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Experts for Earth Day 2010: Researchers Offer Environmental Perspectives

Earth Day 2010 will be celebrated on Thursday, 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 2010 will be celebrated on Thursday, 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 Human-Environment Interactions
Climate Change Landscape Architecture
Communication of Environmental Risks Social Equity and Sustainability
Conservation/Sustainable Development     Sustainable Technologies
Design of Sustainable Buildings Urban and Environmental Planning
Energy and Environmental Policy 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

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 limestone 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.

Communication of Environmental Risks

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 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.

Kristopher Wilson, Ph.D., senior lecturer
School of Journalism
College of Communication
Wilson is an expert in the communication of climate change science. His research analyzes press coverage of climate change, factors that influence global warming reporting and public (mis)understanding of mediated science. Recently, he has studied the role of TV weathercasters in communicating climate change science. Wilson spent more than a decade working in television as a news director, executive producer, anchor, reporter and weather anchor.

Conservation/Sustainable Development

Michael Eason, Conservation Program Manager
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Eason is a botanist who directs the Texas activities of the international Millennium Seed Bank Project, which stockpiled seeds from 10 percent of the world’s wild flowering species in 2010. The expert on native Texas landscapes has performed hundreds of botanical surveys across the state and trained over 150 Texas volunteers to identify native plants and collect seeds for the international project.

Steve Windhager, Director of Landscape Restoration, Sustainable Sites Initiative
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Windhager focuses on using native plants and ecology to solve problems such as poor water or air quality, and conducts large and small scale ecological restoration of public and private lands across the southwest. He oversees research projects addressing green roofs, native lawns, and grassland restoration, as well as consulting on landscape design projects at sites that range from national parks to urban roadsides. Recent projects include: helping design a 58-acre, native landscape at a computer chip maker’s corporate headquarters, the Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, and the urban parks at a large, mixed use redevelopment.  Windhager also directs the Sustainable Sites Initiative, a Wildflower Center partnership with the American Society of Landscape Architects and the U.S. Botanic Garden that has developed the nation’s first rating system for the design, construction and maintenance of sustainable landscapes.

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, Director
Center for Sustainable Development
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.

Susan Hovorka, Senior Research Scientist
Bureau of Economic Geology
Jackson School of Geosciences
Hovorka leads a team developing techniques for permanently storing carbon dioxide deep underground as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere and tackle climate change. The process is known as carbon sequestration, or carbon capture and storage. She is the principal investigator for the university’s Gulf Coast Carbon Center, which is pioneering the monitoring tools needed to ensure that the carbon dioxide stays put after it’s injected underground. Hovorka was named one of “35 People Shaping the Future” by Texas Monthly magazine in 2008.

Susan K. Rieff, Executive Director
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Rieff is an expert in sustainability and resource protection with 30 years of experience directing major policy initiatives in Texas and nationally. Before becoming the Wildflower Center director in 2004, she was involved in environmental policy decisions as the policy director for land stewardship for the National Wildlife Federation, deputy chief of staff for the U.S. Department of the Interior, and the director of environmental policy for the late Gov. Ann Richards, among other positions.

Michael Webber, Associate Director
Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy
Jackson School of Geosciences
Webber analyzes energy problems at the intersection of science, engineering and public policy. Research topics include: biofuels, waste-to-energy, energy and security, green design, energy in Texas, the nexus of energy and food, and the nexus of water and energy. Webber is co-director of the Clean Energy Incubator at the Austin Technology Incubator, Fellow of the Strauss Center for International Security and Law at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, and assistant professor of mechanical engineering. He is one of the originators of the Pecan Street Project, a citywide, multi-institutional effort in Austin to create the electricity and water utilities of the future by the innovation and implementation of smart grids, smart meters and smart appliances.

