Lake Mendota


Overview and News

Faculty and students in the UW-Madison Hydrogeology research program are engaged in both the applied and fundamental research in hydrogeology. Research interests within the program are diverse and fall under the general categories of groundwater flow, solute and contaminant transport, pore-scale transport processes, groundwater remediation and numerical modeling. Many research projects crosscut these categories and utilize a range of laboratory, field, and modeling tools.

Collaboration with UW researchers in departments other than Geoscience, particularly Geologic Engineering and Civil & Environmental Engineering, are common. There is also significant collaboration between the UW Hydrogeology program and researchers at the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey (WGNHS) and the Middleton office of the US Geological Survey (USGS-Middleton), both of which are located in the Madison metro area.

UW-Madison has long been recognized as one of the premier hydrogeology research universities in the nation. It was at UW-Madison that some of the foundations of the field of hydrogeology were established in the late-19th and early-20th century. This tradition of excellence continues today: in the most recent ranking of geology graduate programs by US News, UW-Madison is tied for seventh. Alumni of the program have gone on to highly successful careers in the academic, government and private sectors.

The Hydrogeology program leads to M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Geology & Geophysics. Click here to find out how to apply to the UW-Madison Hydrogeology research program.


Michael A. Cardiff, Associate Professor

I am interested in understanding aquifer heterogeneity through hydrologic and geophysical methods, and in environmental decision making under uncertainty.

Christopher Zahasky, Assistant Professor

My research focuses on using imaging technologies such as X-ray computed tomography (X-ray CT) and positron emission tomography (PET) to make experimental observations of fluid transport in geologic porous and fractured media. Combined with numerical and analytical methods, it possible to better understand fundamental transport processes that control everything from contaminate transport in aquifers to water and steam migration in geothermal reservoirs. Check out more details on the Subsurface Hydrophysics Lab Group Website.

Emeritus Faculty

Herbert F. Wang, Professor Emeritus

I am interested in poroelastic behavior of rocks and geodynamical modeling because they link observations to geologic processes.

Mary P. Anderson, Professor Emerita

Current research interests include groundwater-lake studies and recharge estimation. Our groundwater-lake studies are conducted at NSF’s Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) site in northern Wisconsin.

Jean M. Bahr, Professor Emerita

The interactions between physical and chemical processes that control mass transport in groundwater are of particular interest to me.

Affiliated Faculty

Kenneth R. Bradbury, WGNHS

Michael Fienen, USGS

Dante Fratta, CEE

Jesse Hampton, GLE

Randall J. Hunt, USGS

David J. Hart, WGNHS

David P. Krabbenhoft, USGS

Steve Loheide, CEE


Graduate students from the Hydrogeology program are broadly trained hydrogeologists with the skills needed to tackle a diversity of water resource challenges. In developing an individualized coursework plan, graduate students in the Hydrogeology Program are expected to work with their advisory committee to ensure they have achieved both breadth and depth in hydrological knowledge.

The courses listed below represent common guidelines for students in the program.


Course Number Course Title Generally Offered
GEOSCI/GLE-627 Hydrogeology Every Fall
GEOSCI/GLE-629 Contaminant Hydrogeology Every Spring
GEOSCI/GLE-724 Groundwater Flow Modeling Spring (alternating years)
CEE-310 Fluid Mechanics Spring
CEE-412 Groundwater Hydraulics Spring
CEE-415 Hydrology Fall
GLE/​CEE-511 Mixing and Transport in the Environment Spring (alternating years)
CEE-515 Hydroclimatology for Water Resources Management Spring (alternating years)
CEE-500 Water Chemistry Fall
GLE/​CEE-612 Ecohydrology Every Spring

Depending on a student’s background and research focus, students may take courses in statistics, computer science, civil engineering, material science, etc.

Special topics courses, field methods courses and seminars are offered routinely, but with less regularity. Hydrogeology graduate students are often expected to take these courses when available. OTHER ADVANCED COURSEWORK (GENERALLY ENCOURAGED, WHEN OFFERED)

Course Number Course Title Last Offered Previous Topics Examples
CEE-619 Special Topics in Hydrology Spring 2014 Hydroclimatology, Hydroecology
GEOSCI-727 Advanced Hydrogeology Spring 2014 Finite Element Modeling, Numerical Contaminant Transport Modeling
GEOSCI-729 Field Methods in Hydrogeology Summer 2012
GEOSCI-929 Seminar in Hydrogeology Spring 2013 Geostatistics, Wetland Hydrogeology, Groundwater / Surface Interactions


As an inherently interdisciplinary and multi-faceted field, Geoscience graduate students often take several courses outside of the Geoscience Department. The list below is a small sampling of the many classes that graduate students from the Hydrogeology program have taken in the past. An excellent resource for other water-related coursework is the University’s Water@UW-Madison website. Current students can also visit the University CourseGuide (UW login required).

