Baylor outdoor facility bridges gap between field and indoor lab studies
By Kari Miller
In September 2006, Baylor University's Center for Reservoir and Aquatic Systems Research opened the Baylor Experimental Aquatic Research facility (BEAR), an outdoor lab to study how pollution affects aquatic life in streams in Texas. This project, funded by Altria Group Inc., Baylor and the City of Waco, consists of 12 miniature streams and 24 model wetlands that draw their water from the outflow of Lake Waco Wetlands. Here, the North Bosque River is pumped for the natural purification the wetland affords, so the water used in the facility is very clean.
Each stream is approximately 2 feet wide and 60 feet long and is designed to imitate the habitat of central Texas streams by including riffle, glide and pool sections. A riffle is a fast-flowing, shallow section of a stream that usually has cobble or gravel. Glides are also shallow but with a slower current, and pools are deep, slow areas. Each of these sections usually support different species of wildlife adapted to that particular habitat, so the facility's streams have been populated with living organisms such as algae, bacteria, aquatic plants and insects from nearby streams.
Baylor scientists Dr. Ryan King, assistant professor of biology, and Dr. Bryan Brooks, associate professor of environmental studies, are the principal investigators of the BEAR streams. Dr. Robert Doyle, associate professor and chair of biology, is the lead developer of the model wetlands.
"The intention of the BEAR facility is to bridge the gap between field observations, which represent the habitat of interest but may be influenced by many interacting chemicals or other aquatic stressors simultaneously, and laboratory or small field experiments, which allow for control of environmental variables, yet are too small and unrepresentative of natural conditions to be realistic," King said. "Because of its size (more than 30,000 square feet), outdoor location and close proximity to natural aquatic habitats, the BEAR facility is a unique, state-of-the-art resource for conducting controlled yet realistic water research studies."