University of Colorado at Boulder

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Mark Williams

Alpine Biogeochemistry; Hydrology; Snow Hydrology; and Nutrient Cycling.

Professor of Geography 

Physical Geography
Fellow of INSTAAR
Faculty of ENVS
Faculty of Hydrologic Sciences
303-492-8830 INSTAAR RL1 101A  
Ph.D. University of California-Santa Barbara, 1991

Research Interests

The processes that determine the hydrochemistry and biogeochemistry of high-elevation basins including the storage and release of solutes from the snowpack, biogeochemical modifications of snowpack runoff, nutrient cycling, and hydrologic pathways and residence time. Current projects include the Rocky Mountains, Ecuadorian and Bolivian Andes, and Central Asian areas of Kazakhstan, Kirghizia, and China.

Selected Publications

Leopold M, Williams MW, Caine N, Volkel J, Dethier D. (2011). Internal Structure of the Green Lake 5 Rock Glacier, Colorado Front Range, USA. Permafrost and Periglacial Processes. Published online in Wiley Online Library ( DOI:10.1002/ppp.706

Freppaz M, D Godone, G Filippa, M Maggioni, S Lunardi, MW Williams, E Zanini. (2010). Soil Erosion Caused by Snow Avalanches: A Case Study in the Aosta Valley (NW-ITALY). Arctic, Antarctic and Alpine Research, Vol. 42, No. 4, pp. 412-421.

Schmidt S.K., R.C. Lynch, A.J. King, D. Karki, M.S. Robeson, L. Nagy, M.W. Williams, M.S. Mitter, and K.R. Freeman. (2010). Phylogeography of microbial phototrophs in the dry valleys of the high Himalayas and Antarctica. Proceedings of the Royal Society. B, pp 1-7. doi:10.1098/rspb.2010.1254

Williams MW, TA Erickson, and JL Petrzelka. (2010). Visualizing meltwater flow through snow at the centimetre-to-metre scale using a snow guillotine. Hydrological Processes. DOI:10.1002/hyp.7630

Filippa G, M Freppaz, MW Williams, E Zanini. (in press). Major Element Chemistry in inner-alpine Snowpacks (Aosta Valley Region, North Western Italy). Cold Regions Science and Technology. doi:10.1016/j.coldregions.2010.07.005

Publications updated February 2011

Labs & Facilities

KESDA Ken Erickson Spatial Data Analysis Lab

KESDA Lab is an instructional computer lab with advanced software and hardware used to teach technique (skills) courses in geography.

CU Mountain Research Station

The Mountain Research Station (MRS), directed by Bill Bowman, is an interdisciplinary research facility of the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, University of Colorado, devoted to advancement...

Dissolved Organic Matter Laboratory

This laboratory is managed by Mark Williams and Diane McKnight. It specializes in measuring the amount and character of dissolved organic matter from diverse ecosystems.

Kiowa Environmental Chemistry Laboratory

The Kiowa Environmental Chemistry Laboratory is the environmental chemistry laboratory for the Niwot Ridge / Green Lakes Valley Long-Term Ecological Research Program. The laboratory analyzes air,...

Recent Courses Include

Spring 2017  GEOG 3251 (3) Mountain Geography

Spring 2017  GEOG 4311/5100-001 (3) Watershed Biogeochemistry

Fall 2016  GEOG 3251 (3) Mountain Geography

Fall 2016  GEOG 5241-001 (3) Topics in Physical Geog: Mountain Hydrology

Spring 2016  GEOG 4321/5321 (4) Snow Hydrology

Graduate Students

snow and ice; water resources and repurcussions in a changing climate
climate change, water resources and the cryosphere
hydrology and water resources
Ph.D. Alumni
Surface Water and Groundwater Interactions in Natural and Mining Impacted Mountain Catchments
M.A. Alumni
The Hydrology of Headwater Catchments from the Plains to the Continental Divide, Boulder Creek Watershed, Colorado
M.A. Alumni
Of Microbes and Men: Determining Sources of Nitrate in a High Alpine Catchment in the Front Range of Colorado and Science Outreach on Alpine Hydrology
M.A. Alumni
Environmental Conflict at the Energy-Water Nexus
M.A. Alumni
Climatological and Elevational Controls on Organic and Inorganic Nutrients in Stream Waters, Boulder Creek Watershed, Colorado Front Range
M.A. Alumni
The Effects of a Climate Manipulation Experiment on Snow Properties, Snow Surface Energy Balance, and Soil Temperature and Moisture Along an Elevation Gradient on NIwot Ridge, Colorado
Ph.D. Alumni
Himalayan Glaciers and "voodoo science": Combining remote sensing, field techniques and indigenous knowledge to understand spatio-temporal patterns of glacier changes and their impact on water resources
M.A. Alumni
Hydrograph Separation Using Hydrochemistry Mixing Models: An Assessment of the Langtang River Basin, Nepal
M.A. Alumni
Application of GIS-based fuzzy logic and analytical hierarchy process (AHP) to snow avalanche susceptibility mapping, North San Juan, Colorado.
M.A. Alumni
Hydrochemistry, Residence Time and Nutrient Cycling of Groundwater in Two, Climate-Sensitive, High-Elevation Catchments, Colorado Front Range


Jan 2016
Mountains west of Boulder continue to lose ice as climate warms

Jan 2016
Colorado high peaks losing glaciers as climate warms

Aug 2015
Mark Williams Interviewed on the Mine Spill into the Animas River

Sep 2014
Testing the Water

Sep 2014
Mark Williams Quoted in Inside Energy

Jun 2014
Warming trend boosts nitrogen in Boulder watershed

Jun 2014
Landowners can test wells for oil and gas pollutants

May 2014
Why gas patch residents should test their water regularly

Oct 2013
Mark Williams Receives Fulbright Award for 2013-2014

Jun 2013
CU-Boulder Video Production Gets Emmy Nod

Apr 2013
NSF Highlights the Niwot Ridge Long Term Ecological Research Program

Apr 2013
Thin snowpack puts ecosystems and water resources in critical condition

Mar 2013
Skiing for science: Undergraduates take critical snowpack measurements in the high mountains

Feb 2013
Shrinking Snow Means Steep Slide for Ski Industry

Oct 2012
CU-Boulder-led team to study effects of natural gas development

Oct 2012
CU-Boulder Researchers Investigate Warming Climate’s Threat to Western Water

Jan 2012
Mark Williams elected Fellow of the American Geophysical Union

Jun 2011
NSF awards CU-Boulder $5.9 million grant for alpine ecosystem research

Feb 2011
Mark Williams’ “Water Resources in the 4 Corners” project featured at the CU Regents meeting

Dec 2010
Mark Williams Receives Funding for Niwot Ridge LTER Program

Jun 2010
Water Resources Outreach in the Four-Corners Area of Colorado

Jan 2010
Mark Williams Receives National Science Foundation GEO Grant

Sep 2009
Mark Williams receives National Science Foundation CMG Grant

Sep 2007
Mark Williams Receives National Science Foundation GEO Grant for Boulder Creek CZO