Water Research Theme

The Water and Environment group focuses on water resources, hydrogeology, and ground water modeling with strong connections with UMass Extension and the Massachusetts Geological Survey. Critical issues of sustainability and environmental quality lie at the interface of basic and applied research. 

A principal goal of this research group is to provide basic and applied research on water that allows citizens and decision makers to make choices that ensure sustainable economic development, enduring environmental quality, and cultural resource preservation for the people, businesses and governments of Massachusetts and the world beyond. Issues of sustainability and human impact on the environment highlight natural connections within the Department of Earth, Geographic, and Climate Sciences and across the campus.


For more information about the Hydrogeology Group, click here.


Faculty in the Water and Environment Research Theme




The department’s most recently tenured faculty member, David Boutt, continues a long tradition of departmental commitment to research in hydrology. His interests in Hydrogeology range from the role of fluids in various geological processes to aspects of watershed hydrology, more specifically the influence of land use change on physical hydrological processes in urbanizing watersheds.  He specializes in using novel approaches and concepts to understand fluid movement in fractured and fault hosted rocks.  Recently funded work has taken him to look at fluid flow processes in the Nankai Accretionary prism where the first in-situ evidence of fracture permeability had been found.  At shallower crustal levels, Boutt has been investigated the relationship between low-magnitude stress and the permeability of fractured rock aquifers.  Because of the inherent connectivity of the sub-surface hydrologic system to climate (in the form of precipitation and evapotranspiration), Boutt has many projects that utilize climate data in his research.  Recently his work took advantage of long-term instrumental ground water level records to examine the hydrogeologic sensitivity of aquifers to climate variability.  Boutt’s current research group of 3 PhD students, 2 MS students, and an international visiting scholar is poised to make major contributions in the field of hydrogeology. 


Christine Hatch’s research interests in Hydrogeology explore the interactions between surface water and groundwater.  The interface between surface streams, springs and lakes and underlying aquifers is the locus for defining processes that affect quantity, quality and chemistry of water reservoirs.  Interactions between these reservoirs are crucial to understanding the ecosystems that depend on them, the processes governing hydrologic systems, and effective resource assessment and management practices.  Her research seeks to quantify these interactions through the use of physical hydrogeology and heat as a tracer, including development of a now popular method for using time-series analysis of thermal records to determine fluxes through streambeds, and distributed temperature sensing (DTS, a technique that uses Raman-backscattering in fiber-optics to measure temperature).  DTS can be applied to hydrologic problems, soil moisture problems, ecologic assessments, and much more.  Investigations of interfaces between disciplines encapsulated by hydrologic and geologic systems and ecosystems have wide-ranging applicability, from assessment of eco-hydrologic systems to sensitivity analysis of hydrologic systems and resources to climate change.  She joins David Boutt, Michelle Cooke and State Geologist Steve Mabee in this group.


Environmental Geochemistry


State Geologist


Outreach and research activity in the Massachusetts Geological Survey under the direction of state geologist has been strong and continues to be a source of funding for graduate student research and an opportunity for research experience for undergraduates. The Survey focuses on three main objectives: 1) geologic mapping in support of water resources research, energy development and geologic hazard identification; 2) development of research collaborations with other faculty, universities and agencies; and, 3) outreach and education. The Survey continues to update bedrock geologic mapping with half of the funding received earmarked for mapping. With collaboration from Steve Petsch, David Finkelstein and Mike Rhodes, the state geologist is conducting research on carbon sequestration in local basalts as an alternative to deep saline basin injection and exploring the thermal properties of Massachusetts granitic rocks to determine their potential for enhanced geothermal system development. Other projects include development of landslide hazard maps for Massachusetts and fluvial geomorphological assessments of selected streams in western Massachusetts following the recent flooding from tropical storm Irene in August 2011 in collaboration with Christine Hatch. The state geologist continues to work closely with David Boutt and his research group on hydrogeological issues.