Professor Mary C Hill

Mary C. Hill
  • Professor
  • Natural Sciences and Mathematics
  • Geology

Contact Info

Office Phone:
Department Phone:
Slawson Hall, room #170D
Lindley Hall, room #112
University of Kansas
Lawrence, KS 66045


At KU I work toward bringing earth science to strategic policy developments. I do this through the following goals and project

Goal 1: Envision how new science and technologies can be used to support Food, Energy, and Water systems of rural economies and communities. This is the focus of an ongoing FEWtures grant funded through the National Science Foundation.
NSF FEWtures: Envisioning new future businesses that support rural agricultural economies and communities using renewable energy. PI M Hill

Goal 2: Make data and models about the environment upon which our society depends more accessible to stakeholders, engineers, and scientist. This is a focus of an ongoing project on streamflow depletion funded through the U.S. Geological Survey Powell Center.
USGS Powell Center GW/SW project. PI A Brookfield, U Waterloo
NSF RCN IS-GEO, Intelligent Systems for the Geoscciences, PIs Yolanda Gil, USC; Suzanne Pierce, UT-Austin
USGS Model Data Integration and Uncertainty Quantification. PI M Hill

I came to KU following a 33-year career with the US Geological Survey in New Jersey and Colorado. In that position I was a major developer of the MODFLOW, the most widely used groundwater model in the world. My research focused on how to use data to build models, with emphasis on sensitivity analysis and data worth, and how to quantify model uncertainty.


Ph.D. in Civil Engineering-Water Resources, Princeton University, 1985
Other in Civil Engineering - Water Resources, Princeton University, 1978
B.A. in Geology and Business Administration (double major), Hope College, 1976


At KU I seek ways to enable people to understand the environment upon which their lives and livelihoods depend. I do this by working with students and colleagues to visualize data and models in new ways that take advantage of widely accessible devices such as tablets and cell phones. I also explore how to clearly show economic opportunities provided by sustainable use of natural resources, with a focus on food, energy and water issues in rural areas.

Research interests:

  • uncertainty analysis
  • numerical modeling
  • risk
  • sensitivity analysis
  • hydrogeology
  • visualization
  • food, energy, water nexus
  • economics


Courses taught since joining KU
HON 120 Honors Seminar Food, Energy, Water, the Environment, and Public Policy -- Opportunities and Tradeoffs (F15, F16, F17, F18)
GEOL 171 Earthquakes and Natural Disasters (F16, S17, F17, S18, S19)
GEOL 751/CEAE 752 Physical Hydrogeology (F17, F18, F19)
GEOL 591/791 Applied Groundwater Modeling (S15, S16, S17, S18, S19)
GEOL 591/791 Inverse Modeling in Geophysics and Hydrogeology (F15, F16)
GEOL Graduate student seminar (F14)

Teaching interests:

  • Interactive teaching
  • Empower students
  • Build skills and knowledge

Selected Publications

1. Phetheet J, Heger W, Hill MC. Evaluating Use of Water and Renewable Energy in Agricultural Areas: A Coupled Simulation of DSSAT and Agent-Based Modeling. 2019.
1. Pierce S, Fuka D, Hill M, Ebert-Uphoff I, Khider D, Gil Y. AI in geosciences: progress, challenges, and opportunities. 2018.
1. Borgonovo E, Lu X, Plischke E, Rakovec O, Hill MC. Making the most out of a hydrological model data set: Sensitivity analyses to open the model black-box. Water Resources Research. 2017. doi:10.1002/2017WR020767
1. Belcher WR, Sweetkind DS, Faunt CC, Pavelko MT, Hill MC. An update of the Death Valley regional groundwater flow system transient model, Nevada and California. 2017.
1. LaVigna F, Hill MC, Rossetto R. Groundwater modelling of the surface-mined Tivoli-Guidonia basin (Rome) and lessons for model development design. 2016.
1. Hill MC, Kavetski D, Clark M, Ye M, Arabi M, Lu D, Foglia L, Mehl S. Practical use of computationally frugal model analysis methods. Groundwater. 2016. doi:10.1111/gwat.12330
1. Lu D, Ye M, Hill MC, Poeter EP, Curtis GP. A computer program for uncertainty analysis integrating regression and Bayesian methods. Environmental Modelling & Software. 2014;60:45–56.
1. Sheets RA, Hill MC, Haitjema HM, Provost A, Masterson JP. Simulation of water-table aquifers using specified saturated thickness. Ground Water. 2014;53(1):151–157. doi:10.1111/gwat.12164
1. Poeter EP, Hill MC, Lu D, Tiedeman CR, Mehl S. UCODE_2014, with new capabilities to define parameters unique to predictions, calculate weights using simulated values, estimate parameters with SVD, evaluate uncertainty with MCMC, and more. 2014.
1. Laniak GF, Olchin G, Goodall J, Voinov A, Hill MC, Glynn P, Whelan G, Hughes A. Integrated environmental modeling: A vision and roadmap for the future. Environmental Modelling and Software. 2013;39:3–23. doi:10.1016/j.envsoft.2012.09.006

