The Freshwater Biological Association own seven gravity-fed experimental stream channels at the River Laboratory. These ‘mini-streams’, up to 10m in length, are used for a wide range of experiments on freshwater biology.
The channels are fed from the adjacent Millstream, which in turn is fed by the River Frome. This natural flow through is controlled by valves at the inlet and allows colonisation by invertebrates from the river. Drainage is directed back to the Millstream. Four of the main channels are also subdivided into mini channels by steel dividers. This increases the number of channels available for experiments and allows more treatments to be investigated at the same time and/or more replicates to be run in parallel.
The majority of the channels are in use by scientists from Queen Mary University of London (River Communities Team) who are currently investigating the influence of organic and inorganic fine sediment on macroinvertebrate community composition. The channels are also ideally suited to studies of flooding and droughts, particle size distributions and flow rates on both benthic (surface dwelling) and hyporheic (sub-surface) macroinvertebrate communities. The channels are particularly useful for research which aims to test assumptions derived from correlations observed between different rivers by permitting cause and effect studies to be carried out under controlled experimental conditions.
The experimental channels have electricity supplies enabling powered experimental equipment to left in place adjacent to experiments and the location of the channels (within the boundary of the River Laboratory site) also means that any such equipment can be safely left without the risk of tampering or disturbance.