Program and Courses
back to Hydro homepage
Grad School Application Info
Contact us
KU Geology homepage

Studying Hydrogeology at KU: Course Options
A variety of courses related to hydrogeology and environmental research are offered in the Department of Geology. Students are generally expected to take courses in physical hydrogeology, contaminant transport, aqueous geochemistry and geomicrobiology their first year, and then choose from among several elective courses (not necessarily offered every year) as schedules permit. The M.S. degree requires a total of 30 credit hours for graduation, of which about 6 hours are expected to be thesis hours. Students admitted without all the required courses in chemistry (Chem I & II) or mathematics (Calculus I & II, differential equations), should expect to make these up either before starting their studies at KU (preferred) or simultaneously as they complete their degrees. Listed below is a typical course sequence and courses that have been offered recently.

Typical sequence of courses for graduates.

Year of Degree
Fall term
Spring term
Summer term
Physical hydrogeology, Contaminant Transport, Hydrogeology seminar, elective
Aqueous geochemistry, Field hydrogeology, elective, thesis
2 and up
Elective(s), thesis
Elective(s), thesis
M.S. students complete 24 course hours and 6 thesis hours over 2 years of study. Ph.D. students complete courses selected to support the research (student specific) and non-FLORS requirement (9 hours) over 4 years. Electives are not required in terms following the achievement of the minimum credit hours mentioned above.

Courses available to graduates in the Geology Department

(all courses are electives except those marked with *)

  1. Physical hydrogeology *
  2. Transport hydrogeology *
  3. Field hydrogeology *
  4. Aqueous geochemistry *
  5. Practical groundwater modeling
  6. Contaminants in groundwater
  7. Analytical Methods in Geochemical Analysis
  8. Biogeochemistry
  9. Geochemical Modeling
  10. Water-Rock Interaction
  11. Numerical methods
  12. Geophysics
  13. Environmental geophysics
  14. Biogeophysics
  15. Ground penetrating radar
  16. Differential Equations for Hydrology
  17. Geostatistics

  18. Offered in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

  19. Wetlands hydrology
  20. Biological principles of environmental engineering
  21. Offered in the Department of Geography

  22. Soil geography
  23. Soil chemistry
  24. Soil Physics
  25. Ecohydrology
  26. Intermediate geographical information systems (GIS)
  27. Geographic information science (GISci)
  28. Microclimatology
  29. Remote sensing of environment I
  30. Remote sensing of environment II

Description of Courses

Courses available to graduates in the Geology Department

Physical hydrogeology (with labs and field training)

This 6 credit hour course includes a lab. It assumes students have taken introductory hydrogeology beforehand. The course covers water resource evaluation and the physics of groundwater flow in porous media. Assignments consist of practical exercises geared at developing water supply and other resource assessment skills.

Transport hydrogeology

This 3 credit hour course. It assumes students have taken introductory hydrogeology beforehand. The course is an overview of transport processes and their mathematical descriptions. Assignments consist of a series of spreadsheet modeling exercises covering numerical, analytical and stochastic methods.

Field hydrogeology

This 3 credit hour course introduces students to field methods in physical and geochemical hydrogeology. Hands-on field exercises in slug testing, aquifer testing, water sampling, measuring unstable water parameters, and microbiological techniques are covered. A field trip to see topical hydrogeological sites and projects is also offered.

Aqueous geochemistry

This 3 credit hour course is typically taken by students in the second term of their degree program. The course covers chemical equilibria of solutions, including speciation, solubility, sorption and ion exchange, and redox; kinetics of reactions; isotopes; introduction to natural water-rock reactions, reaction progress indicators, groundwater-"age" dating, the chemistry of groundwater contaminants, and geochemical speciation modeling.

Practical groundwater modeling

This is an elective 3 credit hour course in which students are taught the operation of the software through a series of self-guided exercises and selected lectures. It is expected that students enrolling in this course will either be acquainted with groundwater models or have taken the 'physical hydrogeology' and 'Transport hydrogeology' courses. A modeling project culminating in a presentation are required by the end of the term.

