Hydrologic Sciences Program
Graduate Coordinator
University of Colorado Boulder
450 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309-0450
T: 303-735-1882

The hydrologic sciences graduate program focuses on quantitative studies of water in the environment including its role in geologic and biogeochemical processes, ecosystem functions and global elemental cycling. The program is interdisciplinary, interdepartmental and designed to encourage students with a variety of academic backgrounds to enter the field. It is intended for science and engineering graduate students, allowing them to obtain recognition for their accomplishments in hydrologic sciences and to demonstrate the quantitative multidisciplinary education desired by many prospective employers.

All hydrologic sciences graduate program students are admitted through one of the participating departments: Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (ATOC); Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering (CEAE); Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EBIO); Environmental Studies (ENVS); Geography (GEOG); or Geological Sciences (GEOL). Graduate students may apply for admission to hydrologic sciences after admission to one of these departments. 

The program offers a certificate in hydrologic sciences to research-oriented graduate students in the participating departments. PhD students in ATOC, ENVS, GEOG and GEOL may enroll in the hydrologic sciences PhD subplan or the certificate. Course requirements are identical for the subplan and certificate.

Hydrologic sciences students conduct research within participating departments, research institutes and centers (e.g., INSTAAR), or partnering government agency labs in the Boulder area (e.g., USGS, NOAA). Primary supervision of the student's research may be provided by any faculty member approved by their department, though the hydrologic sciences program requires representation from program faculty on students' comprehensive exam and defense committees.

For additional information, please visit the program webpage or contact the Graduate Coordinator.


  • Completion of all hydrologic sciences program courses with a grade of B or better.
  • Completion of degree requirements for graduate degree within the student's home department.
  • For the graduate certificate: The thesis topic includes substantial use of hydrologic science and the thesis committee includes at least one Hydrologic Sciences Program faculty member.
  • ​For the PhD subplan: The dissertation topic is approved by Hydrologic Sciences Program co-director and the dissertation committee includes at least two Hydrologic Sciences Program faculty members.

Students are referred to their home department (ATOC, CEAE, EBIO, ENVS, GEOG or GEOL) and the University Catalog for general information on requirements for their degree. In case of a conflict between those documents and the requirements stated here, the rules of the Graduate School apply.

Research Supervision

Primary supervision of the student's research may be provided by any faculty member approved by the student's home department.

Course Prerequisites

All students entering the program are expected to have advanced-level knowledge of mathematics: a full year of college level calculus including differential and integral calculus. (Linear algebra and differential equations are strongly encouraged.) Students are expected to have completed one semester of college-level physics (mechanics).

In addition, students are encouraged to work with their advisors and committees to identify and fulfill any other specialized degree and/or research-related required courses. For example, students interested in the physical aspects of hydrologic sciences are expected to have advanced-level knowledge of physics (mechanics and thermodynamics) and fluid mechanics. Similarly, students interested in the chemical aspects of hydrologic sciences may be expected to have advanced-level knowledge of organic and/or physical chemistry, students interested in the biological or ecological aspects of hydrologic sciences are expected to have an advanced-level knowledge of biology and/or ecology.

Students may also need to complete other specific undergraduate prerequisites required by their home department.

Required Courses and Credits

Five courses are required for the Hydrologic Sciences Certificate and PhD Subplan. The number of courses is intentionally kept low, so that the student is free to design an overall academic program that meets their needs in terms of specialized scholarly interests. Hydrologic sciences courses are included in the minimum semester hours required for all graduate students. The coursework is designed to assure competency in appropriate subject matter at the graduate level.

The five courses are required, as follows:

  • One course from List A
  • One course from List A or B
  • Three elective courses
List A
ATOC 5050Atmospheric Thermodynamics and Dynamics3
ATOC 5060Dynamics of the Atmosphere and Oceans3
CVEN 5313Environmental Fluid Mechanics3
CVEN 5353Groundwater Hydrology3
GEOL 5110Geomechanics3
List B
ATOC 5051Introduction to Physical Oceanography3
ATOC 5061Advanced Ocean Dynamics and Air-Sea Coupled ENSO Mechanisms3
CVEN 5333Physical Hydrology3
CVEN 5404Water Chemistry3
GEOG 5321Snow Hydrology3-4
GEOL 5080Advanced Hydrogeology and Modeling Concepts3


ATOC 5235Introduction to Atmospheric Radiative Transfer and Remote Sensing3
ATOC 5500Special Topics in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (Field Observations and Measurements)1-3
ATOC 5550Mountain Meteorology3
ATOC 5600Physics and Chemistry of Clouds and Aerosols3
ATOC 5730Physical Oceanography and Climate3
ATOC 5750Desert Meteorology and Climate3
ATOC 5780Ice Sheets and Climate3
ATOC 5850Numerical Methods Laboratory3
CHEM 5141Environmental Water and Soil Chemistry3
CVEN 5323Applied Stream Ecology3
CVEN 5343Transport and Dispersion in Surface Water3
CVEN 5363Modeling of Hydrologic Systems3
CVEN 5383Applied Groundwater Modeling3
CVEN 5404Water Chemistry3
CVEN 5454Statistical Methods for Natural and Engineered Systems3
CVEN 5833Special Topics (Analysis of Urban Water Systems)1-3
CVEN 5537Numerical Methods in Civil Engineering3
CVEN 5833Special Topics (Environmental Transport and Dispersion Processes)1-3
CVEN 6383Flow and Transport through Porous Media3
CVEN 6414Aquatic Surfaces and Particles3
EBIO 5030Limnology3
ENVS 5840Global Biogeochemical Cycles3
GEOG 5023Advanced Quantitative Methods for Spatial Data4
GEOG 5093Remote Sensing of the Environment4
GEOG 5241Topics in Physical Geography (Watershed Biogeochemistry)1-3
GEOG 5241Topics in Physical Geography (Fluvial Geomorphology)1-3
GEOG 5251River Systems and Landforms4
GEOG 5271The Arctic Climate System3
GEOG 5303Geographic Information Science: Spatial Programming4
GEOL 5060Oceanography4
GEOL 5093Remote Sensing of the Environment4
GEOL 5270Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry3
GEOL 5280Aqueous and Environmental Geochemistry3
GEOL 5305Global Biogeochemical Cycles3
GEOL 5430Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology3
GEOL 5700Geological Topics Seminar (Terrestrial Hydrology)3-4
GEOL 5700Geological Topics Seminar (Sedimentary Modeling)1-4