Selected Presentations

Hill, M. C., Barron, R., Pfromm, P., & Wu, H. (8/4/2018). Using Local Energy to Complete the Agricultural Nitrogen Cycle in a Wind-Energy-Rich, Limited-Transmission Region. Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineering - Power and Energy Systems (IEEE-PES). Portland, OR, USA
Barnhart, K., Tucker, G., Doty, S., Hill, M. C., Rossi, M., Shobe, C., ...Glade, R. (6/30/2018). Uncertainty in the prediction of erosion on geologic time scales. 96th International Conference on Environmental Modeling and Software "Modeling for Sustainable Food, Energy, Water Systems". Fort Collins CO
Hill, M., & Barron, R. (12/11/2017). A Nuclear Waste Management Cost Model for Policy Analysis. American Geophysical Union. New Orleans, LA.
Ebert-Uphoff, I., Thonpson, D. R., Demir, I., Gel, Y., Hill, M. C., Karpatne, A., ...P. S. (12/11/2017). Building Bridges Between Geoscience and Data Science through Benchmark Data Sets. American Geophysical Union (AGU). New Orleans, LA.
Hill, M. C., Pahwa, A., Rogers, D., Roundy, J., & Barron, R. (12/11/2017). Developing Community-Focused Solutions using a Food-Energy-Water Calculator, with Initial Application to Western Kansas. American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting. New Orleans, LA.
Porter, M., Hill, M. C., Pierce, S., Gil, Y., & Pennington, D. (12/11/2017). Formulating qualitative features using interactive visualization for analysis of multivariate spatio-temporal data. American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting. New Orleans, LA.
Hill, M. C., Rogers, D., Brookfield, A., Roundy, J., Stotler, R., Tsvatanov, T., ...Sanderson, M. (7/19/2017). A Food-Energy-Water Calculator, with application to Western Kansas. Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineering - Power and Energy Systems (IEEE-PES). Chicago, IL
Banks, A., & Hill, M. C. (12/31/2016). Integrating models that depend on variable data. American Geophysical Union. San Franciso, CA.
Hill, M. C. (12/31/2016). Making Earth-human system modeling easier and more interesting. American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting. San Franciso, CA.
Tucker, G., Adams, J. M., Doty, S. G., Gasparini, N. S., Hill, M. C., Hobley, D. E., ...Nudurupati, S. S. (12/31/2016). Using the Landlab toolkit to evaluate and compare alternative geomorphic and hydrologic model formulations (Invited). American Geophysical Union. San Franciso, CA.
Hill, M. C. (12/31/2015). Integrating Many Data Types into Optimized Inverse Modeling: An Example from Hydrology. American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting. San Franciso, CA.
Hill, M. C. (12/31/2015). Teaching Freshmen About Water, Energy, Food, the Environment, and Public Policy in an Interactive Classroom. American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting. San Franciso, CA.
Hill, M. C., Ye, M., Foglia, L., & Dan, L. (12/31/2014). Testing Predictive Skill of Groundwater Flow and Transport Simulations. American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting
Hill, M. C., Faunt, C. C., Belcher, W. R., & Sweekind, D. S. (12/31/2014). Using a three-dimensional hydrogeologic framework to investigate potential sources of springs in the Death Valley regional groundwater flow system. Technical Presentation, AGU
Hill, M. C., Belcher, W., Sweetkind, D., & Faunt, C. C. (10/31/2014). Using a three-dimensional geologic framework to investigate a curious modeling result for the death valley regional groundwater flow system. Technical Presentation, GSA
Hill, M. C., Faunt, C. C., Belcher, W. R., & Sweetkind, D. S. (9/30/2014). Using a three-dimensional hydrogeologic framework to investigate potential sources of springs in the Death Valley regional ground water flow system. Technical Presentation, Midwest Groundwater Meeting
Rakovec, O., Hill, M. C., Clark, M. P., Weerts, A. H., Uijlenhoet, R., & Teuling, A. J. (4/30/2014). Exploring how parameter importance to prediction change in parameter space. Technical Presentation, SIAM
Rakovec, O., Hill, M. C., Clark, M. P., Weerts, A. H., Uijlenhoet, R., & Teuling, A. J. (4/30/2014). Exploring how parameter importance to prediction changes in parameter space. Poster, CSDMS
Rakovec, O., Hill, M. C., Clark, M. P., Weerts, A. H., Teuling, A. J., Borgonovo, E., ...Uijlenhoet, R. (12/31/2013). A New Computationally Frugal Method for Sensitivity Analysis of Environmental Models. Technical Presentation, AGU
Foglia, L., Hill, M. C., & Mehl, S. W. (12/31/2013). Evaluating Processes, Parameters and Observations Using Cross Validation and Computationally Frugal Sensitivity Analysis Methods. Technical Presentation, AGU
Hill, M. C., Foglia, L., Mehl, S. W., & Burlando, P. (10/31/2013). Evaluating model structure adequacy: The case of the Maggia Valley, southern Switzerland and consequences for simulating coupled hydrologic models. Technical Presentation, GSA
Hill, M. C., Kavetski, D., Clark, M., Ye, M., Arabi, M., Lu, D., ...Mehl, S. (12/31/2013). What can decision makers achieve from computer simulations of environmental systems?. Technical Presentation, AGU

Awards & Honors

American Geophysical Union
Lifetime Achievement Award
National Science Foundation (NSF) Community Surface Dynamic Modeling System (CSDMS)
International Hydrology Prize Dooge Medal
International Association of Hydrological Sciences (IAHS), UNESCO, and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO)
Promotion to ST, highest level for US government scientists
M. King Hubbert Award
National Ground Water Association
Meritorious Service Award
GSA (Geological Society of America)
Distinguished Darcy lecturer
National Groundwater Associations.
Walter L. Huber Engineering Research Prize
American Society of Civil Engineers
Elected Member
National Academy of Engineering
2021 - Present

Grants & Other Funded Activity

INFEWS/T2 FEWtures: Innovation Analysis Framework for Resilient Futures, with Application to the Central Arkansas River Basin. 1856084. National Science Foundation. $2500000.00. Submitted 9/26/2018 (8/15/2019 - 8/15/2024). Federal. Status: Funded
Developing a community of scholars and teaching modules for water resource courses at KU, University of California, Davis, and the University of Alabama. CTE. $3000.00. Submitted 5/1/2017 (5/23/2017 - 6/30/2018). University (KU or KUMC). Status: Funded
Explore the utility of the USGS GSFLOW intergrated surface-water/groundwater computer program for simulating the Death Valley regional groundwater flow system (DVRFS).. ZJ009BV. NRP, DOE, SAMM. $40000.00. Submitted 1/1/2010 (1/1/2011 - 12/31/2017). Letter report to DOE submitted July 2017.. Federal. Status: Funded. NRP: 10,000; DOE: $10,000; SAMM: $20,000; NSF: Proposal submitted; 15-year total: $2,654,100
Travel, computers, etc. DVRFS-GSFLOW. More process-based representation of recharge; Uncertainty of transport evaluated using particle tracking in locally refined grids. Assist with integration of observations. Steffen - LGR. NRP, DOE, SAMM, OGW. $179185.00. (12/31/2011). Federal. Status: Funded. NRP: $10,800; DOE: $28,385; DOE: $100,000; SAMM: $15,000; OGW: $25,000
Aquifer resources and stream-aquifer interactions in the Ramapo River valley, NJ. New Jersey Dept of Environmental Protection. USGS cooperative funds. $150000.00. (1/1/1981 - 12/31/1985). Federal. Status: Funded. My resulting publications: Hill et al., 1992, USGS
Investigation of approximate confidence intervals. USGS Regional Aquifer System Assessment (RASA) program. $15000.00. (12/31/1985). Federal. Status: Funded. My resulting publications: Hill 1989, WRR


I seek to (1) expand quantitative aspects and synthesize the strengths of the environmental side of the Department of Geology, (2) bring broad recognition to the very talented faculty in the Department of Geology, and (3) build an earth-science based program focused on a resilient future, with participation by KU public affairs and administration, business administration, political science, and the law school and KSU Agricultural Economics.