EV 320 | Watershed Biogeochemistry

This course provides an introduction to the hydrologic cycle in the context of watersheds. We will discuss the major components of the hydrologic cycle as well as how water interacts with the ecosystem to effect biogeochemical cycling. These ideas will be explored by qualitatively through reading peer reviewed literature, discussions, & guest lectures as well as quantitatively using data analysis, statistics, and GIS.


  • To be able to critically evaluate information (also known as thinking!)
  • To acquire fundamental knowledge about the water cycle, its key processes, and storage reservoirs
  • To quantitatively understand and calculate hydrologic variables relevant to a water budget
  • To understand how water interacts with the landscape and drives biogeochemical cycling and transport


Week 1: Fountain Creek Project  The Sierra Club Water Sentinel Team is very interested in the water quality of Fountain and Monument Creeks. In particular they are worried about any chemical constituent that is out of compliance with water quality standards. Your task is to use water quality and stream flow data from the USGS NWIS database in conjunction with spatial data sets (analyzed using GIS) to help the Sierra Club determine their priorities (e.g. What constituents are of concern? What are the possible sources?)

Weeks 2-3.5: Individual Project: In the second week of the class you will start your own projects – the project topic is very much up to you but it must meet this one requirement: it must relate spatial data (GIS) to water quality (geochemistry) and/or quantity (flow) data to answer a question of interest. You will have to (1) find the spatial, water quality, and flow data (2) analyze it, and (3) contextualize it within the literature. There will be two end products: a scientific abstract, series of figures & annotated bibliography (20% of your total grade) and an oral presentation (20% of your overall grade).


  • Week 1: Hydrology
  • Week 2: Watershed Biogeochemistry Methods & Case Studies
  • Week 3: Biogeochemistry of Agricultural Watersheds
  • Week 3.5: Final Projects

The class was super lucky to get to meet and talk to several awesome hydrologists and biogeochemists, including: Kamini Singh (Colorado School of Mines), Kyle Whittinghill (CC), Tim Covino (Colorado State University), Kate Brauman (Univ of Minnesota), Eve Hinckley (Univ of Colorado), and Pam Matson (Stanford). Many thanks to all of these awesome scientists for sharing their brilliance with my students.

Syllabus: ev320-b6-2016-syllabus-barnes