INTEGRATING HYDROLOGY AND ENVIRONMENTAL GEOLOGY FIELD METHODS INTO THE JAMES MADISON UNIVERSITY GEOLOGY FIELD COURSE IN IRELAND
Students learn field methods to measure discharge, stream gradient, grain size, stream morphology dimensions (width, depth bankfull width/depth), pH, and total dissolved solids. Students also make meaningful observations regarding land use and channel / river management practices, and anthropogenic impacts on river hydrology / geomorphology. Working in groups of 4 or 5 for 2.5 days, students collect and analyze data from 12 sites stretching from the headwaters to mouth of the river as it discharges into the Atlantic Ocean. Each group gives a GSA style presentation to their peers in which they address a research question regarding the Carrownisky River. Past research questions have included: How do anthropogenic and natural processes shape present-day river channels?; Do downstream changes in the river follow published hydraulic geometry relationships?
Using similar field methods students conduct a surface and groundwater hydrogeologic analysis of the karstic Kinvarra drainage basic, located in the Burren Region of Ireland. For this study students quantify the connectivity between surface and ground water as water moves from the headwater region, travels through rivers and streams, disappears through swallow holes and sinks, re-emerges in turloughs, and ultimately discharges as freshwater into Kinvarra Bay. Working in groups students present a written and mathematical assessment (mass balance accounting) of the sources and sinks of water in the drainage basin.
This experience has been overwhelming positively received and is an opportunity to re-affirm or create student interest in environmental geology and hydrology in a field camp environment, as well as to prepare students for employment and/or graduate school upon their completion of the course.