Student Research

The research conducted by Hydrologic Sciences students includes research conducted by CU departments, CU institutes, CU centers, and nearby government labs, most of which are located either on campus or on the CU East Campus. East Campus is within a short (~20 min) walk or can be reached by bus, which departs every 10 minutes during the day.

Institutes and centers

The institutes and centers exist to facilitate interdisciplinary research. Some Hydrologic Sciences faculty hold joint appointments between a Department and one of CU-Boulder's research institutes and centers. Whether or not your office and research will be housed within one of the institutes, your M.S. or Ph.D. will be granted by a department, and you will benefit from the camaraderie of the other Hydrologic Sciences and departmental graduate students.

CADSWES - The Center for Advanced Decision Support for Water and Environmental Systems

CADSWES researches, designs, prototypes and develops integrated decision support systems to help solve real-world water resources and environmental problems.

Includes collaborative research projects with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the Tennessee Valley Authority and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to develop common tools for river and reservoir system management.

CIRES – Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences

CIRES is a partnership of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the University of Colorado Boulder to conduct innovative research that advances our understanding of the global, regional, and local environments and the human relationship with those environments, for the benefit of society.

INSTAAR - Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research

INSTAAR studies physical and biogeochemical environmental processes associated with Quaternary and modern environments. Research includes geochronology, human and ecosystem ecology, oceanography, landscape evolution, biogeochemistry, and climate. Traditional focus has been on high-altitude and high-latitude regions but current research includes other areas. Strong in graduate education and exposure of undergraduates to the research process.

WWA – Western Water Assessment

WWA is an applied research program that is a part of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at the University of Colorado-Boulder. The mission of WWA is to conduct innovative research in partnership with decision makers in the Rocky Mountain West, helping them make the best use of science to manage for climate impacts, particularly those related to water resources. WWA includes researchers in multiple disciplines—climatology, hydrology, ecology, social sciences, and law—at the University of Colorado-Boulder and several other institutions in the region.

Government Labs

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have research laboratories located in Boulder. Many scientists at these laboratories collaborate extensively with faculty and scientists at CU, and are affiliates of CWEST, CIRES, or INSTAAR or have appointments on the graduate faculty.

USGS – United States Geological Survey

USGS laboratories are located on the CU East Campus and can be reached by bus or on foot. The laboratories house advanced analytical facilities for characterization of water and sediment, including ICP-MS and X-ray diffraction spectroscopy. Through the extensive collaborations of the USGS scientists in Boulder there are opportunities for students to work with USGS researchers in Denver, and at other research centers and state district offices around the country. Many USGS researchers hold appointments through CU departments or institutes and typically support 1-2 graduate students on hydrologic science research projects in collaboration with CU scientists. In addition to the USGS scientists listed under the People section, it is possible for students to working with additional researchers not yet listed.

A number of ongoing, interdisciplinary studies are conducted, in core research areas, including:

  • Sediment transport and geomorphology
  • Groundwater modeling
  • Surface water chemistry
  • Groundwater chemistry
  • Ecology

NCAR – National Center for Atmospheric Sciences

NCAR laboratories are located in Boulder near CU. They provide research and education services in the atmospheric and related sciences. NCAR's mission is to understand the behavior of the atmosphere and related Earth and geospace systems; to support, enhance, and extend the capabilities of the university community and the broader scientific community, nationally and internationally; to foster the transfer of knowledge and technology for the betterment of life on Earth.

NEON – National Ecological Observatory Network

NEON is located in Boulder near CU. It is a continental-scale observatory collecting freshwater aquatic, terrestrial, and airborne ecological measurements across the lower 48 states, Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. NEON’s mission is to “contribute to a better understanding and more accurate forecasting of how human activities impact ecology and how our society can more effectively address critical ecological questions and issues”.

  • Standardized data collection will continue for the next 30 years in order to enable long-term detection of environmental and ecological change.
  • In addition to >180 data products, NEON provides all of the underlying specimens/samples, field protocols, and data analysis methods used to produce them.
  • This major facility is fully funded by the National Science Foundation and operated by Battelle.
  • Scientists can also add sensors and do field sampling at NEON field sites; remote sensing surveys and mobile sensor arrays are also available for research projects. More info>>
  • Data collected by NEON are freely available for download. More info>>

NOAA - National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory - Chemical Sciences Division is located in Boulder near CU. They focus on research, monitoring and forecasting conditions of the oceans, major waterways, and the atmosphere. NOAA’s mission is “Science, Service and Stewardship”, which includes:

  • To understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans and coasts.
  • To share that knowledge and information with others.
  • To conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources.