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Hydrology Service-Learning at UVM

Example compiled by Suzanne Savanick, SERC, based on courses taught by Prof. Paul Bierman , Geology Dept., University of Vermont.
This material is replicated on a number of sites as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service Project


At the University of Vermont, instructors used land use change, driven by development of the University of Vermont campus and recent student occupancy of surrounding neighborhoods in Burlington, Vermont, as an opportunity for service learning and for teaching fundamental hydrologic and geologic skills in two undergraduate Geology courses. Two students, from a Geomorphology class, used historical mapes and aerial photographys of the University campus to document the dramatic increase in impermeable surfaces on campus from 4% of the land area in 1869 to 42% in 1999. In Geohydrology, student teams used aerial photographu, field mapping, and door-to-door surveys to document green space losses of 40 to 50% over the past 20 years in neighborhoods inhabited predominantly by students, despice zoning controls enacted in 1973. Students used simple hydrologic calculations to demonstrate that this unregulated change in land use increased both the volume and peak flow of stormwater runoff. Senior research projects have also made field and demographic studies of individual neighborhoods and examined the percent of land use change.

Learning Goals

In Geomorphology, the project goal was to document the increase in impermeable surfaces on campus. In Geohydrology, the project goal was to document green space loss in neighborhoods and calculate the change in volume and peak flow of stormwater runoff. Senior research projects goal was to study individual neighborhoods and examine the percent of land use change.

Context for Use

This project was completed by two students in a Geomorphology class, student teams in Geohydrology, and two senior research projects. The student projects built on the work of the previous student groups.

Teaching Materials

A full description of the project is found at Nichols, K. et al, 2003, Quantifying Urban Land Use and Runoff Changes Through Service-Learning Hydrology Projects Journal of Geoscience Education, v51,n.4, September, 2003, p. 364-372.

Teaching Notes and Tips

The Urban Hydrology and Landuse Change Over Time in Burlington website, includes detailed information about the project, including service learning instructions for students (Microsoft Word 56kB Dec21 05), and results.


References and Resources

Publications from this research are available for download on the project website.


Geoscience:Hydrology:Ground Water:Groundwater flow, Water cycle/groundwater-surface water interface, Water supply/water resource evaluation, Water and society, policy, and management, Geoscience:Hydrology:Surface Water, Ground Water:Geology of groundwater occurrence, Geoscience:Hydrology

Resource Type

Activities:Project:Service Learning, Activities, Project:Independent Research

Special Interest

Local Issue:Campus-Based, Local Issue

Grade Level

College Lower (13-14):Introductory Level

Learning Environment


Ready for Use

Ready to Use

Earth System Topics

Hydrology, Ground Water, Surface Water


Hydrosphere/Cryosphere:Groundwater:Geology of groundwater occurrence, Water cycle/groundwater-surface water interface, Hydrosphere/Cryosphere, Groundwater:Water and society, policy, and management, Human Dimensions/Resources, Hydrosphere/Cryosphere:Groundwater:Groundwater flow, Hydrosphere/Cryosphere:Surface Water, Groundwater:Water supply/water resource evaluation


Teach the Earth:Enhancing your Teaching:Service Learning, Teach the Earth:Teaching Environments:Intro Geoscience, Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Hydrology/Hydrogeology, Teach the Earth:Teaching Topics:Water

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