CEINT Mesocosm History

Research at CEINT is designed to produce information on mechanisms determining nanomaterial exposure and hazard in the environment. A key component to understanding how nanoparticles affect the larger environment is the ability to accurately predict effects of exposure in specific bioĆ¼ptake mechanisms. The CEINT Mesocosm Facility was constructed to simulate wetland ecosystems, enabling a wide array of uniquely realistic investigations into the mechanisms that govern nanomaterial transport, transformation, ecological interactions, biouptake and biological interactions. The findings from these environmentally relevant systems provide a continuous source of critical information that helps prioritize the focus of experimental research at the laboratory and microcosm scales as well as informs the theoretical models CEINT is developing to predict nanomaterial interactions with the environment.

  • Site survey

    The locations of the future boxes are measured and marked on the mesocosm site.

  • Alpha version

    The original plan was to dig large holes and have the mesocosms below ground level. For a number of reasons, this idea was abandoned.

  • Building the mesocosm boxes

    Wooden frames that will become the sides of the mesocosm boxes. The four sides of each box were then assembled on site and bolted to the ground.

  • Lining the boxes

    Reinforced polypropylene liner laid inside the boxes to waterproof them. We then poured several inches of homogenized dirt dug from a nearby site on top of this liner.

  • Shaping the inside of the boxes

    Screening sand is poured in the wooden boxes and shaped to our specifications. Namely a horizontal, flat bottom at the deep end, and a slope going above water level at the other hand.

  • Planting the boxes

    Various plants endemic to the region are planted according to a grid pattern on the slope of each mesocosm.

  • Site is shaping up

    Most of the mesocosms are built and ready to receive the probes and sensors that will monitor them continuously for several years.

  • Up and running

    Closeup on one of the mesocosm boxes.

  • Mesocosms as a teaching site

    CEINT Director Mark Wiesner and lead mesocosm architect Benjamin Espinasse survey the automatic continual redox probe installation.

  • Mesocosms as a research site

    Ecotoxicology researchers from Duke getting some surface water samples from a mesocosm box. While many environmental variables are continuously monitored throughout the year, discreete measurements are still needed for a number of other variables.

  • Mesocosms as a research site

    A student from Duke obtaining a sediment sample from a mesocosm box.

  • Covered mesocosms

    We built a giant, removable greenhouse to protect the entire mesocosm site during the raining and freezing season while still allowing researchers to collect data.