The Nepf Lab, May 2014 (Left to right) Brenda Pepe, Ad. Ass't., Beihan Jiang, Judy Yang, Julia Hopkins,
Johannes Gerson Janzen, John Kondziolka, Elizabeth Follett, Erin Grace Connor, Heidi Nepf




Heidi Nepf
Donald and Martha Harleman Professor
Civil and Environmental Engineering

Email: hmnepf (at) mit.edu

Heidi Nepf's Civil and Environmental Engineering webpage
Professor Nepf's teaching includes Physical Limnology and Transport Processes in the Environment.



Elizabeth Follett

Graduate Student

Email: efinn (at) mit.edu

I traveled to the St. Anthony Falls Laboratory (Minneapolis, Minnesota) to investigate the sediment pattern of scour and deposition associated with a circular patch of vertical cyclinders. Although diversion slows flow inside the patch, turbulent vortices form around each solid cylinder, creating scour. A striking pattern of scour inside the patch with deposition behind was observed. For my PhD work (a collaboration with Marcelo Chamecki at Penn State), I will experimentally investigage the behavior of particles over a canopy of submerged vegetation in order to shed light on the trajectory of corn disease particles in the atmosphere.


Alejandra Ortiz
Graduate Student

Email: aleja.ortiz (at) gmail.com

My research is focused on the effect of vegetation patches on turbulence generation and sediment deposition. I use a laboratory flume to simulate a fluvial environment and try to understand how patches of vegetation can change overall flow dynamics and sedimentation spatially. I am interested in how different types of vegetation affect flow dynamics and sediment distribution. So if you have a flexible plant, versus a rigid plant, does it change where sediment will build up. The retention or erosion of sediment preferentially from different areas around and within a patch of vegetation can influence different aspects of the river's ecosystem and physical characteristics.


Qingjun "Judy" Yang
Graduate Student

Email: qjyang (at) mit.edu

My current research is focused on the sediment transport inside a vegetation patch. Vegetation is a basic component of most natural water environments and has been widely used in river restoration. Yet few practical models exist to predict the incipient motion and rate of sediment transport in a canopy. Using a LDV, a high-speed camera and a sediment-recirculating flume, I will be able to quantitatively connect the sediment motion with the flow characteristics inside vegetation canopies.


Beihan Jiang

Graduate Student

Email: jbeihan (at) mit.edu

The mutual influences between biological and physical processes, called biogeomorphic feedbacks, play a key role in the landscape evolution. I am currently studying the feedback between patches of vegetation, flow, and deposition in connection to the geomorphologic evolution of rivers and tidal flats. In particular, I am examining how neighboring patches of vegetation alter the flow field and promote deposition and growth into larger vegetation structures. The initial vegetation is modeled as a pair of adjacent patches, constructed from rigid circular cylinders. The wakes of the patches create conditions for deposition that favor patch expansion in the downstream direction. In addition, the merger of wakes from the individual patches creates regions of low velocity on the centerline between the patches that promotes eventual merger of the two original patches. We recreate the cycle of deposition-growth-flow adjustment by progressively applying artificial vegetation growth in regions of enhanced deposition. The goals are to provide new insight into the feedbacks between vegetation, flow and morphologic evolution, and to understand how vegetation adapts to and develops in different fluid environments.


Gary Lei
Graduate Student

Email: garylei (at) mit.edu