Texas Exes Lunchtime Lecture – The Planet Texas 2050 Grand Challenge: Building Texas Resilience through Transdisciplinary Research at UT
November 17, 2021 12:00pm - 1:00pm

Hear Planet Texas 2050’s chair, Adam Rabinowitz, provide an overview of the development and scope of the Planet Texas 2050 Grand Challenge project, outline the current work of its six flagship projects, and discuss the preliminary results of a few specific research activities and community partnerships.

Texas Is Changing

We expect easy access to clean drinking water every day. Reliable electricity 24/7. Clean air, a stable economy, and a safe place to live. These are critical for healthy, thriving communities. Take any one of these away, and our wellbeing and livelihoods can deteriorate quickly.

But in Texas and elsewhere, the looming realities of rapid population growth and weather intensity mean that the things we rely on to live — water, energy, dependable infrastructure, and an ecosystem to support them — are under unprecedented risk.

Here’s why: Texas’ population today is nearly 28 million. By 2050, that number is predicted to double to 55 million, with most people clustered in already-dense urban centers like Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, and Austin. Limited resources will be in even greater demand.

Add to that the environmental stress from prolonged droughts, record-breaking heat waves, and destructive floods, and what we have won’t be enough.

That’s our current trajectory, but we can still change course.

Planet Texas 2050 is an eight-year sprint to find solutions that will make our communities more resilient and better prepared. To do that, we’re bringing together architects, archaeologists, city planners, public health experts, geologists, engineers, computer scientists, artists — and more.

Just as important, what we discover will have applications that extend far beyond our region. We’ll share our findings, tools, and processes with researchers across the U.S. and the world who are facing similar challenges in the 21st century.

Annual Report

Flip through our interactive FY20 annual report and browse our network map to learn more about the progress we’ve made to date.



Our Goal: Sustaining Critical Resources

Without essentials like water and energy, the systems we rely on — infrastructure to move goods and people, dependable emergency services, and more — will fail. Our ability to sustain those critical resources at levels that can support massive population growth and climatic shifts is in jeopardy.

Planet Texas 2050 researchers are committed to developing programs and policy recommendations that will improve Texas’ adaptability and build its resilience. To do that, we have launched a set of six innovative “flagship projects,” which leverage the talents and expertise of our interdisciplinary research network to tackle what they see as critical issues when it comes to helping Texas respond to rapid growth and climate change. These include: biodiversity and changing landscapes; environmental justice; equitable and regenerative cities; historical responses to climate change; and using AI, mapping and advanced modeling to prepare for and respond to disasters.



Solving a Challenge, One Project at a Time

To address the most urgent issues affecting our region, Planet Texas 2050 is conducting new research, launching educational programs, and partnering with organizations and community groups throughout the state.

Team Members

UT’s first grand challenge brings together researchers from 14 colleges, schools, and units across campus, a number that is expected to grow as more projects are added each year.

Read full bioTim Keitt

Tim Keitt

ProfessorIntegrative Biology

My research blends computational approaches with ecology and evolutionary biology to address the causes and consequences of local and global environmental change.

Read full bioFernanda Leite

Fernanda Leite

Associate ProfessorCivil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

My built environment research program sits at the interface of engineering and computing. Most of my work has been in building and infrastructure systems information modeling.

Jonathan Lowell

Jonathan Lowell

Community Liasion School of Architecture
I am trained in social science research methods, facilitation, and community engagement. My role is to help ensure research is done with community and that its outputs have social impacts.
Sheryl Luzzadder-Beach

Sheryl Luzzadder-Beach

ProfessorGeography & the Environment

My research centers on water resources geography, water quality, and quantitative methods. My main questions have been how do people interact with water resources in the past and in the present, and how do we ensure a future with clean and abundant water to sustain our planet and its people.

Dev Niyogi

Dev Niyogi

Professor Geological Sciences and Civil, Architectural, Environmental Engineering

My work centers around studying extreme weather events, particularly landfalling hurricanes, heavy rain events, heat waves, and droughts. My goal is to help prevent natural hazards from becoming disasters by using scientific models and technological tools.

Paola Passalacqua

Paola Passalacqua

Associate ProfessorCivil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

I am trained at the intersection of water resources engineering, hydrologic sciences, and geomorphology. My goal is to understand how topographic patterns arise, evolve, and interact with climate and ecosystems, in order to improve predictions of the response of the Earth-surface to disturbance and change and to develop sustainable management solutions.

Read full bioAdam Rabinowitz

Adam Rabinowitz

Associate ProfessorClassics

I study the interplay between individuals’ daily lives and the unfolding of larger, historical processes — and on the interdisciplinary research methods necessary to connect the two.

Heidi Schmalbach

Heidi Schmalbach

Planet Texas 2050 Program DirectorOffice of the Vice President for Research

My 15-year career sits at the intersection of arts and culture, urban planning, and community development. I have generally been focused on methodologies for fostering connections between people, places and each other.

