Environmental Fluid Mechanics


Although Canada has more water than most nations, fluctuations in the quantity and quality of our available water, due to climate change and other human influences, greatly affect Canadian life. Most water quality issues require an understanding of physical processes such as circulation and irreversible mixing.

Examples include trapping of nutrients behind upstream reservoirs, nutrient supply to the photic zone supporting phytoplankton and fisheries food supply, effluent dispersal in lakes and coastal waters, and the path of contaminants (such as E. coli and Cryptosporidium) to drinking water supply intakes and beaches.

Environmental Fluid Mechanics focuses on the description and understanding of the physical dynamics of water bodies with the aim of developing numerical models for the prediction of the impacts of climate change and human activities on lake circulation.

Key Areas

  • Physical problems of contaminant transport
  • Stratified flows
  • Mixing
  • Turbulence and ice-water interactions

Media Highlights

Specialization Requirements

Elective courses (min. credits) 17 29
Seminar course CIVL 597-102/202 CIVL 597-102/202
Thesis course CIVL 599 CIVL 699

Elective requirements

Electives may be taken from the list of Approved Electives below, or other electives may be taken with the approval of the Specialty Advisor / Supervisor.

Undergraduate students who are interested in Environmental Fluid Mechanics are directed to the following courses:

  • CIVL 416
  • CIVL 417

Graduate Courses

Electives may be taken from the List of Approved Electives below, or other courses may be taken with the approval of the Supervisor.

Approved Elective CoursesNameCreditsTerm
1CIVL 540Advanced Coastal Engineering32
2CIVL 541Environmental Fluid Mechanics3Summer
2CIVL 542Physical Limnology32
2CIVL 543Turbulent Fluid Dynamics3N/A3
2CIVL 547Estuary Hydraulics2N/A
CIVL 558Water Resources Infrastructure2N/A
CIVL 566Transport and Mixing of Pollutants in Aquatic Systems2N/A
CIVL 569Biological Waste Water Treatment41
EOSC 512Advanced Geophysical Fluid Dynamics31
EOSC 571CIntro to Res in Atmos. Sci. & Physical Limnology3N/A
MECH 586Turbulent Shear Flow3N/A
Approved Undergraduate ElectivesNameCreditsTerm
CIVL 407Environmental Laboratory Analysis31
2CIVL 416Environmental Hydraulics31
CIVL 418Engineering Hydrology31
BIOL 402Aquatic Ecology31
EOSC 474Marine Pollution31
MATH 400Applied Partial Differential Equations31 or 2

1Credit will only be granted for one of CIVL 417 / 540.

2These are considered the highest priority courses and should be taken if available

3N/A – not offered in 2019/20.


To learn more about Environmental Fluid Mechanics at UBC, contact Dr. Greg Lawrence.



Specialized facilities for studies in Environmental Fluid Mechanics include recirculating sediment flumes, fresh water flumes, stratified flow facilities, laser doppler anemometer, and acoustic doppler velocimeter. Learn more.