Dept of Earth & Environmental Sciences
Centre for Environmental and Information Technology (EIT)
200 University Ave. W
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada N2L 3G1
Phone: (519) 888-4567
Each spring, the department of Earth and Environmental Sciences raises the bar with their renowned research in hydrology. Offering graduate students the opportunity to step outside the classroom and gain hands-on learning experiences from a variety of national and global field professionals is what sets this unique Science program apart from its competitors.
EARTH 671, Field Methods in Hydrogeology, is a dynamic three-week program offered by the University of Waterloo that focuses on physical and chemical applications for measuring groundwater processes. It captures both theoretical and practical components, including in-class lectures, outdoor field demonstrations, hands-on group work, and individual assignments.
“I took this course in 1989 and still remember it as a key course in my career,” said course instructor Brewster Conant. “Many students who enroll are referred by supervisors who have attended EARTH 671 in the past.”
With its international recognition, the course attracts students from beyond Waterloo. This year, the department saw about 40 graduate students enrolled from a variety of universities, including the University of Waterloo, University of Guelph, University of Western Ontario, University of Toronto, Queen’s University, University of Ottawa, Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue, and even Tübingen University in Germany.
Through rain or shine, students progress through the course in a variety of environments across campus and the surrounding region. Wearing hip waders to navigate a local stream to measure groundwater—surface water interactions, to drilling monitoring wells in campus fields, to performing geochemical analyses of water samples in the field, no two days are the same.
“I have been teaching part of this course ever since it was taught at Chalk River, about 40 years ago,” said David R. Lee, Adjunct Professor with the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. “Being involved in this course is a service to future scientists and it has always been a pleasure for me to see that despite weather conditions being difficult on some of the field days, students are still engaged because they are collecting their own data and can actually see the flow of groundwater.”
By the end, students obtain a considerable amount of knowledge regarding both fundamental and innovative field techniques and gain skills necessary to move into either industry or research. They explore topics, such as well installations, soil classifications, geophysical techniques, water supply assessment, unsaturated zone flow, and water quality sampling. Afterward, they leave with knowledge on how to select appropriate measurement methods, how to install monitoring devices, and most importantly, to interpret data in a hydrogeological context.
“There are always new insights being taught because the instructors are bringing diverse perspectives from industry,” said Waterloo master’s student Andrea Reman.
More than 30 professionals, including faculty members, environmental consultants and industry leaders dedicated their time and knowledge to enhance learning objectives throughout the three-week period. With Waterloo Science’s reputation in cutting-edge field research, these professionals often end up building connections with students and creates a foundation for recruitment opportunities upon graduation. The element of experiential learning that combines both fundamental and state-of-the-art field methods with industry applications and knowledge is a large reason why those enrolled are in demand by employers.
“Overall, I thought the course was great,” said a student in their evaluation. “I found it incredibly valuable as the majority of demonstrations and activities were completely new to me and were my first time trying them hands-on. I cannot imagine going out into the workforce without having done this course.