About Water Resources Science

The Water Resources Science (WRS) program is a science-based, interdisciplinary, inter-collegiate (University of Minnesota -Twin Cities and University of Minnesota -Duluth) graduate program with three educational goals:

  • To produce M.S. and Ph.D. scientists with strong technical skills in disciplines relevant to water resources science, 
  • To develop a holistic understanding of the hydrologic cycle and associated ecosystems, as well as the interconnectedness of the sciences needed to understand and manage aquatic resources, 
  • To generate an understanding of the interplay between the bio-physical sciences and the social sciences in developing and implementing public policies related to water.

Students enrolled in the program develop the breadth of scientific knowledge appropriate to understand the complicated aquatic ecosystems and watersheds on which they will work, as well as social dimensions of the topic, including the public policy and legal frameworks in which water resources are protected and managed. The program draws on numerous water-related courses from departments on the St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Duluth campuses and is administered by the University of Minnesota Water Resources Center.


WRS graduate students take courses from four core areas: Limnology, Hydrology, Environmental Chemistry and Water Policy. Then, they have the flexibility to choose from a wide array of electives to broaden their expertise and receive specialized training to complement their research interest. The program has a formalized track in Limnology and Oceanography, which has slightly different degree requirements. Most of the students declaring this track have been associated with the Duluth campus, particularly with the Large Lakes Observatory.  See our Degree Requirements.


More than 100 faculty members are associated with the Water Resources Science graduate program. The WRS faculty consists of traditional tenure-track faculty and those with adjunct positions from twenty-two diverse departments in seven colleges or institutes at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Many of these faculty teach courses as part of their departmental duties that in turn serve as either core or elective courses for the WRS M.S. and Ph.D. degree programs.  See our Program Administration


WRS faculty include eminent scholars with international reputations in water resources science and have been extremely successful at winning extramural funding for their water resources related research and publishing high-impact peer-refereed journal articles. They also lead several influential water resource related studies, as well as Minnesota legislative research initiatives on water, such as the MnDRIVE water initiative and the Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center.

WRS faculty have conducted pioneering research on:

  • Paleolimnology/paleoclimate/paleoecology
  • Contaminants of emerging concern
  • DNA fingerprinting of bacterial pollution in lakes and streams
  • Development of novel bioreactors
  • Studies of climate change impacts on the Great Lakes
  • Physics of stream channel morphology, evolution, and restoration techniques
  • Climate studies
  • Many aspects of the biology, chemistry, physics, ecology, and management of the Great Lakes, and streams
  • Other aquatic resources of Minnesota.

The WRS graduate program has earned a national and international reputation for high quality and high productivity. According to a recent academic analytics report of 72 graduate programs, the WRS graduate program outperforms the national average in nearly all categories. In particular, WRS scores in the 90th percentile for measures such as:

  • Number of faculty members holding grants
  • Total number of grants
  • Total number of publications
  • Total number of citations that their articles receive

WRS faculty members also score in the 80th percentile in terms of the total dollar amount of grant funding and the 60th percentile for grant dollars per faculty member. WRS faculty are better cited than the national average, with citations per faculty member close to the 80th percentile.


The WRS graduate program occupies a unique niche in the nationwide aquatic sciences education that is generally consistent with the program’s mission and long-term goals. It covers a wide range of aquatic specializations, graduating students in water resources management, hydrology, limnology, large lakes oceanography, environmental engineering, and other areas. Graduates are employed in academia, industry, and government.  See our Recent Graduates.


WRS Students (Fall Semester 2020)

Of the 64 current students:

  • 39 are M.S. and 25 are Ph.D.
  • 40 are females and 24 are males
  • 41 students are on the Duluth campus and 23 are on the Twin Cities campus

WRS Faculty

128 faculty from 28 different departments/units/orgs on 2 campuses

WRS Alumni

WRS admitted its first student in 1997.  Through Aug. 1, 2017, WRS has graduated 271 students, conferring;

  • 224 M.S. degrees
  • 67 Ph.D. degrees


WRS students and faculty conduct research at a variety of locations around the state.  Below are just a few:

Contact WRS

If you have any additional questions, please contact:

Tracy Fallon, WRS Graduate Program Coordinator
(612) 624-7456  |  wrs@umn.edu