Fast Forward: Austin Metro Area Sees Two Decades of Explosive Growth
The Texas Metro Observatory will help cities plan for a changing future.
Graybelt Field Trips with Artist Marie Lorenz
Marie Lorenz travels US waterways in her handmade boats to learn about our relationship with water and the environment. Hear about her recent travels in Texas.
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.
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, their work will focus on understanding the interconnectedness of four critical resource systems.
How much water do we have, where is it, and how do we get it? Texas has made great strides when it comes to assessing questions of water availability, but we still don’t have all the answers. Our team will consider several water challenges, from measuring water availability today to reconstructing the region’s paleoclimate. Integrating new data will provide a better understanding of Texas’ future.
We use energy — oil, natural gas, coal, wind, solar, and nuclear power — to move people and commerce, power lights, and heat and cool homes. As populations grow, the mix of energy sources will have to change to meet demand while staying affordable and minimizing environmental harm. Our work will focus on gaining a comprehensive understanding of the state’s energy sources and production capabilities.
Texas’ urban centers will undergo a population explosion in the next 30 years. Unaddressed, this will further exacerbate environmental and health problems, traffic congestion, and affordability. We must better manage water distribution, improve transportation planning, increase the prevalence of energy-efficient construction, and mitigate traffic-related air pollution.
Healthy ecosystems are critical. They give us crop pollination and shade, water filtration and natural carbon sequestration. But as Texas’ population grows and droughts and floods become more severe, the resources our lands provide will be threatened. Our researchers will map Texas’ most vulnerable areas and study what effects population growth and weather extremes have on the ecosystem services we rely on.
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.
Technology Path to the Future — Mars Industries Workshop
This is part of a Construction Industry Institute (CII)-funded study, where we are developing a roadmap for the future of construction in terms of technology implementation. Part of the work … Keep reading
Planet Texas 2050 Courses
CE397 – Sustainable Systems (Spring 2020) Instructor: Fernanda Leite. This course provides a multi-disciplinary overview of the sustainability issues related to urban development, and it focuses on the strategies and … Keep reading
Digital Object Life Cycle (DOLCe)
Planet Texas 2050 will produce invaluable—and in some cases irreplicable—data products with potential to enable future research for generations. The Digital Object Life Cycle (DOLCe) initiative seeks to develop the … Keep reading
Greeting Cards from the Anthropocene
One of the greatest challenges facing human survivance (generally) is the capacity for humans to adequately communicate issues of vital importance with one another. The importance of communicating the dangers … Keep reading
Studies of records of past change have shown that the past can be the key to the future. This includes the discovery of mechanisms such as ocean circulation that bear … Keep reading
Climate Change Adaptation Through Dramaturgy
We are interested in how theater and community engagement can help develop a context-specific understanding of climate change to empower Texan communities and individuals to become resilient and adapt to … Keep reading
Hurricane-Resilient Healthcare Infrastructure Modeling with Integrated Flood Prediction and Stochastic Logistics Optimization
Prediction and logistics models have yet to be integrated for hurricane preparedness/response. The state-of-the-art generates a point estimate, representing an “average” or “worst-case” scenario for the hurricane’s impact, which becomes … Keep reading
Facilitating Timely & Efficient Evacuation of Texas Cities Using Shared and Autonomous Vehicle Fleets
Many current Planet Texas 2050 projects emphasize flood risks. We need more strategies for protection of life and property, including expert evacuations. This project will assess the cost and effectiveness … Keep reading
Improving the Estimation of Inundation Extent and Depth with High Resolution Terrain Data Over the State of Texas
Flood disasters resulting from recent events in Texas have emphasized the need for rapid estimation of flood inundation. With the availability of high-resolution terrain (HRT) data over most of Texas, … Keep reading
Towards an Equitable Knowledge-Action Network: A Comprehensive Assessment of Environmental NGOs
