Hydrogeochemistry examines the interactions between water and the geological, chemical, and biological environment. This study area provides students with a quantitative understanding of chemically based processes in hydrogeochemical environments and complementary physical and biological processes and conditions. Students may specialize in the inorganic chemistry of natural systems, in the transport of organic contaminants, or in a combination of the two areas. Those interested in the inorganic aspects may study the behavior of inorganic chemical species in water and the dissolution/precipitation reactions occurring during mineral-fluid interactions in the subsurface and atmosphere. Course topics include kinetics and equilibria of geochemical reactions, the movement of isotopes, and soil chemistry. Students may also study the transport, transformation, and degradation of organic chemicals in the hydrosphere with particular emphasis on the subsurface environment. Current research in this area includes developing models for understanding the chemical equilibrium of hypersaline systems, the reactivity and mobility of trace elements, the transformation and transport of pesticides and other organics, and interrelationships between mass transfer and reaction processes.
Biogeochemistry, which developed in the 1980s in response to growing awareness of the effects of human activity on the global ecosystem, examines the transfer of energy and solutes within and among the atmosphere, biosphere, lithosphere, and hydrosphere. The primary challenge of biogeochemical research is to understand the complex interactions of hydrological, geochemical, and biological processes at the ecosystem and landscape scales and to develop ecosystem and global models based on this knowledge that will simulate the effects of natural forces and human activity and test remediation strategies. Important research topics include global warming resulting from carbon dioxide emissions, stratospheric ozone depletion, acid rain, ecosystem sustainability, rainforest depletion, cropland salinization, and the effects of organic pollutants and trace metal toxicity.
Faculty: Hernes, P.J.; Casey, W.H.; Dahlgren, R.A.; Goldman, C.R.; Mackay, D.M.; Pasternack, G.B.; Zierenberg, R.A.; Zhang, M.