History of the Program

George Burke Maxey was hired in 1962 into a joint appointment between the University of Nevada, Reno and the Desert Research Institute. He was hired to develop a strong water research program at the Desert Research Institute and to start the graduate program, then called the Hydrology/Hydrogeology Program. From the outset, the program was an interdisciplinary program because water cuts across all disciplinary lines as a significant resource, and, no one department taught all of the course-work needed to create what Maxey believed was required to make a well-rounded “water science person.” The program accepted students with a variety of background, some just had a few more deficiencies to make up (e.g. calculus, chemistry, and physics) depending upon their undergraduate degrees.

It is interesting to note that Dr. Maxey was the advisor to the very first Ph.D. ever graduated from the University of Nevada (not just the first in hydrogeology – the first Ph.D. period!). Roger Morrison, who got his Ph.D. in 1967, entitled: “Soil stratigraphy: principles, applications to differentiation and correlation of quaternary deposits and land forms.” Maxey produced many students who went on to become some of the most well regarded hydrogeologists of our time.

Maxey died in 1977. If anyone thought that the Hydrology/Hydrogeology Program would die with him, they were wrong! At the time, most of the really active participating faculty were DRI faculty, and the program was strongly groundwater oriented. Most of the 20-25 students in the program during the late 1970s were on DRI graduate research fellowships. Although most of the students and participating faculty were at DRI, UNR (specifically the Mackay School of Mines) was playing an important role by providing the funding that allowed DRI faculty to teach in the program (which they do to this day).

There was also a small but significant surface water component of the program in the College of Engineering and in the College of Agriculture. During the 1980s, the College of Agriculture increased its participation in the program with several new faculty hires. By the late 1980s, the program had grown in size to about 40 students. In 1989, Vice President for Academic Affairs, Denis Brown, decided to create a new position: Director of the Hydrology/Hydrogeology Program. The location of the position was to be determined by the successful applicant’s academic background. After a national search, Dr. Berry Lyons was chosen; as an aqueous geochemist, he went into the Geological Sciences Department in the Mackay School of Mines. Under the direction of Berry Lyons, the program experienced near-explosive growth, more than doubling in just a couple of years.

Unfortunately for the program, Dr. Lyons left in 1993 to take an endowed chair position at the University of Alabama. Fortunately, Dr. John Warwick stepped up to take the helm. John was the program director from 1993 until he left in 1999 to become Chair of the Department of Environmental Engineering at the University of Florida. Many good things happened to the program under the direction of Dr. Warwick. John skillfully guided the program through the process of changing the program name, program degrees and program curriculum. The name was changed to: “The Interdisciplinary Graduate Program of Hydrologic Sciences” to more accurately reflect the characterization of the program. The degree in “Hydrology/Hydrogeology” was eliminated, and the curriculum as it stands today was adopted. Dr. Warwick was presiding over the program when it was named by U.S. News and World Report as one of the top programs in Hydrogeology in the country, currently number 8, tied with M.I.T. Many fine faculty, students and former students have made tremendous contributions to the science and education of the hydrologic sciences to bring us to the level of success that we currently enjoy.

After Warwick’s departure, Dr. Scott Tyler was named to be the Program Director. Scott has made many fine contributions to the Program during his time as Director. During the strategic planning exercise that UNR conducted in 2002, the Hydrologic Sciences Program was singled out as one of the real shining stars at UNR. Dr. Tyler also planned and executed the External Program Review in 2005.

Dr. Tyler stepped down from the director’s position in 2005 to become the editor of Water Resources Research. Dr. Stephen Wheatcraft became the director from 2005 to 2007. In 2007 Dr. Wheatcraft stepped down as the director to pursue international research related to radionuclide contamination in Kazakhstan.

Following Dr. Wheatcraft’s departure, Dr. John Warwick, who was now the Director of the Division of Hydrologic Sciences at DRI, agreed to serve as the interim director for one year, with Dr. Greg Pohll as Associate Director. Dr. Greg Pohll became Director of the Graduate Program of Hydrologic Sciences in 2008, followed by Dr. Laurel Saito in 2012. Dr. Rina Schumer has been Associate Director of the Graduate Program of Hydrologic Sciences since 2012.

Under Dr. Saito’s leadership, the Program has successfully completed another External Program Review in which the Program in which reviewers noted the Graduate Program of Hydrologic Sciences remains a major asset to UNR and DRI, delivering critical education and research concerning a key limiting resource to the people of the State of Nevada and the world. The Program has also established the International Water Resources Certificate  to provide specialized professional training in a relatively brief time frame in water resources for international professionals and domestic students.