Contaminants in groundwater

This is an elective 3 credit hour course that introduces students to common and emerging contaminants in groundwater. Topics include heavy metals, anions, radionuclides, industrial solvents (DNAPLS), petroleum hydrocarbons (LNAPLs), agro-chemicals and biological contaminants. Nomenclature, physical properties, environmental fate, transformations, and energetics of organics in aquifers is presented in lectures and reviewed in papers. The topics are introduced with case study examples.

Analytical methods in geochemical analysis

This is an elective 3-4 credit hour course that may include theory and application of ICP-OES, solution ICP-MS, and/or laser ablation ICP-MS. Topics vary; course may be repeated if topics change. Student will gain hands-on experience with running the instruments and processing the data collected by the instrument, as well as learn how the instruments work.


This elective 3 credit hour course addresses the realization that much, if not most, of the chemistry of the subsurface is controlled by microorganisms. The course reviews the chemical microbial principles that drive bacteria to catalyze various reactions and create chemically distinct environments in the subsurface. The global impact of these organism is explored in a series of lectures and readings.

Geochemical modeling

This is an elective 3 credit hour course covering use of and mathematics behind the USGS geochemical speciation program, "PHREEQC". Besides learning how the program calculates results, students will learn the fundamentals of performing speciation calculations, reaction progress simulations, ion exchange reactions, inverse modeling, as well as other important aqueous geochemical reactions.

Water-rock interaction

This elective 3 credit hour course addresses water-rock interactions in shallow to deep aquifers, including chemical evolution of groundwater along flow paths and diagenesis in deep sedimentary basins. This course will be useful to hydrogeologists seeking to understand natural geochemical reactions in order to differentiate reactions associated with contaminants, and to petroleum geologists seeking to understand processes behind maintenance, enhancement or occlusion of oil or gas reservoir porosity.

Numerical methods

This is an elective 3 credit hour course that reviews the various groundwater modeling techniques based on the numerical solutions to differential equations. Students are acquainted with several methods, but work extensively both writing and modifying finite difference codes.


This is an elective 3 credit hour introductory Geophysics course for students with interest in learning the basic principles of geophysical methods. The course is an introductory study of gravitational, magnetic, seismic, electrical, and thermal properties of the earth. Measurements, interpretation, and applications to exploration, earth structure, and the environment.

Environmental Geophysics

This is an elective 3 credit hour introductory Geophysics course for students interested in the application of geophysical methods to near-surface investigations. Methods include gravity, magnetics, electromagnetics, electrical resistivity, induced polarization, ground penetrating radar, nuclear magnetic resonance and shallow seismic methods. Methods are presented in weekly sessions and include classroom lectures and field data collection.


This is an elective 3 credit hour graduate seminar course focused on current hydrogeophysics research in determining, predicting, and studying hydrologic properties and processes associated with groundwater flow, contaminant transport, and micro-mineral interactions using geophysical measurements.

Ground penetrating radar

This is an elective 3 credit hour course introducing students to the theory and application of GPR for environmental and hydrologic investigations of the subsurface. The course presents basic principles of EM theory as well as GPR data acquisition, processing and interpretation methods. Topics are presented through class lectures, computer exercises and field based projects. Introductory knowledge of geophysics is recommended.

Differential Equations for Hydrology

This 3 credit hour course develops the mathematical equations and solution methods used to analyze water resource systems. Both the application of models and the solution methods are emphasized. This course will review the basics of ordinary and partial differential equations, expanding to focus on those used in modeling water resources.


This 3 credit hour course covers a variety of statistical methods applicable to subsurface characterization problems in hydrogeology and petroleum geoscience, as well as other earth sciences. In addition to geostatistics in the strict sense, including characterization of spatial autocorrelation, interpolation (kriging), and stochastic simulation techniques, the course covers exploratory data analysis, classical and contemporary regression and classification techniques, cluster analysis, time-series analysis, and inverse problems.

