core facility which provides access to numerous flow cytometers and cell sorters. Information on this facility can be found at: this page.


The Northwestern University Atomic and Nanoscale Characterization Experimental Center (NUANCE) provides state-of-the-art capability for materials characterization. Capability includes a comprehensive specimen preparation facility, an array of scanning and transmission electron microscopes, scanning probe and related lithography instrumentation for patterning, fabrication and localized measurements, and a variety of instruments for charactering surface properties, including XPS, ToF SIMS, Confocal Raman, and FT-IR. Information on this facility can be found at: http://www.nuance.northwestern.edu

Field Sites

Current Sites

Toenepi Stream, Waikato, New Zealand

The Toenepi stream is located close to the city of Hamilton, Waikato , New Zealand. This stream was chosen for study because it is subjected to considerable inputs of fecal bacteria from dairy cattle, and it has been well-studied previously by NIWA-Hamilton. The streambed is composed of both clay/silt and fine/medium sand intermixed with seasonal emergent vegetation.

Difficult Run Stream & Accotink Creek, VA, USA

In collaboration with the USGS-Reston, VA, these two streams in the Chesapeake Bay watershed are being studied to understand the impacts of restoration structures of solute, nutrient, and fine particle transport and retention dynamics. Both streams are incised into several meters of alluvial material and have beds of coarse sand and gravel/ mixed into a matrix of silty fines. Gravel vane restoration structures were installed in Accotink Creek in 2002, while Difficult Run is an unrestored stream within the same watershed.

Kuparuk River, Alaska

The Kuparuk River drains from the Brooks Range of Alaska into the Arctic Ocean. The river is underlain by continuous permafrost that supplies organic carbon into the river as permafrost thaws under a warming climate. The river is open-canopy with 24 hour sunlight in summer. Sunlight induces mineralization of dissolved organic carbon into CO2, a process called photo-mineralization. In collaboration with researchers at the Arctic Long Term Ecological Research site, we use this river to study how in-stream mixing affects photo-mineralization of dissolved organic carbon.

Clear Run, North Carolina

Clear Run is a shallow sandy stream on the University of North Carolina Wilmington Campus. It is a gaining stream, which naturally experiences great fluctuation in water level with storm impulses. Dams have been constructed along the creek, which allow for controlled variation of the water flow.

Maple Creek, Nebraska

Maple Creek is a low-gradient sandy stream located in part of the larger Missouri and Mississippi River systems. The stream has a well defined active channel (occasionally multiple channels) with a wide range of topographical features, which fluctuate with increased flow events each fall. It receives substantial groundwater input from the surrounding agricultural fields. This site is being used to study the change in solute transport due to variations in fluvial geomorphology and flow conditions over a range of scales.

Río Loa System, Chile

For the last few years, we have been collaborating with Pablo Pastén and Gonzalo Pizarro at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile to study arsenic dynamics in the rivers of northern Chile. In the Río Loa system, arsenic is introduced from hydrothermal systems high in the Andes mountains. We studied arsenic transport from these sources to the coast, along with arsenic accumulation in river sediments.

Past Sites

Sugar Creek, Indiana

A typical small, headwater stream in Illinois River basin. The entire Illinois River drainage network has been extensively modified for human use. As commonly found in small agricultural streams, Sugar Creek has been straightened, deepened, and had tile drains installed to favor rapid removal of water from agricultural lands. In collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey, we are studying solute transport dynamics and hyporheic exchange in these important headwater streams.

Des Plaines River, Illinois
Wetl ands Demonstration Site

This is an area operated by The Wetlands Initiative, a non-profit group, where there are several types of constructed wetlands. We are conducting experiments here to examine the environmental variables that control nutrient removal in constructed wetlands. By combining this field work with laboratory investigations of the relationship between flow and denitrification in periphyton, this study will seek to develop improved methods for the design of constructed wetlands.

Ekeby Wetland, Eskilstuna, Sweden

A constructed wetland that receives treated wastewater from the municipality of Eskilstuna. The main purpose of the wetland is to reduce the nutrient content of the wastewater. Working with the group of Dr. Anders Wörman of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), we studied the variation of flow around vegetation in the wetland in order to understand how the wastewater discharge becomes distributed through the wetland. Solute transport dynamics in wetlands are extremely important for processes such as denitrification, and yet poorly understood.

Hobøl Stream, Ås, Norway

A rural watershed to the southeast of Oslo, but with a significant suburban population. These streams carry a significant load both from agricultural runoff and from the septic systems prevalent in the suburban developments. We worked here in 2002 with a large collaborative EU research group.

Säva Brook, Sweden

A typical small agricultural stream in central Sweden. Dr. Anders Wörman of Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences has been using this stream as a study site for several years. We are currently working with Dr. Wörman's group on the development and application of fundamentally based models for hyporheic exchange in streams such as Säva Brook. As part of this effort, two of us went to Sweden in the summer of 2001 to conduct field experiments.

Valley Creek, Pennsylvania

A stream in the urbanizing area to the Northwest of the city of Philadelphia. It is best known as the stream that runs through Valley Forge National Park. This stream was the site of an intensive, interdisciplinary study conducted in 2000-2004 by researchers from Drexel University and Northwestern University. We were examining the effects of urbanization on watershed hydrology, sediment transport, hyporheic exchange, and ecology.

Cement Creek, Colorado

A mountain stream near Silverton, Colorado subject to considerable acid mine drainage. I had the opportunity to work with the USGS at this site in the Summer of 2000. This was part of a larger USGS study of acid mine drainage in the Upper Arkansas River Basin.