Read full bioMiriam Solis

Miriam Solis

Assistant ProfessorSchool of Architecture

My work looks at how race and racism affect environmental planning, particularly regarding wastewater infrastructure in older American cities.

Paul Adams

ProfessorGeography and the Environment

Joshua Apte

Assistant ProfessorCivil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering / Population Health

Timothy Beach

ProfessorGeography and the Environment

Patrick Bixler

Assistant Professor of PracticeLBJ School of Public Affairs

Bryan Black

Associate ProfessorMarine Science

Deborah Bolnick

Associate ProfessorAnthropology

Joonyee Chuah

Sr. Outreach Program CoordinatorTexas Advanced Computing Center

Neil Crain

Research ScientistCenter for Energy and Environmental Resources

Alicia Danze

Graduate Student ResearcherGeography and the Environment

Charlie Dey

Portal and Gateway DeveloperTexas Advanced Computing Center

Kristin Donaldson

Graduate Student ResearcherSchool of Architecture

Kasey Faust

Assistant ProfessorCivil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

Juliana Felkner

Assistant ProfessorSchool of Architecture

Norma Fowler

ProfessorIntegrative Biology

Benjamin Gregg

Associate ProfessorGovernment

Christopher Herrington

Environmental EngineerCity of Austin Watershed Protection Department

Johann Hofmann

ProfessorIntegrative Biology

Dawn Hunter

Sr. Outreach Program CoordinatorTexas Advanced Computing Center

Craig Jansen

GUI DeveloperTexas Advanced Computing Center

Christopher Jordan

Research Engineering ScientistTexas Advanced Computing Center

Tim Keitt

ProfessorIntegrative Biology

Kerry Kinney

ProfessorCivil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

Mary Jo Kirisits

Associate ProfessorCivil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

Katherine Lieberknecht

Assistant ProfessorSchool of Architecture

Angelina Jean Locker

Graduate Student ResearcherAnthropology

Marie Lorenz

Artist-in-ResidenceArt and Art History

Sheryl Luzzadder-Beach

ProfessorGeography and the Environment

Ashley Matheny

Assistant ProfessorGeological Sciences

Elizabeth Matsui

Director of Clinical and Translational ResearchPopulation Health

Elena McDonald-Buller

Sr. Research EngineerCenter for Energy and Environmental Resources

Atila Novoselac

ProfessorCivil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

Fikile Nxumalo

Assistant ProfessorCurriculum & Instruction

Michael Oden

Associate ProfessorSchool of Architecture

Suzanne Pierce

Research ScientistTexas Advanced Computing Center

Mary Poteet

Research FellowIntegrative Biology

Adam Rabinowitz

Associate ProfessorClassics

Kelly Raley


Stuart Reichler

Sr. LecturerCollege of Natural Sciences

Lea Hildebrandt Ruiz

Assistant ProfessorChemical Engineering

Astrid Runggaldier

Assistant DirectorThe Mesoamerica Center

Bridget Scanlon

HydrogeologistBureau of Economic Geology

Christy Schirmer

Assistant InstructorClassics

Mateo Scoggins

Environmental ScientistCity of Austin Watershed Protection Department

Allan Shearer

Associate ProfessorSchool of Architecture

David Stuart

ProfessorArt and Art History

Rachel Thomas

Graduate Student ResearcherSchool of Architecture

Justin Thompson

Graduate Student ResearcherJackson School of Geosciences / LBJ School of Public Affairs

Fred Valdez


Corinne Wong

Research ScientistEnvironmental Science Institute

Sarah Wu

Program CoordinatorCenter for Sustainable Development

Dennis Wylie

Research ScientistCenter for Biomedical Research Support

Michael Young

Associate DirectorBureau of Economic Geology

Ming Zhang

Associate ProfessorSchool of Architecture

Clare Zutz

Graduate Student ResearcherSchool of Architecture

Joni Adamson

Professor, English and Environmental HumanitiesArizona State University

Phil Berke

Director, Institute of Sustainable CommunitiesUniversity of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Richard Corsi

Dean, Maseeh College of Engineering & Computer SciencePortland State University

Dave Dzombak

Professor, Civil & Environmental EngineeringCarnegie Mellon University

James Famiglietti

Director, Global Institute for Water SecurityUniversity of Saskatchewan

Marilu Hastings

Vice President, Sustainability ProgramsCynthia and George Mitchell Foundation

Vipin Kumar

Professor, Computer Science & EngineeringUniversity of Minnesota

Sheila Olmstead

Professor, Public AffairsUT Austin

Deanna Pennington

Associate Professor, Geological SciencesUT El Paso

Elizabeth Sall

FounderUrbanLabs, LLC

Lois Takahashi

Professor Emeritus, Urban Planning and Asian American StudiesUCLA

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