Offered in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Wetlands hydrology

This elective 3 credit hour course is an introduction of design concepts in creating and restoring wetland systems. Wetland hydrology and hydraulics are reviewed. Interactions of wetland hydrology, soils, and vegetation providing environmental benefits are examined in lectures and readings. Consideration is given to project planning, site selection and preparation, construction operation, and maintenance of artificial wetlands. Use of state and local legal and management tools to protect and restore wetlands, as well as emerging concepts of mitigation and banking are examined.

Biological principles of environmental engineering

This elective 3 credit hour course is a basic study of the microorganisms of importance in environmental engineering. Emphasis is placed on the microbiology of dilute nutrient solutions. Microbial physiology, microbial ecology, and biochemistry will be discussed as they pertain to environmental engineering and science. Both biodegradation and public health aspects are included.

Offered in the Department of Geography

Soil geography

This elective 4 credit hour course is a broad study of the principles and properties of soils and their distribution on the landscape. Topics covered include: pedology, clay mineralogy, soil physics, soil chemistry, management of soils, soil biology, taxonomy, and soil geomorphology. Course includes a laboratory section and field project.

Soil Chemistry

This elective 3 hour course examines the chemical properties and processes of soils and methods of evaluations. Topics include solid and solution speciation, mineral solubility, soil colloidal behavior, ion exchange, surface complexation, soil salinity and sodicity, soil acidity, oxidation-reduction reactions, and kinetics of soil chemical processes.

Soil Physics

This elective 3 hour course provides theoretical and practical foundations for understanding physical properties and processes of variably-saturated porous media. Focus is on the transport, retention, and transformation of water, heat, gases, and solutes through the soil. Modern vadose zone measurement methods, analytical tools, and numerical models for data collection and interpretation are examined.


This elective 3 hour course provides a foundation in real world hydrologic and biologic questions through integrating knowledge from hydrology, ecology, atmospheric science, and biogeochemistry. Focus is on key concepts, methodological approaches and analytical techniques utilized in ecohydrology to understand and quantify plant water use, evolution of hydrological properties, groundwater-surface water interactions, controls on landscape pattersn, spatial and temporal patterns of soil moisture and nutrient concentrations, and vegetation competition.

Intermediate geographical information systems (GIS)

This elective 4 credit hour course teaches intermediate to advanced uses of GIS. Emphasis is placed on the application of spatial analytical techniques to geographical problem solving. Topics include spatial data structures, interpolation techniques, terrain analysis, and database management.

Geographic information science (GISci)

This elective 4 credit hour course integrates topics in geographical information science with spatial analytical techniques to solve spatial problems. Focus is on the most current research in GISci and its relevance to the environmental sciences, natural resource management, and spatial decision-making.


This elective 3 credit hour course is a study of climatic environments near the earth-atmosphere interface. Emphasis is on physical processes in the lower atmosphere, distribution of atmospheric variables, the surface energy budget and water balance.

Remote sensing of environment I

This elective 4 credit hour course is an introduction to study of the environment through air photos and satellite imagery, including princples of remote sensing, interactions of electromagnetic energy with the atmosphere and earth's surface, aerial photography, satellite systems, and sensors. Emphasis is on such applications as global monitoring, land cover mapping, forestry, and agriculture. This course includes a laboratory.

Remote sensing of environment II

This elective 4 credit hour course provides an overview of techniques for computer analysis of digital data from earth orbiting satellites for environmental applications. Topics include data formats, image enhancements and analysis, classification, thematic mapping, and environmental change detection. This course includes a laboratory.
Natural bridge
Water's work, field trip stop
Ozark Underground Labs
Karst lifeforms, field trip stop

Sides of granular iron
Iron sides are not created equal
(granular iron for groundwater remediation)

Shoot radar through a sand-filled tank
'Above ground' penetrating radar
for mapping microbes in sand

Cave class in 3D
3D with the right glasses

Logging at Gems
Hands on field experience is a
big part of our program

Geoprobe at Gems
Drill baby drill

Surveying at Gems
Walk softly and carry a big stick

Last updated
June 8, 2015