Also during that time, he worked with another professor, James Saiers
, to create a two-dimensional hydrodynamic model for evaluating the success of stream restoration projects. Then, during the summer between his first and second years at F&ES, he worked with the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD), collecting the data necessary for such a model. After graduating, he returned to the department to present his work. Not only did they hire him, they put him in charge of implementing the model for their own stream restoration work.
For Bright, it was “tremendously satisfying” to see his master’s research being put to real use. “This data is getting used,” he says. “It’s not going into a report that’s sitting on a shelf. We’re using this to either improve our methodologies moving forward or inform stream restoration designs… It’s not just science for the sake of science.”
Bright says he was motivated by what he saw as a basic issue of fiscal responsibility. While more than $1 million might be spent to restore a stream, there was rarely any scientific verification of success. A few pictures showing “Bambi” and “butterflies,” he says, didn’t prove that the restoration had provided ecological uplift, or confirm that the high-velocity flows stayed in the center of the stream and weren’t at the edges where they could erode the banks.
“You go and spend $300,000 to design a stream reach restoration, and you give a construction firm a million dollars to construct it, and then you come back with a picture,” he says.
It’s now standard practice at the PWD to conduct pre- and post-restoration modeling of streams.