The Hydrogeology Field Course offered by the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences at Western Michigan University is one of very few hydro-technical programs in the United States. Developed in 1987, this applied course has trained hundreds of students from around the nation and abroad.
Geological and Environmental Sciences
In-Situ’s equipment is simply the best out there. So, to be able to give these students the chance to use it and see for themselves the beautiful data they get is really satisfying.
Dr. Matt Reeves, Associate Professor and Hydrogeology Field Course Co-Director
By Helen Taylor
WMU Field Course Preps Future Hydrogeologists with Hands-On Experience
Students from around the country sign up for the Hydrogeology Field Course at Western Michigan University in order to gain experience with equipment and applications that will prepare them for the workplace in ways a textbook never could.
In a competitive job market, it stands to reason that students who graduate with the most practical experience in their field will have an edge when it comes to landing a plum position. But how does a university provide that experience in a manageable, repeatable and affordable way?
Western Michigan University has partnered with equipment manufacturers, regulatory agencies, industry experts and other regional partners to offer a six-week Hydrogeology Field Course that professor Dr. Matt Reeves says is the only opportunity most students will get to practice monitoring and testing techniques, work with top-quality equipment, and prepare professional-quality reports detailing their results.
Reeves co-directs the course and teaches one-week modules on aquifer testing and remediation. For the Aquifer Testing module, In-Situ provides Level Meter 200s, Level TROLL 700s and the Virtual Hermit to measure drawdown in observation and pumping wells at a dedicated field research site.
Students spend the week learning to conduct and analyze multi-well pumping tests, step-drawdown tests, and single-well solid and pneumatic slug tests. They use AQTESOLV test analysis software and develop a professional-level understanding of aquifer test principles and techniques.
“In-Situ’s equipment is simply the best out there,” says Reeves. “So to be able to give these students the chance to use it and see for themselves the beautiful data they get is really satisfying.”
In-Situ equipment is also used in the course’s Groundwater Sampling and Monitoring module. Students have access to the Level TROLL 700, Water Level Meter 200 and Aqua TROLL 600 Low Flow Sampling Kits, which they use to sample and monitor groundwater at multiple sites.
Course co-director and Senior Geosciences Specialist Tom Howe says it’s widely accepted that field camp is a critical activity for geology undergraduates—the capstone experience essential to closing the gap between theoretical and applied knowledge. But WMU’s course is one of only a few camps focused on hydro and environmental sciences, the sector in which most students will find themselves employed.
“The equipment piece is critical,” says Howe. “We’re on a budget, so any time we can get help, that’s good for the students. But it’s also a benefit to In-Situ, because these students get snatched up quickly, and they go into their new jobs understanding what kind of equipment they want to use for their projects.”
For In-Situ Application Development Manager Adam Hobson, who recently helped lead the Aquifer Testing module, it makes perfect sense to support high-caliber academic programs with state-of-the-art equipment.
“Many of these students will use these instruments throughout their careers,” he says. “The fact that they’re coming out of this course with a solid understanding of how they work bodes well for their futures.”
Dr. Reeves encourages course graduates to stay connected through LinkedIn and other means, and he’s always pleased to hear when they’ve landed a job.
“These students come into the course without the experience they need. But when they leave, they’re prepared to be very competitive in the job market,” he says.
Reeves’s own ambitions include reshaping the culture of geology programs nationwide, encouraging the development of courses that prepare students for the jobs that are out there. To that end, he’ll continue to build on relationships like the one with In-Situ and work to get as many students as he can into the field.