Go with the Flow: A Virtual Field Experience on Groundwater Flow

Dr. Megan R.M. Brown, Northern Illinois University; Dr. Amelia (Paukert) Vankeuren, Sacramento State; Dr. Alex Beebe, University of South Alabama; Dr. Aida Farough, Kansas State University; Dr. Alison Jolley (AJ), University of Waikato; Dr. Bridget K. Mulvey, Kent State University
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This virtual field module will introduce students to water level data collection, a key skill in hydrology, hydrogeology, and environmental field work. Students will use site data to analyze and interpret groundwater flow and calculate specific discharge. Students will complete three point problems and create contour maps.

Tags/Keywords: hydrology; hydrogeology; groundwater; water level measurements; contouring; data interpretation; technical writing

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Undergraduate hydrogeology or environmental field camp; hydrology, hydrogeology, or environmental field methods course; hydrogeology lecture course.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Basic knowledge of hydraulic head, hydraulic gradient, and Darcy's law

How the activity is situated in the course

Beginning of field camp or early in hydrogeology lecture semester.

Activity Length

Several hour activities/assignments over three days.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Determine groundwater flow direction from water level data using three point problems and water level contouring

Calculate specific discharge of an area using a water level contour map

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Design a field strategy to collect or select data in order to answer a geologic question.

Describe the methods of collecting water level measurements

Synthesize geologic data and integrate with core concepts and skills into a cohesive spatial and temporal scientific interpretation.

Analyze data to determine groundwater flow direction and specific discharge

Other skills goals for this activity

Collect accurate and sufficient data on field relationships and record these using disciplinary conventions (field notes, map symbols, etc.).

Communicate clearly using written, verbal, and/or visual media (e.g., maps, cross-sections, reports) with discipline-specific terminology appropriate to your audience

Description and Teaching Materials

This module is intended to provide a virtual field experience of collecting water level data from wells/piezometers. The module includes the analysis following the field work including estimating groundwater flow direction using 3-point problems and creating water level contour maps. In addition, students will learn how to use a water level contour map to determine hydraulic gradient and specific discharge of an area.

A comprehensive description is included in the instructor notes.
Image Files for all assignments (Zip Archive 1.4MB May22 20)
Assignments (Zip Archive 2.2MB May22 20)
Instructor Notes (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 40kB May22 20)

Technology Needs

Internet access is required for the videos.

Teaching Notes and Tips

Please see the instructor notes for more details. Note: all videos have closed captioning available.


The final assignment on Glenn Sebastian Nature Trail will serve as the summative assessment for this module.

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