Environmental Sciences Major: Hydrology Option (B.S.)

Environmental Sciences Major: Hydrology Option (B.S.)

Pawtuckaway water

What is the hydrology option in Earth sciences?

This intercollege program, hosted between the colleges of Engineering & Physical Sciences and Life Sciences & Agriculture, is designed for students seeking broad, interdisciplinary training in the foundational sciences with an emphasis on the interactions of biological, chemical and physical processes shaping our natural environment. The hydrology option, coordinated by the Department of Earth Sciences, provides students with foundational coursework in math and the sciences, paired with broad training across the environmental sciences and specialized training in water resources and hydrologic processes, positioning students with the ability to focus on water resource issues of national and international concern.

Why study hydrology at UNH?

The location of UNH, on the Great Bay Estuary and close to the White Mountains, provides an ideal backdrop for hands-on learning opportunities for all environmental science students. Students have multiple opportunities to immerse themselves in research experiences in the field and in state-of-the-art laboratories, and funds are available by competitive application to support these opportunities. Employment for environmental scientists is projected to grow 11 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations. The increasing need for environmental protection and responsible land and water resource management is projected to spur demand for environmental scientists.

Potential careers

  • Environmental consultant
  • Geospatial scientist
  • Hydrographer
  • Hydrologist
  • Physical scientist
  • Resource manager
  • Science journalist
  • Secondary school teacher


Julie Bryce

Earth Sciences Undergraduate Coordinator
Phone: (603) 862-3139
Office: Earth Sciences, James Hall Rm 308, Durham, NH 03824
Department of Earth Sciences
56 College Road
214 James Hall
Durham, NH 03824

P: (603) 862-1718
E: earth.sciences@unh.edu

Curriculum & Requirements

The College of Engineering and Physical Sciences (CEPS) and the College of Life Science and Agriculture (COLSA) jointly offer a bachelor of science degree in environmental sciences. Environmental sciences, an interdisciplinary field, focuses on the interaction of biological, chemical, and physical processes that shape our natural environment. Students graduating with a degree in environmental sciences will have an understanding of these interacting processes, the ability to communicate effectively with both scientific and lay audiences, competency in field methods appropriate for entry-level environmental science positions, competency in the use and application of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), a basic understanding of environmental policy, and the ability to contribute to multidisciplinary teams. The University of New Hampshire is a recognized leader in environmental sciences research, and the environmental sciences program capitalizes on faculty expertise in this area. The full-time faculty members comprising this program have major teaching and research emphases in the areas of biogeochemical cycling, environmental chemistry, geospatial science, ecosystem science, global change, hydrology, plant ecology, soil science, and water resource management. 

Employment opportunities include: environmental consulting firms, educational facilities (e.g., science centers), environmental monitoring laboratories (e.g., water treatment plants; the Environmental Protection Agency), government agencies (e.g., the U.S. Geological Survey, Bureau of Land Management, Natural Resource Conservation Service), university and government research laboratories, and nongovernment environmental organizations. The environmental sciences program also constitutes an excellent preparation for graduate programs in several areas relating to the environment. Students should consult with their adviser early if their goals include further study.

The Program has four options, and specific course requirements for the major vary by option. The geosystems and hydrology options are both managed by the Department of Earth Sciences in CEPS, and the ecosystems and soils and watersheds options are both managed by the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment in the COLSA. The hydrology option provides students with a solid grounding in fundamental hydrological principles and quantitative reasoning.

