Graduate Training

Jean Bahr, University of Wisconsin - Madison

Graduate training in the geosciences ranges from course-intensive, professional MS or certificate programs to research-based MS and PhD programs. I advise students in the professional Water Resources Management MS and in a research-based program in hydrogeology. Common elements of graduate training in both these programs include promoting deeper understanding of geologic and hydrologic processes; expanding expertise in related areas such as surface water hydrology, soil science, ecology, microbiology, and water resources policy and planning; providing training and experience in field, laboratory, and modeling techniques; developing abilities to read and critique primary literature in the field; and improving both oral and written communication skills that are essential for disseminating results of research and applied projects. Students in research-based programs also gain experience in formulating and testing conceptual models of hydrogeologic processes.

While US and Canadian undergraduate enrollments in the geosciences have generally increased over the last decade, graduate enrollments appear to have remained relatively stable. In research-based programs, graduate enrollments are probably controlled primarily by the availability of faculty and of student support in the form of teaching assistantships, research assistantships and fellowships. One important issue for the future of graduate education is maintaining the necessary faculty and student support in times of flat or shrinking university budgets and increased competition for research funding. A second important issue is finding better ways to develop and sustain interdisciplinary graduate training programs that can prepare geoscientists to meet the increasingly interdisciplinary challenges of research and practice in the coming decades.

Return to Conference Agenda