ENVR 420 · Ecohydrology of Watersheds and Water Systems

Offered Summer 2022. Analysis of water resources from a water-in-ecosystem perspective. Application to natural, managed, and urban systems, considering ecological interactions with hydrological processes. Exploration of biogeochemical processes related to water quality, and human impacts on water resources. [3-0-0] Prerequisite: One of GEOB 305, EOSC 329, or permission of instructor.

Course Availability & Schedule

Learning Goals

By the end of the course, students will be able to:

  1. Identify and distinguish biotic controls on hydrological processes from abiotic factors;
  2. Describe human impacts on water quantity at nested spatial and temporal scales relative to natural variability at these scales;
  3. Compile ecohydrological data from publically available sources;
  4. Differentiate primary controls on freshwater availability and compare these controls against water demand by humans and natural systems;
  5. Propose testable hypotheses related to impacts on the provision of hydrologically-oriented ecosystem services;
  6. Evaluate ecological flow requirements and indicators of hydrological alteration;
  7. Assess the influence of global changes processes on water quantity and water quality;
  8. Appraise water resources management strategies as related to the provision of energy resources (conventional and renewable);
  9. Communicate effectively on the fundamentals of ecohydrology and societal concerns related to water resources in verbal and written forms;
  10. Conduct a peer-review based on criteria and indicators provided.


Dr. Mark Johnson

Course Content

This is a course for upper-level students in Environmental Sciences and related disciplines in which students will learn integrated approaches and methods within the interdisciplinary field of ecohydrology to study water processes and management. In this course, ecohydrology will be used as a lens to explore relationships between hydrological and biogeochemical processes that are conditioned by ecological controls in natural, managed and urban ecosystems. This course will evaluate water within complex, adaptive systems, including water management in relation to global change issues, water for agricultural productivity to ensure an adequate food supply for a growing population, drinking water quality in municipal systems, and environmental flow requirements to ensure ecological integrity.

Rationale and Intended Audience

Water processes, use and management are central to a multitude of complex environmental problems and require integrated analytical frameworks. Water is involved in multiple ecosystem and municipal services for which water quantity and water quality are strongly influenced by ecological interactions. The course is designed for students in Environmental Sciences and related specializations such as Geographical Biogeosciences.

Course Outline

The course will consist of three hours per class of mixed lectures and experiential learning activities. Lecture sessions will provide opportunities for students to engage with current state-of-knowledge in fundamental and emerging areas of ecohydrology, and will employ an experiential, peer-learning approach to explore course topics. Assignments will incorporate each of the “four paradigms of science”[1] over the course of the term.

Each class meeting will be structured around a 50-minute lecture with two hours planned for working in groups on assignments. Plan for Classes 1 – 8: During odd numbered weeks, the group assignments will be introduced and students will begin working on the activity. In even numbered weeks, students will complete an in-class quiz and then continue with the group assignments. Plan for Classes 9 – 12: Lectures will continue, with the two-hour block utilized for providing guidance on final projects.

Lecture Topics

Topic outline by class meeting:

Classes 1-2:

Introduction to Ecohydrology in Watersheds and Water Systems

Key Ecohydrologic Processes

Classes 3-4:

Ecohydrologic Connectivity within Terrestrial Systems

Ecohydrologic Connectivity between Terrestrial and Aquatic Systems

Classes 5-6:

Ecohydrology and Carbon Cycling in Watersheds and Water Systems

Ecohydrology and Nitrogen Cycling in Watersheds and Water Systems

Classes 7-8:

Water Supply and Demand: Extensive Systems

Water Supply and Demand: Intensive Systems

Classes 9-12:

Current topics in Ecohydrology

--Global Change Issues for Ecohydrology

--Green Water, Blue Water and Virtual Water

--Biofuels and Water Use

--Water Use and Water Quality Issues of Hydraulic Fracturing