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Experts for Earth Day 2008: Researchers Offer Environmental Perspectives

Earth Day 2008 will be celebrated on Tuesday, April 22. Faculty experts from The University of Texas at Austin are available to discuss their research on topics ranging from building sustainable communities to plant ecology and environmental policies.

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Earth Day 2008 will be celebrated on Tuesday, April 22. Faculty experts from The University of Texas at Austin are available to discuss their research on topics ranging from building sustainable communities to plant ecology and environmental policies.

Architecture and the Environment Landscape Architecture
Climate Change Landscape and the Environment Communication of Health/Environmental Risks     Plant Ecology Conservation/Sustainable Development Protecting Endangered Species Design of Sustainable Buildings Rivers and Floodplains Energy and Environmental Policy Severe Weather Forecasting Environmental History of Latin America Social Equity in Sustainable Communities Geographies of Media and Communication Sustainable Technologies History of Cartography Urban and Environmental Planning Human-Environment Interaction Water Resources and Conservation

Architecture and the Environment

Fritz Steiner, Dean
School of Architecture

Steiner is a National Endowment for the Arts Rome Prize Fellow in Historic Preservation and Conservation at the American Academy in Rome. He is a Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects and an Academic Fellow of the Urban Land Institute. Steiner has worked with local, state and federal agencies on diverse environmental plans and designs. He teaches courses in the areas of environmental impact assessment, landscape analysis and landscape architecture theory. Steiner has written numerous books, articles and papers, including “Human Ecology: Following Nature’s Lead.”

Climate Change

Eric Barron, Dean
Jackson School of Geosciences

Barron is dean of the Jackson School of Geosciences, where he holds the Jackson Chair in Earth System Science. Barron’s research interests are in the areas of climate change, numerical modeling and Earth history. He has been a reviewer of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment reports. He is a fellow of the American Geophysical Union, the American Meteorological Society, the National Institute for Environmental Science and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Jay Banner
Director, Environmental Science Institute
Jackson School of Geosciences

Banner is a professor and the Chevron Centennial Fellow in Geology in the Department of Geological Sciences, as well as director of the Environmental Science Institute. He studies the chemical evolution of groundwater and ancient oceans, and the control of changing climate on these processes. Modern aquifers, ancient limestones and cave deposits, including those of Central Texas, provide excellent records of these processes. He teaches the popular Sustaining a Planet course.

Don Blankenship
Research Scientist, Institute for Geophysics
Jackson School of Geosciences

Blankenship uses remote sensing to study Antarctica’s ice sheets, with a particular interest in how they are changing in response to climate change and how they might affect global sea level. He is also interested in applying remote sensing techniques to the exploration of Jupiter’s ice-covered moon Europa. In 1994, the U.S. Board of Geographic Names designated Antarctica’s Blankenship Glacier in his honor.

Ginny Catania
Research Associate, Institute for Geophysics
Jackson School of Geosciences

Catania, a research associate at the Institute for Geophysics, is an expert on ice processes that contribute to sea level rise, particularly in the Greenland ice sheet and Antarctica’s ice sheets. She designed the “Wired Antarctica” Web page, an interactive site for teachers and students interested in learning more about Antarctic science.

Seth Redfield, Hubble Post-doctoral Fellow
Department of Astronomy
College of Natural Sciences

Redfield is a Hubble Space Telescope Post-doctoral Fellow. He researches the movement (past, present, and future) Earth and the solar system make as they orbit the center of our Milky Way galaxy. The passage of the solar system through enormous gas clouds that lie between the stars in our galaxy could cause long-term changes in Earth’s climate. Other such astronomical influences on Earth’s climate have been made. For instance, the Little Ice Age, which occurred in middle of the last millennium and was well documented in Europe and North America, is associated with a period of reduced solar activity, known as the Maunder Minimum.

Communication of Health/Environmental Risk

LeeAnn Kahlor, Assistant Professor
Public Relations, Department of Advertising
College of Communication

Kahlor’s research focuses on risk communication, specifically information seeking and processing related to health and environmental risks. Her research indicates that seeking information about a risk is, in part, a social behavior that is influenced by our perceptions that others expect us to be informed. Kahlor’s most recent work has focused on information seeking and public knowledge related to global warming. She teaches an interdisciplinary graduate course on communicating science.

Conservation/Sustainable Development

Brian King, Assistant Professor
Department of Geography and the Environment
College of Liberal Arts

King teaches courses on conservation and environmental policy, national parks and protected areas and sustainable development. His research examines the impact of health and disease on environmental systems, in particular, how local environments in the developing world are transformed by HIV/AIDS.