This proposed Planet Texas 2050 project seeks to develop co-production and co-governance strategies to connect emerging modeling platforms to environmental nongovernmental organizations (E-NGOs) undertaking efforts to adapt to and develop … Keep reading
Urban Planning for an Uncertain Future
How cities address inequality in their planning efforts varies widely, raising concerns that adaptation interventions may continue patterns of disparate risk for low-income communities of color. This emerging area of … Keep reading
Geospatial Analysis of Environmental Suitability for Establishing Burkholderia Species in Texas
The spread of tropical diseases to regions previously free of these diseases is one consequence of climate change. A 2016 study identified parts of Texas and Florida as vulnerable for … Keep reading
Transportation-Related Air Pollution (TRAP)
This project aims to quantify current TRAP exposure and its impacts and develop and extend models that capture the impact of urbanization and mobility decisions on TRAP exposure and corresponding … Keep reading
Texas Metro Observatory
The Texas Metro Observatory (TMO) is a communication and data platform dedicated to sharing information and ideas about Texas’s communities, understanding common problems related to urbanization processes in these communities, … Keep reading
Development of a Framework of Data Interpolation, Scaling, and Homogenization (DISH) for Mapping Natural Resources in Texas
This project extends and expands toolsets that were started under the Water Averaging project for data imputation, scaling, and homogenization (DISH) for Texas natural resources and to support integrated cross‐sector … Keep reading
Texas Futures Virtual Reality Experience
The vision for the Texas Futures Virtual Reality Experience is of a user‐centered virtual experience of what an urban environment of a select city in Texas would look like in … Keep reading
Resources, Stress, and Population Dynamics in Premodern Urban Societies
Building on work carried out in over the last two years, this project will complete scientific analyses that will illuminate water and watershed management and demographic dynamics in its study … Keep reading
DataX and Model Integration
Planet Texas 2050 is creating a knowledge center for resilience studies and applications. The research efforts span disciplines to touch the outer limits of our knowledge and attempt to connect … Keep reading
Artist-in-Residence: Lorenz Graybelt
Sculptor and performance artist Marie Lorenz will design a video map of the water that flows down Texas’ Colorado River — one of the state’s primary water sources — into … Keep reading
Blue Index is a participatory research project designed to gather feedback about 33 waterscapes throughout Austin. Led by Kevin Jeffery, a graduate student in landscape architecture, Blue Index focuses on … Keep reading
The Texas Advanced Computing Center hosts a series of free summer camps each year high school students. This past summer, TACC introduced Code@TACC Connected, which taught students how to use … Keep reading
Graduate Seminars and Project-Based Courses
Planet Texas 2050 faculty lead graduate classes that are open to master’s and Ph.D.-level students across all schools and departments at UT. These courses delve into concepts and issues central … Keep reading
Austin Metro Listening Tour
Before embarking on research of this scale, graduate students, under the direction of research chair Katherine Lieberknecht, spent several months meeting with city and county officials around central Texas. Their … Keep reading
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.
My research explores Earth surface processes, including climate and hydrologic processes. Much of that focuses on the study of cave deposits, carbonate rocks, and modern aquifers and watersheds.
My background is in English literary studies, and my research focuses on how contemporary literature and visual culture contribute to how we understand and respond to environmental crises.
My research and teaching interests include building and civil information modeling and collaboration and coordination technologies, project management and economics, and construction safety.
I study how ecosystems support cities and the residents living within them. My work focuses on urban water planning, metropolitan-scaled green infrastructure planning, and metropolitan food systems.
I’m a trained groundwater scientist, and I lead an NSF-funded effort to apply artificial intelligence and knowledge-centered computing to solve complex Earth resource problems.
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.
My work focuses on community health outside the traditional health system, especially on inviting people from multiple sectors to contribute to solving local problems with local ideas and resources.
My focus is on environmental geosciences, with an emphasis on soil, water, and managing ecosystem resources to avoid shortages, particularly in arid and semi-arid regions of the U.S.