Dave Allen, Professor
Chemical Engineering
Cockrell School of Engineering
Allen’s work focuses on improving urban air quality and the development of materials for environmental education. As director of the university’s Center for Energy and Environmental Resources he focuses on efficient and economical use of energy and on ensuring a cleaner environment by developing, in cooperation with industry, processes and technologies that minimize waste and conserve natural resources

Human-Environment Interactions

Kelley Crews, Associate Professor
Department of Geography and the Environment; Director, Geographic Information Science Center
College of Liberal Arts
Crews, who is currently doing research in Botswana, studies 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. She can be reached via email.

William Doolittle, Professor
Department of Geography and the Environment
College of Liberal Arts
Doolittle teaches courses on the Landscapes of Mexico and Caribbean America, the historical geography of the American Southwest, Field Techniques, and ecologically sustainable and indigenously developed agricultural strategies. His research interests include landscapes, histories, and agricultural technologies in arid lands. His ongoing projects include “Forests to Fields,” monitoring environmental and land use change associated with agriculture in the northwest Mexico; and “EarthShapers,” developing theories of landscape evolution involving the agency and import of individuals.

Damon Waitt, Senior Botanist
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Waitt serves as the Wildflower Center’s botanical authority and uses his experience developing web-based resources as director of the Center’s Native Plant Information Network, the largest online database about native plants in North America. He also tracks how harmful plants and animals threaten those that are native to Texas and other states while serving on the Invasive Species Advisory Committee for the National Invasive Species Council. Actively involved in establishing tools for tracking non-native plants in Texas, he is past president of the Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Council and chairs the National Association of Exotic Pest Plant Councils.

Richard Corsi, Professor
Environmental Engineering
Cockrell School of Engineering
Corsi researches indoor air quality, the sources and control of indoor air pollution and human exposure to toxins in indoor environments.

Landscape Architecture

Hope Hasbrouck, Graduate Adviser and Assistant Professor
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.

Social Equity and Sustainability

Ipsita Chatterjee, Assistant Professor
Department of Geography and Environment
College of Liberal Arts
Chatterjee’s research interests include the economic, cultural and geopolitical implications of globalization in the First and the Third world. She has taught courses and seminars on Globalization, Conflict, Resistance, Geography of International Affairs, Elements of Cultural Geography, Human Geography.

Elizabeth Mueller, 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.

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.

Tom Edgar, Professor
Chemical Engineering
Cockrell School of Engineering
Edgar serves on the board of the U.S. Department of Energy’s $10.4 million Pecan Street Project which seeks to reinvent the nation’s energy delivery system and use Austin as the living laboratory. The project seeks to design and implement a system that generates energy from clean sources within the city and delivers it by means of an advanced system that allows management and conservation at the customer level.

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.

Mark Simmons, Ecologist
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Simmons focuses on using native plants to address ecological issues. He is developing a native lawn alternative to the high-maintenance grasses typically used on American lawns. He also researches how to control plants that threaten native plant species, to use native vegetation for green roofs, and urban green spaces to combat climate change.  He advises the Clinton Climate Initiative of the William Clinton Foundation, which works with governments and businesses to address climate change. And he participates in Wildflower Center consulting projects that include the re-vegetation of 8 miles of the San Antonio River south of downtown, and innovative park design projects with native plants.

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. His 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.

Danny Reible, Professor
Environmental Engineering
Cockrell School of Engineering
Reible studies contaminant processes in the environment and the best methods to assess and remediate contaminated sediments. He has developed widely used methods of managing contaminated sediments and continues research into containment and in place treatment of contaminated sediments. He researches sediments polluted with both organic contaminants, mercury and other heavy metals. Of special interest are extremely soft, oily or gas-filled sediments that are difficult to manage by traditional means. Reible is also studying how pollution spreads due to the activities of sediment-dwelling organisms, and how oily contaminants accumulate in these organisms.

Gerald E. Speitel, Professor
Environmental and Water Resources Engineering
Cockrell School of Engineering
Speitel develops water treatment processes for hazardous organic chemicals including biodegradation and adsorption. He also studies drinking water treatment and develops computer models of water treatment processes.