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 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.


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.


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.

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

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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The dried up shoreline of Texas’ Lake Buchanan during the 2011 drought. Credit: Merinda Brayfield

Texas is no stranger to drought seasons.

Both the 1950s and 2010s saw long dry spells that threatened the way of life for people who call the state home.

However, these intense droughts could be nothing compared to what Texas may see in the future, new research published in the journal Earth’s Future finds.

Jay Banner, professor in UT’s Jackson School of Geosciences, and state climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon warn of a future with more extreme drought and flooding as a result of climate change.

By the end of the 21st century, Texas droughts could compare to or exceed the 10-year…


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U.S.-Mexico border at Jacumba Hot Springs, California. Photo credit: Anthony Albright.

C.J. Alvarez, an assistant professor in UT’s Department of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies, has examined those changes for years, in advance of publishing his book “Border Land, Border Water: A History of Construction on the U.S.-Mexico Divide.”

Alvarez joined the podcast “Interstitial” to talk about these changes, detailing how the international divide has been altered over the years in an effort to control the movement of people, animals, goods and water.

This construction has…


By Mary Huber

Hurricane Harvey from space in 2017.
Hurricane Harvey from space in 2017.
Hurricane Harvey from space in 2017.

That August, Hurricane Harvey dumped as much as 50 inches of rain on the eastern half of the state. Whole cities were under water, and many were without power and running water for days — escalating the need for the type of help that Kim had imagined.

His advisor, Associate Professor…


By Mary Huber

An image of a small waterfall in Bull Creek in Austin, Texas.
An image of a small waterfall in Bull Creek in Austin, Texas.
Bull Creek at Loop 360 in Austin, Texas. Photo credit: Roy Niswanger

Jay Banner, a professor in the Jackson School of Geosciences, has spent the past several years studying the evolution of Austin’s watersheds, tracing water as it moves from the Colorado River, to treatment plants and into people’s homes. Banner and his student research team found that some of that municipal water, including wastewater, is leaking into Austin’s rain-fed springs and streams. In fact…

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