Plan of Study Grid
First Year
NR 400 Professional Perspectives in Natural Resources 1
NR 403 Introduction to Environmental Science 4
MATH 425 Calculus I 4
CHEM 403 General Chemistry I (and 403L) 4
ENGL 401 First-Year Writing 4
ESCI 409 Geology and the Environment 4
MATH 426 Calculus II 4
CHEM 404 General Chemistry II (and 404L) 4
Discovery Discipline Course 1 4
Second Year
ESCI 534 Techniques in Environmental Sciences 3
ESCI 561 Landscape Evolution 4
MATH 644 Statistics for Engineers and Scientists 4
Discovery Discipline Course 1 4
NR 504 Freshwater Resources 4
ESCI 512 Principles of Mineralogy 4
PHYS 407 General Physics I 4
Discovery Discipline Course 1 4
Third Year
PHYS 408 General Physics II 4
BIOL 412 Introductory Biology: Evolution, Biodiversity and Ecology 4
ESCI 777 GIS for Earth & Environmental Sciences 4
Discovery Discipline Course 1 4
ESCI 654 Fate and Transport in the Environment 4
NR 602 Natural Resources and Environmental Policy 4
NR 658 Introduction to Geographic Information Systems 4
NR 791 Preparation for Capstone 1
Quantitative analysis elective 1 4
Fourth Year
ESCI 705 Principles of Hydrology 4
Senior Capstone (ESCI 799, INCO 790) or free-elective if capstone is otherwise satisfied 3-4
Approved Science Elective 4
Discovery Discipline Course 1 4
ESCI 710 Groundwater Hydrology 4
Approved Science Elective 4
Free Elective 4
Discovery Discipline Course 1 4
 Total Credits128-129

One course must be taken in each of the remaining Disciplinary Groups of the University Discovery Program (Environment Technology & Society; Historical Perspectives; World Culture; Fine & Performing Arts; Social Science; Humanities).


Three technical electives must be approved in consultation with departmental advisor.

All students must take four writing intensive courses, including ENGL 401, a course in the major, and a course at the 600/700 level.

Degree Requirements

Minimum Credit Requirement: 128 credits
Minimum Residency Requirement: 32 credits must be taken at UNH
Minimum GPA: 2.0 required for conferral*
Core Curriculum Required: Discovery & Writing Program Requirements
Foreign Language Requirement: No

All Major, Option and Elective Requirements as indicated.
*Major GPA requirements as indicated.


Major  Requirements

In addition to the Discovery Program and University writing requirements, all students will take two required introductory courses, plus one other elective introductory environmental science course. Foundation courses include introductions to biology, physics, chemistry, geology, calculus, and statistics.


NR 400Professional Perspectives in Natural Resources1
NR 403Introduction to Environmental Science4
Select one elective introductory course from the following:4
NR 504
Freshwater Resources
CEE 520
Environmental Pollution and Protection: A Global Context
ESCI 405
Global Environmental Change
ESCI 501
Introduction to Oceanography
ESCI 514
Introduction to Climate
GEOG 473
Elements of Weather
Total Credits9


BIOL 411Introductory Biology: Molecular and Cellular4
or BIOL 412 Introductory Biology: Evolution, Biodiversity and Ecology
Select one of the following:4-8
CHEM 403
CHEM 404
General Chemistry I
and General Chemistry II
or CHEM 405
Chemical Principles for Engineers
PHYS 407General Physics I4
PHYS 408General Physics II4
MATH 425Calculus I4
MATH 426Calculus II4
MATH 644
Statistics for Engineers and Scientists
or BIOL 528
Applied Biostatistics I
Select one of the following:4
ESCI 401
Dynamic Earth
ESCI 402
Earth History
ESCI 409
Geology and the Environment
Total Credits32-36


ESCI 534Techniques in Environmental Sciences3
ESCI 654Fate and Transport in the Environment4
ESCI 777GIS for Earth & Environmental Sciences4
or NR 658 Introduction to Geographic Information Systems
NR 602Natural Resources and Environmental Policy4
or NR 662 Environmental Policy, Planning and Sustainability in New Zealand
Capstone Experience 1
Total Credits15

NR 791 Preparation for Capstone and an independent study or capstone course taken in the senior year and approved by their adviser and the program coordinator.


