June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
13.805.1 - 13.805.13
Introducing Real-World Hydrology Case Studies into an Undergraduate Civil and Environmental Engineering Curriculum Abstract
Hydrology, the study of the movement and storage of water in the environment, originated as an engineering discipline mainly concerned with the estimation of floods and droughts. Since then, hydrology has evolved into one of the earth sciences and deals with water related issues in complex environmental systems at scales ranging from local to global. Current and future water issues require inter-disciplinary scientific approaches to provide solutions to engineering problems, often including significant social components. Climate and land use change introduce non-stationarities into the environment that many of the current engineering tools cannot consider, while a growing population continuously increase the stress on available water resources, particularly in less developed countries. An introduction to hydrology remains an important part of the general civil and environmental engineering curriculum. However, the changes in the science of hydrology have not yet fully propagated into a changed approach to teaching this important subject. We present the results of a three-semester long study in which we introduced real world case studies into a large (70-90 students) civil engineering undergraduate class to achieve this change. Over the past several semesters, students have expressed overwhelmingly positive thoughts on the course adjustments made, including the cases and other active learning elements utilized. We show and discuss evidence of the positive impact on student learning due to the closer link between the course material and real-world examples.
Hydrology has evolved from a mainly problem driven, applied engineering discipline to one of the building blocks of the geosciences and environmental sciences. Hydrology deals with watersheds (or units at other scales) as complex environmental systems without losing its focus on real world applications. The complexity of hydrologic investigations has increased over time because of the necessary inclusion of chemical and biological aspects of the hydrological cycle to address topics such as water quality and ecosystem function, as well as a need for awareness for social and ethical issues related to water. At the same time, climate and land use are changing in many regions, causing significant problems for water resources studies. Such changes mean that historical data are not representative for the region anymore, while most engineering approaches are based on the assumption that they do.
As the demands on current and future hydrologists have changed, the concern arises that hydrology training has lagged behind necessary preparation for both research and application 1, 2, 3 . There is evidence of hydrology as a science becoming more interdisciplinary and complex, evolving in its focus due to new scientific findings, computational and technical advances, and new linkages to other disciplines4, 5, 6. The importance of hydrology education in this context is supported by results of a recent survey about integrated water resources management in the USA, which found that 86% of 600 survey participants (from industry, government and academia) think that the greatest educational need lies in the area of watershed hydrology and
Wagener, T., & Zappe, S. (2008, June), Introducing Real World Hydrology Case Studies Into An Undergraduate Civil And Environmental Engineering Curriculum Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4007
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