Environmental Fluid Dynamics

Aquatic ecosystems face a number of challenges, many of which are underpinned by environmental fluid mechanics. The transport of pollutants and microplastics and subsequent ingestion by organisms, the adverse impacts on stream organisms of expanding hydropower and the response of microbes to reduced flow under drought are only some of the problems that need to be tackled for a sustainable management of aquatic environments.

In our group, we blend fluid dynamics and biology to gain a mechanistic understanding of physical-biological couplings in aquatic ecosystems that are of great importance for the Swiss water sector. In particular, we study the factors that govern fitness and resilience of aquatic organisms under natural and anthropogenic impacts, including hydro- and thermopeaking induced by hydropower dams. We investigate how the interaction of microbes with flowing water gives rise to biofilms that ubiquitously colonize porous media and riverbeds, providing important functions ranging from water filtration to material cycling. How microplastics are transported in aquatic ecosystems and impact on aquatic organisms are a key recent focus.