Hydrogeochemical Characterization of Environmental Field Sites

CRSS(WASR) 4660L/6660L - 3 credit hours

Course Summary

  • This course focuses on principles and practical experience in hydrologic monitoring and chemical analyses of soils, sediments, rocks, and water.
  • We teach field data acquisition methods to determine the quantity and quality of hydrologic flows, including precipitation, evapotranspiration, streamflow, groundwater, and soilwater.
  • We couple these techniques with instruction on physical and chemical analytical methods to determine flow paths, mass balances, and the environmental fate of solutes, emphasizing environmentally important constituents such as nutrients and metals.

Course Objectives

Students are expected to gain a comprehensive understanding in the following:

  • Collecting field data in environmental systems, including geologic, hydrologic, and chemical parameters.
  • Performing laboratory analyses of soils, sediments, rocks, water for important organic and inorganic contaminants (e.g., chromatography, atomic adsorption, and mass-spectrometry)
  • Conducting quality assurance & quality control procedures for data collection, reporting, and interpretation including uncertainty analysis.


Time and Location

  • WF 1:25 - 4:25 (Spring)
  • Miller Plant Sciences Bldg, Room 3406


  • CHEM 1212/1212L
  • CRSS(FANR) 3060



  • You will be evaluated based on a portfolio that you develop over the course of the semester. Your portfolio will include a summary of all your activities, a collection of procedures, the data you collect, statistical analyses, and your research conclusions. A total of 100 points will be based on your portfolio.
  • You will also be evaluated on a Term Project: that you will complete
    1. Week 5: Topic and one-page description (10 pts)
    2. Week 10: Detailed outline and reference list (20 pts)
    3. Week 15: 30-minute oral presentation (20 pts)
    4. Finals Week: Final submission (50 pts)
  • Grades based on: A > 93 > A- > 90 > B+ > 87 > B > 83 > B- > 80 > C+ > 77 > C > 73 > C- > 70 > D > 60 > F

Course Policies

  • Attendance at all lectures and labs is mandatory unless prior arrangement is made. Missed labs or exams may be made up if excused for sufficient cause by arrangement with course instructors.
  • Reading material designed to supplement and reinforce lecture topics are listed in this syllabus, passed out in lecture, or reserved at the Science Library.
  • Labs are where much of the practical information in the course is learned. You'll need a bound notebook for use as a laboratory notebook. Laboratory handouts outline the procedures to be used, and any hand-ins or reports should be turned in for credit by the deadline noted on the lab. Late labs are penalized, and not accepted if more than two-weeks late. Transportation is provided for off-campus field trips.
  • Projects are independent studies by groups of students on some aspect of environmental analysis. Instructors will provide assistance in forming groups and selecting topics, as well as in arranging lab space and equipment for analysis. Formal written and oral presentations will be given at the end of the semester.
  • Graduate students are assigned additional tasks in lab, and are expected to provide leadership during the lab sessions and on independent projects.
  • Grades are based on an evaluation of participation and submitted work (completeness, quality of data presented, adherence to lab report format and style, and writing quality).
  • University Honor Code: Students shall adhere to UGA's Student Honor Code: "I will be academically honest in all of my academic work and will not tolerate academic dishonesty of others."
  • Academic Honesty Policy: A Culture of Honesty -- UGA's policy and procedures for handling cases of suspected dishonesty -- can be found at www.uga.edu/honesty.

Term Project

  • Purpose: To develop a more in-depth knowledge on a environmental sampling and analysis on a topic of interest to you and to develop your research, writing, and oral presentation skills
  • Topic: The topic is up to you. Pick something you are interested in and want to know more about. It should be narrow enough that you can treat the subject in depth, but not so narrow that you cannot find several references. We expect you to read outside sources (books, articles, information from the web) and use these to develop your topic. If you are having trouble picking a topic, speak to one of the instructors.
  • Length and Format: The paper should be more than six pages in length, typed single space with 12-point font. The paper should contain the background, previous research, methods used, results, and discussion. Use headings to subdivide the paper. Include figures, tables, and references, as appropriate. A group presentation is expected.


Study Design

  • Introduction to Environmental Characterization
    • study goals
    • economic and legal constrations
    • dealing with the media and the public
  • QAPPs (quality assurance project plans)
    • QA/QC (quality assurance & quality control)
    • project objectives, approaches, procedures, data quality objectives
    • errors, biases, precision, accuracy, detection limits, uncertainties
    • blanks, spikes, recovery; replication, duplication, redundancy
    • documentation, lab notebooks, chain of custody
    • sample preparation, storage, holding times
  • Safety Issues
    • permits and badging
    • flammable and toxic gasses and liquids
    • confined spaces
    • traffic and roadside parking
    • water hazards
  • Information Management

Laboratory Methods

  • AAS (atomic absorption-emission spectroscopy)
    • the electromagnetic spectrum
    • flame atomic absorption-emission
    • QA/QC in AAS methods; interferences
    • sample preparation
  • ICP (inductively coupled plasma)
    • ICP-Optical Emission, ICP-Mass Spectrometry
    • ICP Analyses; metals
  • IC (ion chromatography)
    • IC instrumentation
    • chromatographic separations
    • classes of organic contaminants
    • types of analyses; GC-EC, GC-MS, HPLC, advanced methods
    • LUST (leaking underground storage tanks): BTEX
  • Other Techniques
    • radionuclides; alpha, beta, gamma emissions
    • x-ray spectroscopy; mineral structures

Field Methods