ESCI 561Landscape Evolution4
ESCI 512Principles of Mineralogy4
or NR 501 Studio Soils
Surface Water Hydrology
ESCI 705Principles of Hydrology4
or CEE 754 Engineering Hydrology
Groundwater Hydrology
ESCI 710Groundwater Hydrology4
Select one Quantitative Analysis course from the following:4
CS 410P
Introduction to Scientific Programming/Python
ESCI 701
Quantitative Methods in Earth Sciences
ESCI 764
Spectral Analysis of Geophysical Time Series Data
MATH 525
Linearity I
MATH 527
Differential Equations with Linear Algebra
MATH 528
Multidimensional Calculus
MATH 645
Linear Algebra for Applications
MATH 739
Applied Regression Analysis
MATH 740
Design of Experiments I
Select two or three approved electives from the following:8-12
CEE 650
Fluid Mechanics
CEE 721
Environmental Sampling and Analysis
CEE 723
Environmental Water Chemistry
CEE 724
Environmental Engineering Microbiology
CEE 751
Open Channel Flow
CEE 758
Stormwater Management Designs
CEE 759
Stream Restoration
ESCI 642
Biogeosciences in the Earth System
ESCI 741
ESCI 745
Isotope Geochemistry
ESCI 747
Aqueous Geochemistry
ESCI 762
Glacial Geology
ESCI 778
Remote Sensing Earth & Environmental Sciences
NR 660
Ecology and Biogeography of New Zealand
NR 661
Restoration Ecology and Ecosystem Management in New Zealand
NR 703
Watershed Water Quality Management
NR 707
Environmental Modeling
NR 744
NR 751
Aquatic Ecosystems
NR 757
Remote Sensing of the Environment
NR 759
Digital Image Processing for Natural Resources
NR 761
Environmental Soil Chemistry
Total Credits28-32

Some students enroll in the EcoQuest program (a study abroad opportunity in New Zealand), which satisfies the policy requirement, and capstone requirement if taken senior year.

Students must complete additional courses for the hydrology option to total 88 credits in the major.

For further information about the hydrology option or to discuss alternative elective courses, students may contact earth.sciences@unh.edu.

Capstone Experience

A capstone experience is required of all undergraduate Earth sciences majors during their senior year. All capstone experiences at UNH must meet one or more of the following criteria:

  1. The capstone synthesizes and applies disciplinary knowledge and skills.
  2. The capstone fosters reflection on undergraduate learning and experience.
  3. The capstone demonstrates emerging professional competencies.
  4. The capstone applies, analyzes, and/or interprets research or data or artistic expression.
  5. The capstone explores areas of interest based on the integration of prior learning.

Suggested ways of meeting the capstone requirement in the Department of Earth Sciences include approved INCO 790 Advanced Research Experience, ESCI 795 Topics/ESCI 796 Topics, ESCI 799 Senior Thesis, URA/SURF/IROP projects, internships, environmental/geologic field camps, REU programs, or Earth Sciences education and outreach activities designed according to the above criteria. Capstone experiences must be equivalent to a minimum of 2 academic credits. Students should work closely with their faculty advisors to define the most appropriate capstone experience for their Earth Sciences degree program, although the capstone mentor can be someone other than their primary faculty advisor. All capstone experiences must be approved and certified by the faculty advisor and the capstone mentor. Presentation of projects or experiences developed for the capstone is encouraged at the annual UNH Undergraduate Research Conference or other appropriate venue.

Students will be able to:

  • Recognize common Earth and environmental materials.
  • Understand the Earth as a system and be able to describe the broad attributes of and interactions within the Earth System and the environment through both short- and long- term perspectives, evaluate how and why it is changing today, and assess coupled human and natural system interactions.
  • Understand Earth processes and cycles.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of core concepts in the hydrologic sciences: stream flow, groundwater, water budgets, hydrologic fluxes, and physical factors that affect them, and a basic understanding of the uses and limitations of a hydrologic model.
  • Perform field measurements and simple calculations to collect, evaluate and interpret quantitative environmental or geological data. Understand the role that spatially explicit data and time series play in understanding environmental and hydrological sciences.
  • Collect, interpret, and synthesize basic field observations and measurements to develop and test multiple working hypotheses to explain them. Additionally, become comfortable with the use of technology and computational methods in processing a range of scientific data.
  • Analyze, summarize, evaluate, and explain/present their own scientific data and the primary Earth and environmental sciences literature.
  • Communicate results of scientific inquiries orally, visually, and in writing.

Explore Program Details


Departmental Petition for Program Variance - Petition for major requirement

Registrar Forms - including Petition for Variance in Academic Policy (Petition for University and/or Discovery requirement)

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