Pedagogy in Action > Library > Teaching with Google Earth > Examples of Google Earth Activities > HydroViz virtual hydrologic observatory

HydroViz virtual hydrologic observatory

Emad Habib, Yuxin Ma and Douglas Williams, University of Louisiana at Lafayette
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HydroViz is an educational "virtual" hydrologic observatory developed for a "real" watershed. It is based on integration of field data, remote sensing observations and computer simulations of hydrologic variables and processes. HydroViz is fully web-based, web-accessible with Google Earth embedded into it.

Learning Goals

The main purpose of HydroViz is to support hydrology education in engineering and earth science courses, to facilitate introduction of field observational skills into hydrology courses, and to develop students' knowledge on fundamental rainfall-runoff processes.

Context for Use

HydroViz is designed to be used in junior/senior level courses within Civil Engineering and Earth Sciences curriculum, and can also be used in introductory-graduate courses. The educational modules can be introduced to the students at different stages within a single course, where each module can serve as an educational companion to the technical subject covered by the instructor. For example, in an Engineering Hydrology class, the HydroViz module on "Exploring Field Equipment" can be assigned to the students while the instructor is covering a textbook chapter that deals with hydrologic measurements. Similarly, the instructor can use the first four modules that focus on watershed physiographical characteristics to support students learning of basic watershed concepts beyond pure textbook coverage of such topics. Advanced modules in HydroViz (e.g., remote-sensing observations and numerical model simulations) are more appropriate to be covered at senior-level courses or a first-year graduate course. The entire suite of modules in HydroViz can used in a graduate-level course for students to refresh and review their prior knowledge on the subject matter and reemphasize concepts that may have not been covered in their undergraduate curriculum.

While HydroViz is primarily designed to be used in junior/senior level courses, it can also be used in freshmen introductory-level courses to expose new civil engineering and earth-science students to basic watershed concepts, hydrologic variables, rainfall-runoff processes, spatial geographic data, and field measurements and sensors. The instructor can select a limited set of modules to use within the freshmen-level classes. The usage of hands-on software such as HydroViz at early stages within the curriculum can be rather inspiring for young students are motivated by real-world and interactive applications.

Description and Teaching Materials

The full activity can be accessed and used online.

The website includes 13 modules on:
  1. Getting Acquainted with the Watershed
  2. Exploring Land-Use Land-Cover (LULC) Coverage Map
  3. Exploring Soil Coverage
  4. Exploring Land Elevation
  5. Exploring Field Equipment
  6. Working with a Real Rainfall Storm
  7. Analysis of Rainfall Measurements during Storm Mathew
  8. Measuring Rainfall Using Remote Sensing Techniques
  9. Analysis of Runoff/Stream flow Observations due to Storm Mathew
  10. Curve Number Analysis
  11. TR55 Graphical Method
  12. Hydrologic Model Setup
  13. Hydrologic Model Simulations

Teaching Notes and Tips

  • HydroViz is fully web-based, web-accessible with Google Earth embedded into it. It can run on a typical desktop computer with internet access and doesn't require any specific software packages.
  • HydroViz is best introduced in a piece-wise mode where every module is introduced separately.
  • Introduction of HydroViz in freshmen classes can be rather challenging. To facilitate the usage of HydroViz in such classes, advanced questions and topics within the HydroViz educational modules have been tagged with an optional flag, but are still made accessible for all students who have scientific curiosity to experiment with such advanced topics.


Two assessment tools are embedded within the HydroViz activities:

  1. Technical questions are embedded within each module of HydroViz. Students are asked to record their activities and answers and type them in file to be submitted to the instructor. A template file with the embedded questions is provided for each module to provide a standard mechanism for collecting their answers and feedback. The instructor can grade these submissions and assess students' learning
  2. An online survey to be filled and submitted by the students after they finish their activities. The instructor can use this self-assessment tool to assist in judge evaluation of achieved student learning

References and Resources