Xun-Hong (Hong) Chen

Xun-Hong (Hong) Chen

  • Contact Information
  • My Story
  • Publications & Presentations
  • Background
  • Expertise & Interests
  • Grants
  • Advising
  • Courses Taught
  • Outreach

Title Hydrogeologist
Address 623 Hardin Hall
3310 Holdrege Street
Lincoln NE
Phone 402-472-0772
FAX 402-472-2946
E-mail xchen2@unl.edu
Vitae Download file
Contact Preference

Phone: (402) 472 0772, fax: (402) 472 2495, email: xchen2@unl.edu

Xun-Hong "Hong" Chen, 57, professor of hydrogeology, died Oct. 22. Chen was part of UNL's School of Natural Resources.

"Hong was an outstanding researcher and colleague," said SNR director John Carroll. "He helped put groundwater modeling at UNL on the map and was an expert on the High Plains Aquifer. Hong will be missed by his many friends and colleagues in the School of Natural Resources."

Ron Yoder, IANR associate vice chancellor, said that Chen's groundwater research and modeling contributed significantly to the nationally and internationally recognized water resources management in Nebraska.

"His extensive knowledge was valued by the water resources agencies in Nebraska, and he was respected by his students, who received a sound education in groundwater science," Yoder said. "He was a great colleague, and his many friends in the water management community will miss working with him."

Born Aug. 20, 1958, to Zhangcheng and Meimei Chen in Yiwu, Zhejiang province, China, he earned an undergraduate degree from Zhejiang University. He was awarded a master's degree from California State University, Northridge and a doctorate from the University of Wyoming.

He began his career as a consulting hydrogeologist at TriHydro Corporation in Laramie, Wyoming.

In 1994, he moved from Wyoming to Nebraska to accept a position as an assistant professor with the Conservation and Survey Division at UNL. He became a full professor with the School of Natural Resources in 2005.

"I knew Hong from the time he arrived at UNL in late 1994 until his passing," said Bob Diffendal, emeritus professor. "He was a kind, wonderful friend and colleague."

Chen's work involved the analysis of groundwater systems and their interactions with streams. His research used computer models to better understand how water flows, some of which explored how groundwater irrigation affects groundwater storage and stream depletion.

"Hong was a widely respected colleague who contributed in a substantive way to an improved understanding of groundwater in Nebraska," said Matt Joeckel, CSD director and Nebraska state geologist. "His scientific expertise was widely sought-after in research endeavors and his professional reputation was sterling, even on an international level."

Chen's research also focused on the hydraulic properties of aquifers and streambed sediments. His research group conducted numerous pumping tests in the High Plains Aquifer, and his recent work explored the hydrologic cycle in the Nebraska Sandhills, the Platte and Republican River valleys, and the Blue River and Elkhorn River basins.

"Dr. Chen made significant contributions in studies of groundwater-surface water interactions, characterization of aquifer properties, and evaluation of groundwater resources of Nebraska," said Vitaly Zlotnik, professor in UNL's Department of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences. "His list of more than a hundred papers includes many important and well-respected publications in leading disciplinary journals. He will be missed by his colleagues in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences."

Chen was an internationally recognized research scholar and collaborated with universities and research institutes across North America, Europe, Asia and Australia.

"As a Yangtze River Scholar and Thousand Talents Program professor, the most prestigious national awards in China, professor Chen dedicated himself to promoting international collaborations between UNL and top Chinese universities," said Jian Ma, president of Chang'an University. "His meticulous scholarship and pursuit of excellence will continue to inspire us. He will be missed greatly by his colleagues and students in China."

Chen served on the editorial boards of the Journal of Hydrology and Hydrogeology Journal. He was a member of the American Geophysics Union, an elected fellow of the Geological Society of America, and a fellow of UNL's Center for Great Plains Studies.

Chen regularly taught groundwater modeling and geostatistics courses, and advised dozens of students. Many of his former graduate students have successful professional careers in hydrogeology and other areas of earth sciences.

"Dr. Chen was a meticulous and dedicated scientist and educator," said Gengxin Ou, a former student who is now a hydrologist at the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources. "He cared for his students like family members. I never felt alone even though I was far away from home. He will never be forgotten."

Zhaowei Wang, a hydrogeologist and groundwater modeler at Arcadis, studied under Chen from 2010 to 2012.

"Dr. Chen was a great mentor and role model for me," Wang said. "His passing is a tremendous loss to his family, friends and the hydrogeology community. He is always in my heart and will be remembered forever."

