Jodi L Ryder,
Central Michigan University


This course is an introduction to the study of groundwater: groundwater flow, well hydraulics, groundwater quality and pollution, and resource exploration, evaluation, and management. The course format is 2x50 minute lectures plus 1x3 hour lab per week. Labs are a mix of inquiry and confirmation style and the activities use a mix of field, wet lab, computer, and mapping skills.

Course Size:

Course Format:
Students enroll in one course that includes both lecture and lab. The lecture and the lab are both taught by the professor.

Institution Type:
Public four-year institution, primarily undergraduate

Course Context:

This is an upper level course in the Geology curriculum. It is required for Environmental Science and Geology with a Hydro \Environmental concentration majors but is an elective for Geology students. Greater than 50% of the students are seniors in Environmental Science. Calculus is not required although some models are introduced using calculus and then reduced to algebraic form.

Course Content:

Hydrogeology is broken into 3 major topics, each accompanied by two multiweek lab projects and daily practice problems: Groundwater and the hydrologic cycle, modeling groundwater flow, and water quality and contamination. 2-3 labs are spent in a nearby park collecting data and at least one lab is spent on a landfill tour.

Course Goals:

  • Relate soil and site characteristics to the distribution of groundwater
  • Discuss and quantitatively model how and why groundwater moves
  • Apply quantitative skills for evaluating groundwater resources and problems
  • Evaluate groundwater supplies in terms of both quantity and quality

Course Features:

The meat of the course is based on 5 multiweek lab projects based on the local hydrology that allow the students to explore and practice the skills needed to achieve the course goals. The 6th lab project is a capstone report that asks them to use the techniques they learned in each previous lab to examine a contaminated site with different geology than the local area.

Course Philosophy:

I choose this design because I want students to go on to their professional careers able to apply what they learned from the class to new sites and situations. The first few times I taught the course each weekly lab was unrelated to the previous week's and at the end of the term I found that students couldn't string these steps together to assess a new site unless I directed them in exactly what steps to take in their new analysis. Since my class format emphasizes lab it makes sense to do more of the work in projects than problem sets.


The final project and final exam are both comprehensive so I am able to see who has mastered the individual techniques and who understands the relationship of each technique to the broader questions we want to answer about a given hydrological site. Also, I attend AIPG meetings to maintain contact with alumni that go on to work in environmental consulting and I ask them what parts of the course they value and what they wish new graduates knew.


Syllabus for Hydrogeology (Acrobat (PDF) 175kB Apr25 13)

Teaching Materials:

References and Notes:

Applied Hydrogeology, 4th ed. Fetter.
It is widely available, does not require my students to understand calculus or do computer models, has good examples and end of chapter problems, and supplies the data tables needed to complete the problems within. It covers all the topics I want to cover at this level of course. It is also cost effective since so many used copies are available.

Students use the USGS Aquifer Basics homepage (http://water.usgs.gov/ogw/aquiferbasics/) and EPA Superfund Sites Where You Live (http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/) to complete the class project.