Notre Dame Linked Experimental Ecosystem Facility at St. Patrick's County Park
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Working in a laboratory provides scientists with a predictable and controlled setting for conducting experiments. But in the environmental sciences eventually many of those experiments need to graduate to the uncontrolled and unpredictable environment of the field—a transition that can be challenging for both the scientist and the science. To help bridge this gap between the lab and the field, the University of Notre Dame’s Environmental Change Initiative (ND-ECI) is constructing a globally unique $1 million research facility that will be home to two constructed experimental watersheds, each consisting of an interconnected pond, stream and wetland. Both of these experimental watersheds are roughly the length and width of a football field and they will be located five miles north of campus on six acres of land within St. Patrick’s County Park. These artificial watersheds will allow scientists to conduct “field experiments” in a more controlled environmental setting than nature itself can provide, thereby helping to bridge the gap that has traditionally existed between the lab and the field. This new research site is known as the Notre Dame Linked Experimental Ecosystem Facility at St. Patrick’s County Park, or ND-LEEF for short.
ND-LEEF is born out of a close partnership with the Park that will provide an unrivaled opportunity for scientific and environmental outreach to regional school groups and other park visitors from South Bend, St. Joseph County, and surrounding communities. What’s more, because the entire site will be wired with an extensive embedded sensor network, school groups, the general public, and collaborating scientists will be able to follow the research in real time via the Internet from anywhere in the world. In addition, these real-time data will allow educators at all levels to provide follow-up on ecological classroom exercises for weeks or even months after a field trip to ND-LEEF is complete.
While other universities and government agencies have experimental research facilities containing multiple small ponds or artificial streams, we believe ND-LEEF is globally unique because the pond, stream and wetland in each watershed are connected—an experimental research design that is intended to mimic nature. The connected configuration of these watersheds is especially important when investigating issues related to environmental change, which often cascade through several ecosystem types. What’s more, the streams, ponds and wetlands at ND-LEEF can also be disconnected from one another for a given experiment, providing scientists with maximum flexibility in designing research projects. In addition to the linked watershed units, ND-LEEF will also include a large area dedicated to terrestrial ecological research as well as space for smaller scale mesocosm experiments.
In addition to the close partnership with the Park, ND-LEEF represents a multidisciplinary collaboration between the Notre Dame College of Science, the College of Engineering and the School of Architecture. Groundbreaking for the facility occurred on June 15, 2012, and construction is expected to be completed by Fall 2012. The first research experiments at ND-LEEF should begin during Spring 2013.
Professor Jennifer Tank, Director (574) 631-3976
Brett Peters, Assistant Director (574) 367-7621
Professor Aimee Buccellato, School of Architecture (574) 631-1431
Peter Annin, ECI Managing Director (574) 807-9322
February 07, 2014 • Author: WNIT Outdoor Elements • Categories: Land Use and Water Quality and ND-LEEF
The Teachers as Scholars program hosted a two-part series with ND-LEEF faculty and staff in October 2013. The seminar focus was The Effects of Environmental Change on Freshwater and presented by Dr. Jennifer Tank and Brett Peters. WNIT's Outdoor Elements, with host Evie Kirkwood, featured this program in their latest episode.
December 02, 2013 • Author: Brittany Collins, ND Newswire • Categories: ND-LEEF
On a snowy November afternoon, fourth-graders from South Bend’s Madison Primary Center came to the University of Notre Dame campus to build a barn.
The 21 elementary students met with fifth-year School of Architecture students at the Stepan Center on Nov. 12 (Tuesday) for a barn raising, part of the Michigan Barn Preservation Network’s “Teamwork and Timbers” program.
Aimee Buccellato, assistant professor in the School of Architecture, organized the event after hearing about the program, which brings the barn around to various schools and organizations so children in grades four through 12 can experience architecture and history firsthand.
“This exercise is one of a series of exercises that I organized for my Intro to Building Technology course so that the students get a very physical and tactile exposure to the materials that we’re studying in text and in lecture. I thought that as long as this model is traveling here from Michigan, we should bring together students from the community to expose them to traditional timber framing,” Buccellato said. “It’s a living language; it’s a way of building that we can use and do still use today. These students benefit from working as a team.”
October 19, 2013 • Author: South Bend Tribune • Categories: Land Use and Water Quality and ND-LEEF
September 22, 2013 • Author: Joseph Dits, South Bend Tribune • Categories: ND-LEEF
SOUTH BEND - Come next Sunday to the newly created researchers' playground at St. Patrick's County Park, and you may glimpse, as biology professor Jennifer Tank did, life after Colorado's recent floods.
Or at least you'll see how fast life can been reborn.
The family-friendly open house from 1 to 4 p.m. Sept. 29, with free admission, will be the public's first peek at the two identical ecosystems that the University of Notre Dame's Environmental Change Initiative has built side-by-side at the park on Laurel Road north of Auten Road. Each boasts a 100-foot round pond, a wetland and a stone-lined stream that links them.
This will be a rare look since the university, for now, is figuring on just a couple of open houses per year at the Linked Experimental Ecosystem Facility, or ND-LEEF.
Faculty and students will give tours, show how they scrape samples of life from the pond, let you peer into dishes of tiny life and test for water quality. Kids will have a chance to try hands-on activities. With a tent for refreshments and rainy weather, researchers will talk about what they've learned since construction finished and research began in early July.
"The biology turned on really quickly," Tank, ND-LEEF's director, says about the first findings. "We had no idea how long it would be before they became real, before they became biologically reactive systems."
The water started to flow, pumped from a healthy supply of groundwater, channeling itself through the wetland and pond and sinking back into the soil at a nearby ditch.
September 17, 2013 • Author: University of Notre Dame Sustainability • Categories: ND-LEEF
Notre Dame’s Linked Experimental Ecosystem Facility has been operational for just a few months, but already hydrology, ecology, and environmental DNA experiments are underway. On September 29, from 1:00 to 4:00 pm, the public will have a chance to learn about the experimental watershed at ND-LEEF’s first annual Science Sunday.
ND-LEEF is located on 28 acres leased from St. Patrick’s County Park. The facility is designed to allow researchers to conduct experiments on a watershed level that are highly controllable and replicable. So far, two experimental watersheds have been built, and there is enough room to build 12 watersheds eventually.
Water is pumped out of the ground and into an aeration pond, where it is warmed and much of the iron settles out. From there, the water is piped to each constructed watershed. A valve enables researchers to adjust the flow rate into each stream. Probes embedded under the streams record temperature and water level, which is then transmitted wirelessly to the researchers. From the stream, the water flows to a small lake and then is filtered through a wetland.