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ENV 170 The Fluid Earth

Tara Curtin

Hobart & William Smith Colleges (Private four-year institution, primarily undergraduate)


This is an introductory course with no pre-requisites that uses the global water cycle to teach important geological concepts.

Course Type:
Entry Level:Earth Science

Course Size:

Course Context:

This is an introductory course with no pre-requisites and serves as a pre-requisite for many upper-level geoscience courses including Limnology, Meteorology, Geochemistry, Hydrogeology, Paleoclimatology, and Systems Modeling.

Course Goals:

By the end of this course, you will use information about the global water cycle to evaluate the human impact on the water quality and quantity with a focus on local hydrogeological concerns in the Finger Lakes region of NY. You will use data available on-line as well as data collected in the field and analyzed in the laboratory to:
1) calculate water budgets of some of major tributary streams and the Finger Lakes;
2) assess the impact of human consumption and climate change on seasonal, annual, and decadal water availability (e.g., hurricanes, nor'easters, lake effect snow) in the Finger Lakes region;
3) evaluate the potential for flooding in the region using case studies (e.g., 1972 Hurricane Agnes);
4) analyze the effect of lake morphometry, geology, and biology on the evolution of the hydrogeochemistry of the Finger Lakes;
5) assess the similarities and differences between the Finger Lakes and oceans;
6) examine the interactions between surface water and groundwater by examining the hydrogeochemical properties of Zurich Bog, a 10-acre nature preserve near Lyons, NY; and
7) determine the controls on local and regional groundwater flow direction and quality in unconfined and confined aquifer systems.


In-class exercises (informal); weekly homework exercises; weekly quizzes;weekly laboratory exercises; 3-4 exams

Teaching Materials:

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