Research Focus Themes

Below is a list of research themes and subareas currently actively being pursued in the Christopher and Susan Burke Hydraulics and Hydrology Laboratory, as well as faculty associated with those themes.

Theme 1: Surface and Subsurface Hydrology (R. S. Govindaraju, D.A. Lyn, V. Merwade, C. Troy)

Hydrologic processes: There is an interest in improving our fundamental understanding of hydrologic processes - such as infiltration - from point scale to the watershed scale. Specifically, the role of runon process is being evaluated over natural heterogeneous soils to better understand the controls exerted by soil properties and terrain. With collaborative experiments underway at the laboratory scale, field plot scale, and watershed scale with theoretical and numerical studies, meaningful descriptions of surface flows and subsurface stores at various scales are being developed. This work is being extended to layered soils.

Mathematical morphology techniques are being utilized in order to obtain better insights into soil water retention and conductivity curves to conduct pore-scale analysis of water movement in unsaturated soils.

Statistical Hydrology: The latest advances in machine learning are being employed to conduct statistical analysis of various hydrologic phenomena including rainfall, runoff, sediment transport, climate change, and droughts. Our focus has been on development and testing algorithms that harness the uncertainty information that is available in some global data sets, and on making predictions and assessing our predictive ability.


Theme 2: Open Channel Flow and Sediment Transport (D. A. Lyn, C. Troy)

Open-channel flows: Although there is interest in a wide range of aspects of open channel flows, from applied to fundamental, recent work has focused on turbulence in shallow rough-bed flows in which roughness heights can be of same order of magnitude as flow depths. Such flows have attracted increasing recent interest because traditional models have mainly been restricted to flows with flow depths much larger than roughness heights.

Sediment transport: There is interest in a similarly wide range of aspects of sediment transport, but the main focus has been on sediment transport in alluvial channels, i.e., rivers. Recent work has specifically examined various forms of scour, including pressure-flow or vertical-contraction scour, and scour downstream of grade-control structures, as well as erosion at river bends.


Theme 3: Watershed Hydrology (V. Merwade)

This area focuses on understanding and quantifying the effect of climate and land use changes on hydrology. Specific ongoing projects include: (i) investigating the role of wetland drainage on hydro-climatology of the U.S. Midwest; (ii) improved simulation of field and regional scale hydrology through field and remotely sensed data assimilation; (iii) flood inundation modeling and mapping; and (iv) bathymetric modeling of river channels. Research in this area is conducted by using state-of –the-art computer modeling tools including geographic information systems and hydrologic information systems. Some new efforts in this area include the development of a WaterHUB for water resources research, education and collaboration by using Purdue’s HUBZero technology, and establishing a flood hydrodynamics monitoring system for Wabash River near Purdue University.


Theme 4: Environmental Fluid Mechanics (C. Troy, D. Lyn)

Physical limnology of large lakes: A strong research focus in the environmental fluid mechanics theme is Lake Michigan hydrodynamics. Research focuses on elucidating the fundamental circulation characteristics in Lake Michigan as they relate to the transport of biota, pollutants, and nutrients. Our approach involves both (a) oceanographic-grade field experiments in the lake, as well as (b) numerical modeling of the wind-driven flow using the Stanford Unstructured Hydrodynamic Model (SUNTANS).

Dynamics of stratified flows: Stratified flows are important in nature in oceans, lakes, and rivers. When density contrasts caused by temperature, salinity, or sediment gradients are significant, environmental flows are heavily affected by these differences. A major focus area of the environmental fluid mechanics theme is fundamental investigations of stratified fluid dynamics using the 10m stratified flows research facility at the lab. The current focus is internal waves and the energetics associated with breaking internal wave events.