Teach the Earth > GIS and Remote Sensing > Courses > Hydrogeology


John Van Hoesen

Private four-year institution, primarily undergraduate


Hydrogeology is the study of the interrelationship between Earth's hydrosphere and lithosphere, with specific interest in the effects of precipitation, infiltration, evaporation on the occurrence and character of water on or below the land surface. This course will focus on exploring the following topics through field-based studies and GIS modeling: (1)a fundamental understanding of hydrologic processes and reservoirs, (2) the relationship between human activity and these reservoirs, (3) the interaction between both surface waters and groundwater, and (4) hydrologic techniques and instrumentation. This course takes a quantitative approach to evaluating and modeling processes, so both homework and laboratory exercises will improve your proficiency with GIS-based analyses. graphical depiction, data interpretation, and math proficiency.

Course URL:
Resource Type: Course Information
Special Interest: GIS
Grade Level: College Upper (15-16)
Course Size:

less than 15

Course Context:

This is an upper-division hydrogeology course that students take as an elective. Students are strongly encourage to take introductory geology and geomorphology prior to taking the course. The course includes a required four-hour laboratory section that includes a minimum of two field trips.

Course Goals:

- Students should be able to evaluate the complexity of hydrologic processes influenced by regional and local geology.

- Students should be able to analyze assumptions and limitations associated with hydrologic modeling efforts.

- Students should be able to predict landscape-scale responses to precipitation events using topographic maps and rain gauge data.

- Students should be able to model hydrologic processes using a GIS.

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

Students are asked to use topographic and geologic maps over the duration of the course to explore and predict the relationships between topography, weather/climate, and the underlying geologic materials - both surficial and bedrock. These assignments incorporate regional and local climate data provided in spreadsheet format, primary data collection through field-based exercises including stream surveying, discharge measurements, snow tube measurements, and fluvial site assessments. Assessment typically involves laboratory worksheets and short 2-4 page professional reports that describe the methodology, results, and discussion/interpretation of the exercise.

Skills Goals

Improve science writing
Improve synthesis of primary science journals
Improve quantitative reasoning and analysis
Improve data mining and analysis

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

All assignments require students to read peer-reviewed articles related to the exercise. Many assignments, including their final 15-page research paper, also requires them to interpret these articles and provide a synopsis. Almost all assignments have a quantitative aspect, making heavy use of Excel datasets that require sorting, interpretation and visual representation. I also require students to engage in peer-review throughout the process of writing their final paper.

Attitudinal Goals

Gain a better appreciation of prevention and restoration associated with hydrologic hazards/pollution/resources

Develop an appreciation for the interrelationships between hydrology, geology, and human activity.

Improve students' ability to recognize pseudoscience

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

Many of the assignments in the course specifically focus on issues that arise because of competing resources, anthropogenic activities, and environmental disasters. For example, constructing isopach and potentiometric surface maps in areas that have experienced PCB pollution using well log data. I also routinely ask students to evaluate their sources and the reliability of data by asking them to consider whether they: "have seen it or touched it." Highlighting the importance of trusting their own observation above all and then discussing the impracticality of seeing and experienced all issues we discuss.


I assess student learning through written work and the quality of the products (i.e. - tables, graphs, etc). While I obviously look for evidence that the course has provided the scaffolding to develop specific skills and acquired the intended content, I primarily evaluate their thought process and ability to work through problems - my motto is 'what will you remember in 5 years.' Therefore I rely heavily on an individual's explanation or demonstration to assess whether they are 'thinking' about topics versus successfully completing assignments.


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