Chen was preceded in death by his father Zhangcheng. Survivors include Chen's wife, Wen Zhao; sons, William and Lucas.

Visitation will take place from 1-3 p.m., Oct. 29 at Roper and Sons in Lincoln (4300 O Street). In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Half the Sky organization: http://www.halfthesky.org

Selected Publications

Dong, W.H., X.H. Chen, Z.W. Wang, G.X. Ou, and C. Liu, 2012. Comparison of vertical hydraulic conductivity in a streambed-point bar system of a gaining stream. Journal of Hydrology 450-451, 9-16, DOI: 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2012.05.037
Lu, C. X.H. Chen, G. Ou, C. Cheng, L. Shu, D. Cheng and E. Appiah-Adjei, 2012. Determination of the anisotropy of an upper streambed layer in east-central Nebraska, USA. Hydrogeology Journal 20(1), 93-101, DOI: 10.1007/s10040-011-0792-4.
Lu, C.P., X.H. Chen, C. Cheng, G. Ou, and L. Shu, 2012. Horizontal hydraulic conductivity of shallow streambed sediments and comparison with the grain-size analysis results. Hydrological Processes 26(3), 454-466, DOI: 10.1002/hyp.8143.
Miao, C. Y., L.Yang, X.H. Chen and Y. Gao, 2012. The vegetation cover dynamic (1982-2006) in different erosion regions of the Yellow River basin, China. Land Degradation & Development 23(1), 62-71, DOI: 10.1002/ldr.1050.
Chen, X.H., 2011. Depth-dependent hydrologic conductivity distribution patterns of a streambed. Hydrological Processes 25(2), 278-287. DOI: 10.1002/hyp.7844.
Cheng, C., J.X. Song, X.H. Chen, and D. Wang, 2011. Statistical distribution of streambed vertical hydraulic conductivity along the Platte River, Nebraska. Water Resources Management 25(1), 265-285, DOI: 10.1007/s11269-010-9698-5.
Cheng, Q. B., X. Chen, X.H. Chen, M.H. Ling and L.A. Wei, 2011. Water infiltration underneath single-ring permeameters and hydraulic conductivity determination. Journal of Hydrology 398(1-2), 135-143, DOI: 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2010.12.011.
Hu, L.T., C.X. Chen, and X.H. Chen, 2011. Simulation of groundwater flow within observation boreholes for confined aquifers. Journal of Hydrology 398(1-2), 101-108, DOI: 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2010.12.013.
Rong, L., X. Chen, X.H. Chen, S. Wang, and X Du, 2011. Isotopic analysis of water sources of mountainous plant uptakes in a karst plateau of southwest China. Hydrological Processes 25(23), 3666-3675, DOI: 10.1002/hyp.8093.
Chen, X.H., J. Song, and W. Wang. 2010. Spatial variability of specific yield and vertical hydraulic conductivity in a highly permeable alluvial aquifer. Journal of Hydrology 388(3-4), 379-388, DOI 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2010.05.017.
Liu, L.H., L. C. Shu, X.H. Chen, E. Wang, and T. Oromo, 2010. Rainfall-driven spring hydrograph modeling in karstic water system, southwestern China. Water Resources Management 24(11), 2689-2701, DOI 10.1007/s11269-009-9574-3.
Liu, L.H., L.C. Shu, X. H. Chen, and T. Oromo, 2010. The Hydrologic function and behaviors of the Houzhai underground river basin, Guizhou Province, southwestern China. Hydrogeology Journal 18(2), 509-518, DOI 10.1007/s10040-009-0518-z.
Song, J.X., X. H. Chen, C. Cheng, D.M. Wang, and W. Wang, 2010. Variability of streambed vertical hydraulic conductivity with depth along the Elkhorn River, Nebraska, USA. Chinese Science Bulletin 55(10), 992-999, DOI: 10.1007/s11434-005-0640-9.
Chen, X.H., J. Song, C. Cheng, D. Wang, and S. Lackey, 2009. A new method for mapping variability in vertical seepage flux in streambeds. Hydrogeology Journal 17(3), 519-525, DOI 10.1007/s10040-008-0384-0.
Song, J.X., X. H. Chen, C. Cheng, D.M. Wang, S. Lackey, and Z. Xu, 2009. Feasibility of grain-size analysis methods for determination of vertical hydraulic conductivity. Journal of Hydrology 375 (3-4), 428-438, DOI 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2009.06.043.
Chen, X. H., M. Burbach, and C. Cheng, 2008. Electrical and hydraulic vertical variability in channel sediments and its effects on streamflow depletion due to groundwater extraction. Journal of Hydrology 352(3-4), 250-266, DOI:10.1016/j.jhydrol.2008.01.004.
Wu, H., L. K. Soh, A. Samal, and X. H. Chen, 2008. Trend analysis of streamflow drought events in Nebraska. Water Resources Management 22(2), 145-164, DOI: 10.1007/s11269-006-9148-6.
Chen, X.H., 2007. Hydrologic connections of a stream-aquifer-vegegation zone in south-central Platte River Valley, Nebraska. Journal of Hydrology 333, 554-568.
Cheng, C. and X. H. Chen, 2007. Evaluation of methods for determination of hydraulic properties in an aquifer-aquitard system hydrologically connected to a river. Hydrogeology Journal 15(4), 669-678, DOI 10.1007/s10040-006-0135-z.
Song, J., X. H. Chen, C. Cheng, S. Summerside, and F. Wen, 2007. Effects of hyporheic processes on streambed vertical hydraulic conductivity in three rivers of Nebraska, Geophysical Research Letters, 34, L07409, DOI:10.1029/2007GL029254.
Chen, X, Y. Q. Chen, and X. H. Chen, 2006. Separation of baseflow accounting for the effect of bank storage. Journal of Hydrology 327, 539-549.
Chen, X.H., and L. Shu, 2006. Groundwater evapotranspiration captured by seasonally pumping wells in river valleys. Journal of Hydrology 318, 334-347.
Chen, X.H., and Y. Yin, 2006. The Flexible Tolerance Method for estimating the evapotranspiration and infiltration in the root zone. Journal of American Water Resources Association 42(2), 495-512.
Wen, F. J. and X. H. Chen, 2006. Evaluation of the impact of groundwater irrigation on streamflow depletion in Nebraska. Journal of Hydrology 327, 603-617.
Zhang, Y. I. A. Khan, X. H. Chen, and R. F. Spalding, 2006. Transport and persistence of ethanol in groundwater. Journal of Contaminant Hydrology 82, 183-194.