CEE 700 – Chemistry of Natural Water
CEE 502 – Environmental Organic Chemistry
Math 319 – Techniques in Ordinary Differential Equations
CEE 716 – Statistical Modeling of Hydrologic Systems
CEE 330 – Soil Mechanics
Soil Sci 622 – Soil Physics
Landscape Arch 361 – Wetlands Ecology
Zoo 315/316 – Limnology
IES 710 – Field Investigations in Wetland Ecology
Law 845 – Water Rights Law
CEE 357 – An Introduction to Geographic Information Systems
CEE 635 – Remediation Geotechnics
Soil Sci 523 – Soil Microbiology and Biochemistry
BSE 571 – Small Watershed Engineering
BSE 372 – On-site Waste Water Treatment and Dispersal

Hydrogeology-related theses completed by students within the department often have hydrogeology program faculty members as their primary advisors, though some students may also complete hydrogeology-related theses working under other advisors. In these cases, students often have  hydrogeology faculty member on their thesis committee


(*Advisor is in the hydrogeology program, unless otherwise specified)

Year Author Advisor* Degree Thesis Title
2019 Christenson, Catherine Cardiff M.S. Big Data for Small Streams: Establishing a method for collection of spatially and temporally dense water-quality and geophysical datasets via canoe
2018 Patterson, Jeremy R. Cardiff M.S. Understanding constraints on geothermal sustainability through reservoir characterization at Brady geothermal field, Nevada
2017 Andelman, Elliott Cardiff M.S. Multi-sourced geologic data integration: A time-based approach
Heinle, Benjamin Cardiff M.S. The Impact of Surface Heterogeneities on Fracture Flow and Transport Processes: Visualizations using a Novel Thermochromic Laboratory Apparatus
Krause, Jacob Cardiff M.S. A tracer approach to estimate groundwater nitrate loading from agricultural fields: Application to a shallow sand and gravel aquifer
Olson, Joshua Bahr M.S. Long-term alterations in groundwater chemistry induced by municipal well pumping
Schlaudt, Elisabeth Bahr M.S. Developing a groundwater flow model for slough management in Sauk County, WI
2016 Sayler, F. Claire Cardiff M.S. Characterization of bedrock secondary porosity using Multi-frequency Oscillatory Flow Interference testing
Zhao, Hangjian Bahr M.S. Evaluating seepage lake drought resilience using stable isotopes of water and groundwater-flow models
Zhou, YaoQuan Cardiff Ph.D. Oscillatory hydraulic tomography : numerical experiments and laboratory studies
2015 Baldwin, Jonathan A. Wang M.S. Developing a Multichannel Analysis of Surface Waves (MASW) method for application to Distributed Acoustic Sensing (DAS) array and co-located seismometers at Garner Valley, California
Sellwood, Stephen Bahr Ph.D. Characterization of groundwater flow in sandstone aquifers using heat as an in-well tracer
2014 Castongia, Ethan E. Wang M.S. An experimental investigation of Distributed Acoustic Sensing (DAS) on lake ice
Haserodt, Megan J. Bahr M.S. Effects of roads on groundwater flow patterns in peatlands and implications for nearby salmon streams on the Kenai Peninsula, AK
Li, Yang Cardiff M.S. (GLE) Using multiple conceptual models to understand transboundary groundwater flows in Red Cliff Reservation, WI
2013 Meulemans, Ashley J. Wang M.S. Tomographic imaging of mine-induced stress changes in North Aurora, Illinois
Potier, Chelsea E. Wang M.S. Subsurface tiltmeter observations of solid earth tides and rock excavation in Northeastern Illinois
Pruitt, Aaron H. Bahr M.S. Potential impacts of climate change on groundwater/surface water interaction, Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, Wisconsin
2012 Dunkle, Kallina M. Anderson Ph.D. Preferential flow paths in heterogeneous glacially deposited aquitards
Gellasch, Christopher A. Bahr Ph.D. Vulnerability of urban public supply wells in fractured siliciclastic aquifer systems















Older theses for the last several decades are compiled here.