Oak Ridge National Laboratory – Aquatic Ecology Laboratory

Capabilities include:

  • Environmental Modeling
  • Flume testing
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Description

The Aquatic Ecology Laboratory (AEL) provides scientists with a comprehensive laboratory testing environment to study the effectiveness of energy technologies and their effects on the climate and natural ecosystems. Recent studies have focused on turbine blade fish strikes, magnetic field interactions, and environmental sound characterization. AEL is now leading studies on the toxicity of biofouling agents and a new generation of ionic liquids used as environmentally acceptable lubricants. The AEL can also develop individual-based models to estimate population-level consequences and risk to marine species posed by MRE technologies.

The laboratory was built in 1972 to support Department of Energy funded research on potential thermal effects of nuclear energy on aquatic environments, including rivers, marine coastlines, and estuaries. The lab comprises eight 22-m artificial streams that can be used as a flow-through or recycling system, equipped with radiotracers to investigate nutrient transport through components of simple aquatic ecosystems. In addition, the lab hosts numerous fiberglass tanks, ranging from circular 750-L holding tanks to 1.2-m long X 55-cm wide X 30-cm deep Living Streams R, with varying flow rates and temperature control. Research expertise includes field monitoring and testing (e.g., water and sediment sampling, ecological modeling, geographic information systems, and remote sensing skills, as well as a long history of developing ecological risk assessment frameworks for various activities and stressors, including energy technologies (hydropower, wind energy, bioenergy, and oil and gas production), chemical contaminants, and noise from military testing.

The lab comprises eight 22-m artificial streams that can be used as a flow-through or recycling system, equipped with radiotracers to investigate nutrient transport through components of simple aquatic ecosystems. This facility could be used to trace transport and uptake of heavy metals and other contaminants. In addition, the lab hosts numerous fiberglass tanks, ranging from circular 750-L holding tanks to 1.2-m long X 55-cm wide X 30-cm deep Living Streams R, with varying flow rates and temperature control. The Aquatic Ecology Laboratory facilities have recently supported experimental studies including evaluating injury, mortality, and the behavioral response of fish to varying turbulence and shear levels. The lab also has fish-strike instrumentation specially designed to study the effect of hydropower turbine blade impact on fish. Researchers expertise include field monitoring and testing, such as water and sediment sampling in stream channels.

ORNL researchers have developed individual-based models that can be used to estimate the population-level consequences and risk to marine fishes and mammals posed by interactions with energy infrastructure. Similar models have been used to understand population-level consequences of turbine interactions in rivers. Movement rules used in the models can account for species responses to tides and advective currents.

These include laboratory, ecological modeling, statistics, geographic information systems, and remote sensing skills, as well as a long history of developing ecological risk assessment frameworks for various activities and stressors, including energy technologies (hydropower, wind energy, bioenergy, oil and gas production), chemical contaminants, and noise from military testing. The Laboratory also has expertise in quantifying and valuing ecosystem services.

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Point of Contact:
Mirko Musa – musam@ornl.gov

Teresa Mathews – mathewstj@ornl.gov