Educational Background

  • BS - Zhejiang University in China, Geology (1982)
  • MS - California State University-Northridge,, Geology (1988)
  • PhD - University of Wyoming, Hydrogeology (1994)

SNR Mission Area(s)

  • Environmental Science

Professional Organizations

  • American Geophysics Union
  • Geological Society of America
    • none
    • Fellow 2011

Notable Websites

Other Areas of Interest

Groundwater flow modeling, stream-aquifer interactions, High Plains Aquifer, aquifer and streambed tests, contaminant transport modeling, hydrocarbon contamination, geostatistics

SNR Areas of Expertise

Keyword Expert Level

10 - Top Expert
1 - Mild Interest

Groundwater Modeling












Select a keyword and see other SNR faculty and staff with this interest or expertise.

Currently this page only displays grants that were awarded on 1/1/2009 to the present. If a grant was awarded prior to 1/1/2009 and is still active, it will not be displayed on this page.

Grant Title Investigation of Stream-Aquifier Hydrologic Relationship for Clear Creek in Polk and Butler Counties, Nebraska (additional funding)
Starting Date 10/16/2009
Principal Investigators
Xun-Hong (Hong) Chen
Ending Date 12/31/2012
Funding Level $29,928.00
Funding Source Upper Big Blue Natural Resources District

Grant Title Stream Aquifier Relationships in the Elkhorn River Basin
Starting Date 3/11/2011
Principal Investigators
Xun-Hong (Hong) Chen
Susan Lackey
Ending Date 6/30/2013
Funding Level $58,648.00
Funding Source Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District

Grant Title Investigate Stream-Aquifer
Starting Date 9/1/2010
Principal Investigators
Xun-Hong (Hong) Chen
Ending Date 8/30/2012
Funding Level $79,800.00
Funding Source Central Platte Natural Resources District

Grant Title Investigation of Stream-Aquifier Hydrologic Relationship for Clear Creek in Polk and Butler Counties, Nebraska
Starting Date 9/21/2009
Principal Investigators
Xun-Hong (Hong) Chen
Ending Date 12/31/2010
Funding Level $34,000.00
Funding Source Upper Big Blue Natural Resources District


Undergraduate Majors Bachelor of Science in
  • Water Science
Graduate Program(s)

Master of Science in Natural Resource Sciences

Doctor of Philosophy in Natural Resource Sciences

Courses Taught
Course Number Course Title Fall Even Years Fall Odd Years Spring Even Years Spring Odd Years Summer Session Cross Listing
NRES 825 Geostatistics GEOL/NRES 825
NRES 918 Applied Groundwater Modeling n/a