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Winter Geohydrology

Examples compiled by Suzanne Savanick, SERC based on course 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


This geohydrology course is built around a winter pond study and a snowpack analysis of a skiing area. Both projects are ice- and snow-dependent projects for use in the Vermont winter.

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Learning Goals

The pond project goals are: to have students learn to survey, make bathymetric maps, measure water temperature and conductivity, calculate lake volume and water residence times, and collect and analyze a sediment core. The ski area project goals are: to calculate the volume of water in the snowpack, establish the relationship between water equivalent of snow and elavation, record snow stratigraphy, and calculate the effect of a hypothetical late-winter rainfall event on the snowpack. In general, the goals are to have student learn how to collect date, organize observations, make surveys, and collect cores. In addition to the scientific goals, the other goals are to have students get to know each other, work together, and acclimatize to working outside in cold weather.

Context for Use

The geohydrology course is structured around three day-long weekend field projects. Lectures are minimized and no exams are given. Students write reports in the form of a formal scientific papers. Each year 15-20 students enroll in the course. Students must be science majors or have permission to enroll.

Teaching Materials

Teaching Notes and Tips

Student snowpack data is used by the ski area.


Students write reports in the form of a formal scientific paper. No exams are given. Students peer review each other's papers and obtain extensive evalutations from the instructors on their written papers.

References and Resources

Gran, S.E, P.R. Bierman, and K.K. Nichols, 1999, Teaching Winter Geohydrology Using Frozen Lakes and Snowy Mountains, Journal of Geoscience Education, v.47, p. 420.


Geoscience:Hydrology:Snowpack and Snow Melt, Ground Water:Groundwater flow, Water supply/water resource evaluation, Field methods in hydrogeology, Education

Resource Type

Activities, Project:Service Learning, Activities:Project

Special Interest

Field-Based Teaching and Learning

Grade Level

College Lower (13-14):Introductory Level

Ready for Use

Ready to Use

Earth System Topics

Hydrology, Ground Water


Hydrosphere/Cryosphere:Snow and Ice, Groundwater:Water supply/water resource evaluation, Groundwater flow, Field methods in hydrogeology, Education


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