2004 Denver Annual Meeting (November 7–10, 2004)

Paper No. 59
Presentation Time: 6:30 PM-8:30 PM


SANDERS, Laura L., Earth Science, Northeastern Illinois Univ, 5500 N. St. Louis Ave, Chicago, IL 60625-4699, L-Sanders@neiu.edu

Field exercises in hydrogeology present an exceptional vehicle for helping students develop skills in observation and analysis, dexterity with quantitative reasoning, and field geologist’s common sense.

Field hydro activities run the gamut from simple observations to detailed data-collection and analysis, and therefore are readily adaptable to any level of investigation. Experience shows that the most successful activities require students to gather data in the field and analyze it later, compiling information from several individuals or groups.

Educators with access to a campus well-field, stream, and weather station are particularly fortunate. But opportunities exist everywhere. Each locality, mountain or prairie, arid or humid, urban or rural, vegetated or paved, presents unique educational opportunities.

Surface water concepts readily lend themselves to field exploration. Simple observation exercises ask students to hypothesize why a wetland, lake, or stream exists. What feeds it? What depletes it? They can observe effects of channelization on bank erosion and flow velocity, or the effects of dams or culverts on flow velocity and sediment load. They can delineate a drainage basin by planting survey flags along the boundary, or delineate wetlands by examining soil. They can observe erosion from construction sites in storms of different intensities and durations.

Quantitative exercises invite students to estimate stream velocity or discharge. With simple instruments, they can conduct infiltration tests on the campus, or test water chemistry using easily measured parameters: temperature, pH, conductivity. With access to a well, they can perform aquifer testing. Collecting water level data, students can learn surveying techniques and mapping, including solving three-point problems and producing water level contour maps.

Asking simple, sometimes profound questions, any of these exercises can be used to help students develop common sense. Why is the water seeping through the pavement here? How does water get from the well to the spigot? How can we sample from a pond when it’s frozen?

Opportunities abound for engaging students in field-based hydrogeologic activities that can be geared to students from general education to senior level and develop important observational and quantitative skills.