Mars Hydrologic Environments

Arwen Vidal
University of Colorado
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Initial Publication Date: May 10, 2006 | Reviewed: June 8, 2013


This activity examines the nature of streams and basins at three locations on Mars. Originally meant for users with access to ArcGIS, the exercise can also be used in introductory geology courses using images provided.

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  • Introductory Geology
  • Hydrology
  • Geomorphology
  • GIS

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

For GIS users:
  • Importing data
  • Familiarity with ArcToolbox or Spatial Analyst commands

How the activity is situated in the course


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Goals include:
  • Increase familiarity with stream, basin, and hydrologic modeling
  • Increase GIS skills (if applicable)

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Students will learn how to use ArcGIS Hydrologic Modeling toolbox, how hydrologic settings can be examined using DEMs, and how hydrologic environments come together to create a large-scale (global) hydrologic system. Students will analyze and interpret data. These methods can be transferred to Earth analogs and projects. Students will also be exposed to Martian surface features, hydrologic processes and some interesting questions about the role of surface water in Mars' past.

Other skills goals for this activity

Description of the activity/assignment

Students should research and define terminology included in the exercise (example - drainage basin) prior to lab. Pre-lab lecture should include basic concepts of hydrology (stream networks, basins) and an example of Strahler Stream Order. Students in a GIS-capable class can follow the instructions to create relevant maps and datasets. Students in introductory (non-GIS) classes should use pre-printed figures and tracing paper to complete the exercises.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Students should have completed maps and answered all relevant questions. They should recognize Kasei and Lucus as more developed stream systems than Margaritifer and realize that all systems drain towards the lower-lying Northern plains. Accuracy in any calculations is important.

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