Frontline Community Partnerships for Climate Justice


Climate change and pollution affect some populations more severely than others, and the disparities are often stark. Our urban planning and population health researchers are working with frontline communities to understand the consequences of carbon emissions for health, as well as experiences with, and responses to, environmental shocks and stressors.

The research team uses community-based participatory research (CBPR) methods, including surveys, photovoice, and storytelling to center the experiences of impacted communities. The project partners, which include the City of Austin, AISD, the nonprofit EcoRise, charter school East Austin Prep, Texas Children in Nature Network, and ten coalition members in Pharr, TX, will then use these data to pursue small-scale projects and inform larger-scale climate mitigation and adaptation initiatives.  

Central Research Question(s): 
How can research-practice partnerships support frontline communities’ responses to climate change? 

What problem(s) is the project attempting to solve? 

Climate-induced disasters and extreme weather conditions are worsening and happening more frequently. Low-income communities of color bear the brunt of such environmental impacts. Youth voices are rarely included in policy and planning efforts. The mission statement of this team is to inform policy and planning outcomes based on how youth from frontline communities experience their changing environment.   

Anticipated Outcomes and Impacts:  

  • Increased awareness, empowerment, and advocacy among participating youth in addressing environmental justice issues  
  • Environmental decision-making (policy, practice, planning) is better informed by local environmental justice concerns and priorities   
  • Enhanced local capacity to address environmental justice issues  
  • Formalization of larger research-practice collaborations that generate material improvements for research participants  


Geographic Area(s) of Focus: Austin area and the Rio Grande Valley   

Key Partners: City of Austin, AISD, East Austin College Prep, EcoRise, Texas Children in Nature Network 

Team Members

Carmen Valdez
Social Work
Tasha Banks
Community Engagement and Health Equity
Bjørn Sletto
Keffrelyn Brown
Curriculum and Instruction
Sergio Castellanos
Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering
Yasmiyn Irizarry
African and African Diaspora Studies


March 1, 2023
Prescription for a Healthier Future: Climate Justice
More than 80% of our health is impacted by social determinants — where we live, work, eat and play. And the “live” part is crucial: Everything from air quality, access to healthy food and health care, and economic stability have an outsize impact on a person’s ability to get and stay well. But what happens when climate change begins to threaten those things?
Feb. 16, 2023
Promoting Environmental Equity in the Gulf Coast
Assistant Professor Miriam Solis will use funds from the Gulf Research Program's Early Career Research Fellowship to advance environmental justice in the Rio Grande Valley by engaging youth perspectives in environmental planning.