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We're a group of researchers from across UT Austin. Making Texas resilient in the face of rapid population growth and climate extremes is our grand challenge.

By: Deidre Zoll

A van driving along a road in Houston, Texas is submerged in water during a flood event.
A van driving along a road in Houston, Texas is submerged in water during a flood event.
Torrential rainstorm in 2016 brings record flooding to Houston. Photo credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration.

I originally wrote this blog aiming to publish it in mid-March of 2020. I was traveling back to Austin at the time and suggested that we hold off until we saw how COVID unfolded. It is a year later, and I’m still not sure if now is the right time to talk about climate change in Texas. We’ve lost 2.8 million people to COVID-19 around the world, 550,000 of those in the U.S. and almost 50,000 in Texas. It has been a year characterized by unspeakable tragedy and uncertainty.

I was fine with this post going in…


By Mary Huber

Chihuahuan desert and Chisos mountains in the Big Bend National Park, West Texas, with Kit Peak in the background. Photo credit: Harry Green

As part of the Institute for Historical Studies’ “Climate in Context” events, Planet Texas 2050 has teamed up with the digital magazine “Not Even Past” to release a series of articles highlighting how history and archaeology are key to our understanding and mitigation of the devastating effects of climate change. “Climate in Context” is a year-long program of talks and workshops that look at how human interaction with the natural world has changed over time and what valuable information that can provide for addressing our current conditions. …


By Adam Rabinowitz

Archaeologists look at a glowing screen showing LiDAR images from Mayan ruins in the Guatemalan jungle.
Archaeologists look at a glowing screen showing LiDAR images from Mayan ruins in the Guatemalan jungle.
Specialists in Mesoamerican archaeology for LiDAR imagery at the Texas Advanced Computing Center VisLab on the UT campus during a February 2020 Maya LiDAR workshop. Source: Adam Rabinowitz

As part of the Institute for Historical Studies’ “Climate in Context” events, Planet Texas 2050 has teamed up with the digital magazine “Not Even Past” to release a series of articles highlighting how history and archaeology are key to our understanding and mitigation of the devastating effects of climate change. “Climate in Context” is a year-long program of talks and workshops that look at how human interaction with the natural world has changed over time and what valuable information that can provide for addressing our current conditions. …


By Mary Huber

Parched land with a dead tree
Parched land with a dead tree

As part of the Institute for Historical Studies’ “Climate in Context” events, Planet Texas 2050 has teamed up with the digital magazine “Not Even Past” to release a series of articles highlighting how history and archaeology are key to our understanding and mitigation of the devastating effects of climate change. “Climate in Context” is a year-long program of talks and workshops that look at how human interaction with the natural world has changed over time and what valuable information that can provide for addressing our current conditions. …


By Adam Rabinowitz

UT archaeologists excavate a field in Romania that was once the site of the ancient Histria civilization.
UT archaeologists excavate a field in Romania that was once the site of the ancient Histria civilization.
2019 excavation of Histria, a once bustling residential and industrial area in a major seaport city, then a cemetery in a shrinking provincial backwater, and now an open field seven kilometers from the sea. Photo credit: Professor Valentin Bottez, University of Bucharest

In October, Planet Texas 2050 unveiled six new flagship projects, which will guide our work in the coming years as we tackle the dual problems of demographic and climate change. Each quarter, we will highlight one of the six projects, continuing with one titled “Stories of Ancient Resilience.” Hear from project lead Adam Rabinowitz, associate professor in the Department of Classics, as he discusses the team’s ongoing work.

Through all eras of human history, communities have confronted stresses related to climate change that have affected how and where they live. Studying past societies helps us recognize the…


By Patrick Bixler and Paola Passalacqua

Flooded residential neighborhood in Houston after Hurricane Harvey.
Flooded residential neighborhood in Houston after Hurricane Harvey.
Houston after Hurricane Harvey.

This month, Planet Texas 2050 unveiled six new flagship projects, which will guide our work in the coming years as we tackle the dual problems of demographic and climate change. Each quarter, we will highlight one of the six projects, starting with one titled “Networks for Hazard Preparedness and Response.” Hear from project leads Patrick Bixler, assistant professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, and Paola Passalacqua, associate professor in the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering, as they discuss their ongoing work.

In the future, Texas is expected to face increasing…


Outgoing Planet Texas 2050 Chair Heather Houser (left) and new Planet Texas 2050 Chair Fernanda Leite (right).
Outgoing Planet Texas 2050 Chair Heather Houser (left) and new Planet Texas 2050 Chair Fernanda Leite (right).
Outgoing Planet Texas 2050 Chair Heather Houser (left) and new Planet Texas 2050 Chair Fernanda Leite (right).

A message from Heather Houser, outgoing Chair of Planet Texas 2050:

It is with some sadness but also pride that I bid farewell to the leadership team of Planet Texas 2050, a UT initiative that I helped found three and a half years ago with the aim of making Texas more resilient in the face of unprecedented demographic and climate change. As I say goodbye, I reflect on the lengths we have traveled since Dan Jaffe, then-Vice President for Research, convened us in February 2017 to propose this first Bridging Barriers Grand Challenge. …


By Mary Huber

South Austin Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant
South Austin Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant
Canary researchers took wastewater samples from South Austin Regional Wastewater Treatment. Photo courtesy of Austin Water.

Our dirty, smelly wastewater could hold something very valuable: the key to tracking COVID-19 hot spots in Austin before diagnostic testing is able to identify outbreaks.

The novel coronavirus is a fecally shed virus, which means its signature shows up in our waste. Because of this, University of Texas researchers are hoping they can track its spread by studying human feces.

Mary Jo Kirisits, an associate professor in UT’s Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering, is leading a team that’s monitoring COVID-19 in Austin’s wastewater to identify upticks in cases before people show up with symptoms…


By Mary Huber

Two little girls dig in a school garden at Pleasant Hill Elementary in South Austin.
Two little girls dig in a school garden at Pleasant Hill Elementary in South Austin.
Children garden at Pleasant Hill Elementary in South Austin while their parents organize with Go! Austin/Vamos! Austin. Credit: GAVA

Frances Acuña has lived in the Dove Springs neighborhood in Southeast Austin for 23 years. She knows every place it floods when it rains — such as the intersection at Brassiewood Drive and Pleasant Valley Road, in the street along Turnstone Drive, and near the Nuckols Crossing Bridge that spans Williamson Creek.

The flooding is so bad, Acuña and her neighbors have had to put out bags of cement as barriers to keep the water from reaching into homes when it rains. They’ve barricaded roads to prevent cars from driving down streets, afraid they would push the…


What does it mean to greet one another in a time of crisis?

By Craig Campbell, Ph.D.

A group of gallery visitors pull writing prompts and compose messages on “Hey, Honey Bee!” greeting cards in Vancouver, BC.
A group of gallery visitors pull writing prompts and compose messages on “Hey, Honey Bee!” greeting cards in Vancouver, BC.
A group of gallery visitors pull writing prompts and compose messages on “Hey, Honey Bee!” greeting cards in Vancouver, BC.

Craig Campbell, an associate professor in the Department of Anthropology at The University of Texas at Austin, has been working for the last year to understand how individuals greet one another in times of crisis, particularly as our planet is wrecked by climate change and now a global pandemic. His project “Greeting Cards from the Anthropocene” encourages people to design greeting cards that address the climate crisis. …

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