Rivers, Watersheds & Landscape Dynamics

The Department of Geography at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign offers a graduate program leading to both the MS and PhD degrees with a specialization in River, Watershed and Landscape Dynamics. The program is designed to provide students with a set of skills they can use to help solve societal problems and to achieve solutions to important scientific problems in physical geography that relate to the dynamics of rivers, watersheds and landscapes.

Program Emphases and Opportunities

Students wishing to enter the program are strongly urged to contact the participating faculty member most closely matching their prospective research interests. The program emphases are closely tied to current research interests of individual faculty members. Opportunities for new students can be found here.


The Rivers, Watershed, and Landscape Dynamics Program builds upon the foundations of physical geography as an integrating science that examines the origins, contemporary development, and processes of the Earth’s natural and human-modified surfaces. All participating faculty place strong emphasis on the theoretical underpinning of their research and teaching.

The principal research themes of the program reflect the specialties of the participating faculty. Each of the participating faculty has strong links to other departments and/or programs on campus and a high proportion of the research conducted in the program has a strong interdisciplinary flavor. The Program has strong ties to the School of Earth, Society and Environment. It also maintains strong cross-campus connections with other water-related research programs in Geology, Civil and Environmental Engineering and Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences. Faculty in the program also maintain close working relationships with scientists in the Illinois State Geological Survey, Illinois State Water Survey, Illinois Natural History Survey and the Illinois Water Science Center of the U.S. Geological Survey, all of which are located on campus. Participating Faculty:

James Best
Piotr Cienciala
Bruce Rhoads
Murugesu Sivapalan
Shaowen Wang

Affiliated Faculty

(have a formal appointment in Geography)

Gary Parker, Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE)

Faculty Collaborators on Campus

(teach related courses and serve on graduate student committees)

Ximing Cai, CEE
Marcelo Garcia, CEE
Praveen Kumar, CEE
Mark David, NRES

Program Prerequisites

Students must already have completed, or take immediately upon entry into the program: 1) an introductory college calculus course (a one course minimum is required, but course work through calculus of several variables is recommended); 2) college physics.

MS Program

The masters program in the River, Watershed and Landscape Dynamics Program follows the guidelines of the Graduate School and the Department of Geography. Prospective students should appreciate that an important additional requirement is that the program requires master’s candidates to undertake the thesis option.

Participating faculty consider the research experience to be an essential ingredient of graduate training in physical geography. Students should also appreciate that the participating faculty will usually supervise graduate research in areas that fall within their expertise.

Please see the MA/MS Program page for more information, including requirements.

PhD Program

The doctoral program in the River, Watershed and Landscape Dynamics Program follows the guidelines of the Graduate School and the Department of Geography. Although students in the doctoral program focus upon a specialized topic they are expected to develop a general familiarity with all aspects of contemporary thought related to river, watershed and landscape dynamics. Complementary course work outside the department in the form of a minor (see departmental requirements) is required.

Graduate Courses in the Department

  • GEOG 401 Watershed Hydrology
  • GEOG 406 Fluvial Geomorphology
  • GEOG 408 Watershed Analysis
  • GEOG 459 Ecohydrology
  • GEOG 460 Aerial Photo Analysis
  • GEOG 467 Dynamic Simulation of Natural Resource Problems
  • GEOG 468 Biological Modeling
  • GEOG 469 Spatial Ecosystem Modeling
  • GEOG 575 Alluvial Boundary Layer Dynamics

Related Graduate Courses in Other Departments

  • CEE 432 Stream Ecology
  • CEE 450 Surface Hydrology
  • CEE 453 Urban Hydrology and Hydraulics
  • CEE 551 Open Channel Hydraulics
  • CEE 559 Sediment Transport
  • NRES 403 Watersheds and Water Quality
  • NRES 490 Surface Water System Chemistry
  • GEOL 440 Sedimentology and Stratigraphy
  •  UP 405 Watershed Ecology and Planning

For further information on the River, Watershed and Landscape Dynamics Program, contact a participating faculty member.

For More Information

Please email Matt Cohn, or write:
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Geography and Geographic Information Science
2044 Natural History Building, MC-150
1301 W. Green Street
Urbana, Illinois 61801