Kenneth Young, Professor
Department of Geography and the Environment
College of Liberal Arts

Young teaches courses on biodiversity conservation, climate change, comparative ecosystems and biogeography. His research focuses on tropical landscapes and examines their ecology, biogeography and sustainable use.

Design of Sustainable Buildings

Michael Garrison, Professor
School of Architecture

Garrison is a registered architect active in the design and construction of sustainable buildings. Garrison’s research has received numerous grants and awards from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Renewable Energy Lab, U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, U.S. Department of Interior, National Park Foundation, Texas Energy Advisory Council, Texas Energy and Natural Resources Advisory Council, Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs and Austin Energy’s Green Building Program.

Werner Lang, Associate Professor
School of Architecture

Lang’s research emphasis is on sustainable building and design, building system development, building construction and optimization of the energy performance of buildings.

Energy and Environmental Policy

Charles “Chip” Groat, Professor
Department of Geological Sciences and Public Affairs
Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs

Groat holds the John A. and Katherine G. Jackson Chair in Energy and Mineral Resources in the Department of Geological Sciences. He is the director of the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy and the director of the Energy and Mineral Resources Graduate Program. From 1998 to 2005, Groat was the director of the U.S. Geological Survey, where he emphasized integrated scientific approaches to understanding complex natural systems.

Environmental History of Latin America

Gregory Knapp, Associate Professor
Department of Geography and the Environment
College of Liberal Arts

Knapp teaches courses on the geography and environmental history of Latin America, and advanced courses on cultural ecology and development. He has published on agricultural history in the Andes Mountains, and is researching agricultural modernization with a focus on irrigation systems and non-traditional exports.

Rodrigo Sierra, Assistant Professor
Department of Geography and the Environment; Director, Center for Environmental Studies in Latin America (CESLA)
College of Liberal Arts

Sierra conducts research on environmental conservation and natural resource management in Latin America. The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation awarded $1.9 million to Sierra and CESLA to support a three-year biodiversity conservation program in Ecuador, which helps reduce deforestation of the region’s tropical rainforests. To learn more, read the feature story “Seeing the Forest and the Trees” at www.utexas.edu/features/2005/biodiversity/.

Geographies of Media and Communication

Paul Adams, Associate Professor
Department of Geography and the Environment; Director, Urban Studies Program
College of Liberal Arts

Adams teaches courses on urban studies, geopolitics, humanistic geography and the politics of place and culture. His research applies a geographic lens to communication. Adams is the author of several books, including “The Boundless Self: Communication in Physical and Virtual Spaces.”

Leo Zonn, Professor and Chair
Department of Geography and the Environment
College of Liberal Arts

Zonn is interested in representations of the Earth’s places in media, such as literature, advertising, photography and film. His research examines individual and collective geographies of the cinematic experience. Textual analysis of place in film is his primary area of interest.

History of Cartography

Ian Manners, Professor
Department of Geography and the Environment
College of Liberal Arts

Manners teaches course on the geography of the Middle East and the history and philosophy of geography and cartography. His research explores cartographic representations of the Middle East and the Mediterranean world. Manners has conducted research in Egypt, Kuwait, Jordan, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Human-Environment Interactions

Kelley Crews, Associate Professor
Department of Geography and the Environment; Director, Geographic Information Science Center
College of Liberal Arts

Crews’ research includes geographic information science, remote sensing, land use and land cover change, human-environment interactions, environmental policy and field research in the tropics of Africa, Andean South America and Thailand. Learn more about the Geographic Information Science Center.

William Doolittle, Professor
Department of Geography and the Environment
College of Liberal Arts

Doolittle teaches courses on the landscapes of Mexico, Caribbean America and historical geography of the American Southwest. His research project “EarthShapers” develops theories of how individuals affect landscapes. Doolittle is the author of more than 70 publications, including “Cultivated Landscapes of Native North America.”

Landscape Architecture

Hope Hasbrouck, Graduate Adviser and Assistant Professor in
Landscape Architecture
School of Architecture

Hasbrouck teaches graduate level design studios and lecture courses in landscape architecture. Hasbrouck’s professional and academic background lends itself to an interdisciplinary approach to the study of landscape architecture. Her interests range from the examination of landscape as infrastructure to the integration of computation and information technology in landscape architectural education and practice.

Landscape and the Environment

Heather Venhaus, Environmental Designer
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Venhaus leads a national partnership to develop voluntary standards for sustainable landscapes. This program, modeled after the successful green building standards of the United States Green Building Council, will create guidelines and a rating system for creating environmentally healthy landscapes that reduce emissions from materials, maintenance and construction, and involve plants that effectively absorb carbon dioxide – a major cause of global warming. The guidelines will apply to commercial sites, parks and even backyards.

