Initial Publication Date: August 25, 2006

Working Group 2: Got Data? So What!

What do we want to accomplish?

Hydrogeologic analyses often involve complex data sets and numerical calculations. This work group is collecting and developing examples (data sets, activities, case studies, etc.) that can help students move beyond rote answers to hydrogeological problems and into the realm of critical thinking. We seek to assemble examples that illustrate the need for interpretation or decision making after the 'results' of a hydrogeologic analysis have been obtained. These examples will incorporate one or more of the following concepts:

working group logo

  • Uncertainty
  • Inference
  • Multiple Working Hypotheses
  • Incomplete Data Sets
  • Too Much Data (filtering)
  • Risk and Risk Reduction
  • Ethics

Work Group Members:

Examples of What We're Aiming For:

change in land use surrounding an urban estuary in Flushing NY

The Hyrdologic Transformation of an Urban Estuary

This activity is a study of the hydrologic transformation of an urban estuary between the late 19th century, when it was a large wetland area adjacent to Flushing Bay (NYC), and the development that has led to the current highly-urbanized, semi-industrial environment that includes LaGuardia airport. Land use changes will be analyzed using historical USGS maps and airphotos, and maps of the development of the sewer/stormwater system. Changes in runoff estimated using the NRCS TR55 curve number method will be calculated for the different stages of land use change. Such methods could be adapted to any watershed that has undergone such an extensive hydrologic transformation. Tim Eaton, Queens College - CUNY

land use satellite photo with watershed outline

The effect of land use on surface and ground water hydrology as quantified through time sequence aerial photographs in GIS

This project will utilize digital aerial photographs, and/or scanned geo-referenced aerial photographs, to quantify effect of land use change on the hydrogeology of small watersheds. Although the location of this activity is based in Saratoga Springs, New York, the framework of this project is valid for any location with multiple sets of aerial photography. Students will use digital photos to define and digitize different land use categories. The composite areas of each land use, along with soil information if available, will then be used to estimate surface runoff volumes using the curve number method and estimate peak discharge using the rational runoff method. Comparison of runoff volumes for the different years of aerial photos, and from assumed initial conditions of pre-settlement, will allow the students to estimate the decrease in groundwater recharge. These data are then used to explore future land use scenarios. This project highlights several important concepts that allow students to think beyond the rote answers such as, surface and ground water interactions, uncertainty in methods and the estimates, policy issues relating to zoning and impervious surfaces, and it allows the students to extrapolate their data to the future land use changes. Kyle Nichols, Skidmore College

conceptual hydrogeologic cross section

Influence of Alternative Conceptual Hydrogeologic Models

I am developing an activity involving the use of alternative conceptual hydrogeologic models and their impact on groundwater flow and contaminant transport modeling results. It will involve the identification of alternative configurations for the geometry of an aquifer/aquitard interface and require students to predict the behavior of contaminants migrating along two-dimensional cross sections in the system. Results of three dimensional numerical groundwater flow and contaminant transport models will be used to evaluate student predictions. The activity will require students to exercise judgment based on incomplete information and will provide the opportunity to develop intuition and insights into contaminant transport behavior in an unconfined aquifer. Larry Lemke, Wayne State University

Assessment of Potential Well Yield, Gallatin Regional Park MT

The exercise asks the student to determine whether a well yield hoped for by a local citizens group is likely at a regional park and develop an appropriate written report. It was developed in response to an actual request for assistance from a citizen group. The analysis uses well log data and specific capacity data calculated from information available from the Montana Ground Water Information Center. The data are typical of well information in the state of Montana and must first be assessed for relevance, proximity, and completeness. There is uncertainty and decisions regarding the quality and the spatial location of relevant data are required. Finally the data must be analyzed using specific capacity concepts presented by Driscoll (and summarized on the web). Geologic data also can be incorporated into the exercise. The fact that the data exists is meaningless without analysis. View this exercise. Steve Custer, Montana State University

Uncertainty of Old Faithful Eruptions

In this exercise, students evaluate the temporal variability of data from the Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone National Park. Students graph and interpret the data to predict the timing of the next eruption and determine the reliability of their prediction. View this exercise. Dale Easley, University of Dubuque

Ground Water - Surface Water Interactions

I will develop an activity requiring students to interpret gound water - surface water interactions using water table hydrographs. Tim Callahan, College of Charleston

Environmental Geology Exercise

I will develop an activity related to hydrogeology appropriate for a non-major undergraduate Environmental Geology course. Leah Joseph, Ursinus College