University of Minnesota Computer Program Helps Restore Streams

MINNEAPOLIS, Nov. 25 (UPI) — University of Minnesota scientists say they have developed a computer model called the Virtual StreamLab, designed to help restore real streams.

The scientists, led by Professor Fotis Sotiropoulos, said their program demonstrates the physics of natural water flows at an unprecedented level of detail and realism.

They have completed their first simulation of a scaled natural stream along the Mississippi River, mapping more than 90 million data points into their computer model, resulting in the most accurate model of a real stream to date.

They said the Virtual StreamLab employs sophisticated algorithms that can handle the arbitrarily complex geometry of natural waterways. The program is designed to provide researchers with the insights necessary to improve sustainable stream restoration strategies, helping to fight erosion, prevent flooding and restore aquatic habitats in degraded waterways.

“The practice of stream restoration has had a rocky rate of success as practitioners have struggled to alter a natural system with countless unknowns,” Sotiropoulos said. “The need for more effective and reliable stream restoration strategies is clear, but the underlying physical processes which govern the behavior of a stream and its inhabitants are very complex. Our new Virtual StreamLab should provide researchers with a deeper understanding of those complexities.”

The program was unveiled this week in Minneapolis during a meeting of the American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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