Steve Windhager, Director of Landscape Restoration
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

As director of the Landscape Restoration program, Windhager focuses on using native plants and ecology to solve site problems such as erosion, poor water or air quality and lack of wildlife habitat. Projects include the re-vegetation of eight miles of the San Antonio River south of downtown, connecting four historic Spanish missions, and one to provide all-native landscape and other ecologically compatible features at the new Advanced Micro Devices corporate headquarters in Austin.

Mark Simmons, Ecologist
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Simmons focuses on addressing ecological issues. His research has included controlling invasive species, studying the use of native vegetation for green roofs and alternative grasses for lawns, and the role of urban greenspaces to combat climate change. Simmons also participates in Wildflower Center consulting projects that include park design at the Mueller redevelopment project.

Plant Ecology

Francisco Pérez, Professor
Department of Geography and the Environment; Director, Soils Laboratory
College of Liberal Arts

Pérez studies the ecological aspects of high-elevation natural vegetation, especially in areas protected in national parks. His research examines the interactions between plants and substrate, including soil evolution. His expertise includes extensive fieldwork in the northern Andes, the California Cascades and Sierra Nevada, and the volcanoes of Hawaii.

Protecting Endangered Species

Robin Doughty, Professor
Department of Geography and the Environment
College of Liberal Arts

Doughty researches the conservation of plants and animals, especially endangered species. He is the author of “Endangered Species: Disappearing Animals and Plants in the Lone Star State” and “The Amazing Armadillo: Geography of a Folk Critter.”

Rivers and Floodplains

Paul Hudson, Associate Professor
Department of Geography and the Environment
College of Liberal Arts

Hudson teaches courses on the environments of rivers, floodplains and watersheds, including conservation and management. His research examines these topics in Texas, Mexico, the Mississippi River and the Netherlands.

Severe Weather Forecasting

Troy Kimmel, Senior Lecturer
Department of Geography and the Environment; Manager, Weather and Climate Resource Center
College of Liberal Arts

Kimmel teaches courses on severe and unusual weather and serves as chief meteorologist for Clear Channel Radio’s Austin affiliates: KVET, KASE and KFMK. He also is a climate observer for the National Weather Service and a volunteer with the Austin Police Academy, where he teaches cadets how to recognize and respond to weather crises.

Social Equity in Sustainable Communities

Elizabeth Mueller, Director
Center for Sustainable Development
Assistant Professor, School of Architecture

Mueller is primarily interested in questions of social equity in cities and regions. She teaches courses on city planning history and planning theory, affordable housing policy, community development, urban politics, qualitative research methods and research design. Mueller’s work focuses on community development and affordable housing.

Sergio Palleroni, Associate Professor
School of Architecture

Palleroni has worked on housing and community development in the developing world since the 1970s for not-for-profit agencies and governmental and international agencies such as UNESCO, the World Bank and the governments of Nicaragua, Mexico, Colombia and Costa Rica.

Sustainable Technologies

Steven Moore, Director
Graduate Program in Sustainable Design
Associate Professor, School of Architecture

Moore teaches design and courses related to the philosophy, history and application of sustainable technology. His research interests are broadly interdisciplinary and focus upon the social construction of sustainable technologies, buildings and cities.

Urban and Environmental Planning

Kent Butler, Program Director and Associate Professor
Graduate Program in Community and Regional Planning
Associate Dean for Research and Facilities, School of Architecture
512-797-6644 or 512-471-0129

In recent years, Butler has obtained more than $4 million in grants and contracts for urban and environmental planning research and programs, ranging in scale from park planning to regional endangered species habitat plans and statewide growth policy studies. He maintains a research program in water resources, environmental and land use planning.

Water Resources and Conservation

David J. Eaton, Professor
Natural Resource Policy Studies
Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs

Eaton has written on rural water supply, international water resource conflicts, energy management, environmental problems of industries, management of emergency medical services, applications of mathematical programming to resource problems, insurance and agriculture. He research focuses on sustainable development in international river basins, evaluation of energy and water conservation programs, and prevention of pollution.

Bridget Scanlon, Senior Research Scientist
Bureau of Economic Geology
Jackson School of Geosciences

Scanlon sees a potential water crisis for a growing world. Agriculture consumes more freshwater than any other human activity. Her research shows that irrigated agriculture, because it depletes groundwater and can increase salinity at the surface, is a losing proposition. And yet, when done correctly, it can flush salts from the soil. To have truly sustainable agriculture, she recommends alternating between rain-fed and irrigated farming. She received the Conservation Award from the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District in 2000 and 2004.