The Hydrologic Sciences Graduate Group (HSGG) at the University of California at Davis spans multiple departments and colleges to offer M.S. and Ph.D. degrees founded on coursework and research that may be geared toward hydrology as a specialized discipline or as problem-oriented, interdisciplinary training taking advantage of the breadth of earth, soil, environmental, agricultural, social science, and/or engineering resources on campus. Courses emphasize process- and systems-oriented critical thinking, quantitative analysis, and critical understanding of policy, management, and water-related social sciences, hands-on experience with laboratory and field methods, and regular use of statistics, computational simulation, and environmental informatics tools. Faculty expertise spans the understanding of pattern and process in the Earth's subsurface and surficial critical zone (i.e., the thin veneer of the earth that extends from the top of the vegetation to the base of weathered bedrock) as well as biogeochemistry, land-atmosphere interaction, water resources management, and water policy and governance. UC Davis is known for blending basic and applied science, with applications to societal problems that students engage with including water quality and contaminant transport, impacts and uncertainties of climate change, ecosystem services and restoration, sustainable agriculture, watershed management, water policy and governance, and water systems optimization.
In 1991, the National Research Council, pointing to a shortage of qualified hydrologists in both the short term and the foreseeable long term, called for hydrologic science to be formulated as an independent scientific discipline with distinct training and research programs to bring about “a coherent understanding of the role of water in the planetary-scale behavior of the Earth’s system.” Although hydrology has existed as a focused, quantitative discipline addressing water storage and flux for almost a century, an array of public and private institutions noted that the next frontier in hydrologic sciences lies in the integration between disciplines, and the evaluation of linked physical, biological, and chemical processes at various spatial and temporal scales. Faculty at UC Davis understood these recommendations and were already pursuing a vision to formalize hydrologic science as a Graduate Group at UC Davis. Thus, UC Davis has always been and remains at the forefront of vision and action for producing the world’s leaders in the science and management of complex, integrated water problems.
The Hydrologic Sciences Graduate Group was established in Fall 1991 to provide a comprehensive, unified hydrologic sciences curriculum with a new multidisciplinary emphasis that takes advantage of the broad range of expertise in water-related disciplines at UC Davis. As set forth in the degree requirements, the resulting degrees (i.e., PhD degree, MS Plan I (Thesis) degree, and MS Plan II (Comprehensive Exam) degree) incorporate a vigorous integration of fundamental chemistry, physics, biology, and math, along with ecology, geophysical science, and engineering, as well as law, economics, and policy. Students select from five specializations in the physical-hydrological sciences (including physical hydrology, earth-surface processes, paleohydrology, and climate science), biological-hydrological sciences (including ecohydrology, aquatic ecology, biogeochemistry, soil science, limnology, and oceanography), chemical-hydrological sciences (including chemical hydrology and aquatic geochemistry), or water management and policy (including irrigation management, water policy and governance, water systems management and optimization). This design broadens the skills and knowledge of students from a wide range of undergraduate programs interested in any aspect of water-related phenomena. The specializations are congruent with the Challenges and Opportunities in Hydrologic Sciences identified by the National Research Council in 2012. The program expands the boundaries of the traditional discipline of hydrology to encompass the nexus between water and linked constituents yielding complex phenomena and systems. That is why the Graduate Group is named Hydrologic Sciences (plural form) instead of just Hydrology or Hydrologic Science. The HSGG program draws on the historic strengths of several water-related educational and research programs on campus. HSGG faculty have a well-established history of governmental and non-governmental stakeholder collaboration, forming the foundation for producing societally important educational, research and outreach outcomes.