Water Resources and Environmental Geosciences
The multidisciplinary team of environmental researchers conducts fundamental studies on the characteristics and processes that shape near-surface geologic environments including aquifers, soils, wetlands, watersheds, glaciers, and the coastal margin. In addition, the group also addresses applied engineering and environmental management problems concerning the interactions between human society and these geologic systems.
The departmental strength in environmental geology is built by a multidisciplinary task force which studies problems in basic and applied science from hydrogeological, geomorphologic, geophysical, geochemical and biogeochemical perspectives. This task force studies flow and contaminant transport in aquitard-aquifer systems, vapor flow and transport in the subsurface, non-Darcian flow and its impact on non-Fickian transport in porous and fractured media, unconfined aquifer hydraulics and variably saturated flow, and horizontal well dynamics along with its applications for environmental remediation and water resources development. The task force also specializes in high alpine and arctic research that focus on streams, mass movement (landslides), rock glaciers, climate change and fens. It uses a variety of instruments such as GPS, GIS and ground penetrating radar (GPR) to investigate the internal structure of rock glaciers, glacial outwash terraces, and landslides in sites such as Colorado and Alaska. The task force is also specialized in organic biogeochemistry and the landscape ecology of terrestrial ecosystems, contaminant bioavailability by linking molecular sorption mechanisms to field-scale bioavailability, mineral surface reactivity and contaminant colloidal transport in surface waters, and risk assessment of arsenic and uranium-associated elements (such as U, Mo, V, and Se) released by uranium mining. The task force applies geophysical methods for studying the uppermost 30-100 m that is impacted by human activities. In addition, the task force develops innovative geophysical instrumentation and analysis techniques, primarily electromagnetic supplemented with resistivity, seismic, magnetics, and GPR, to study cliff stability, detect unexploded ordnance, and characterize fractured aquifers. The task force is also specialized in environmental education by designing innovative science teacher professional development programs, and integrating environmental education and research to form a synergistic, learning continuum.