Environmental interdisciplinary research initiatives






• Environmental problems will have increasing impact in the future.

• Most of these problems are interdisciplinary in nature.

• Dealing with these problems will be of increasing priority.




How can Rice play a greater role in environmental problem solving?



• Develop cross-disciplinary curricula and research teams.

• Apply Rice expertise to addressing problems of regional/community relevance

• Develop partnerships with other local institutions to expand our impact.




    Examples of possible initiatives




    1. Health and the Urban Environment (topical approach).


    Impacts of air, water, and soil quality on the biological and economical health and overall quality of life. Focus on Greater Houston area as a laboratory.

    Partnering between Rice Science and Engineering Departments and Institutes, UT School of Public Health, and other entities. We have some communication with UT in place

    High-profile public-interest research; Houston is a prime suspect wrt health/environmental problems

    Will require interfacing between Science, Engineering, Social Sciences and Humanities. Rice has existing strengths in water quality, health statistics, air monitoring (?); we would need additional faculty in regional atmospheric modeling, air chemistry, etc.


    2. Greater Houston-Galveston Area (regional approach).


    Interdisciplinary studies with Rice working with Houston community and institutions to assess/solve environmental problems at many scales/topics, including such issues as demographics, land-use planning, transportation, environmental history and quality, industrial processes (pollution, product designs, mathematical modelling, etc.).

    The regional-scale environment reflects most of the global-scale environmental problems, with interfaces between natural, agricultural, industrial, and space-age environments. There are many opportunities for research /teaching partnerships between Rice and community entities.








  • 1. Preliminary assessment of relevant research areas and fruitful collaborations/partnerships.


    • Increased communication within the Rice community.

    • Outreach to the Greater Houston community to establish entry points for Rice faculty/students.



    2. Rice-sponsored Houston community conference for the purpose of problem identification, team building, and information exchange.


    • Define the scope and nature of problems and prioritize them.

    • Identify stake-holders, funding sources, etc.



    2. Rice faculty enhancement.


    • Pinpoint discrepancies between what we have and what positions are needed for viable research efforts.


    (supplemental handouts)



    3. International Environmental Issues.



  • If EESI shifts focus to financial aspects of fuels commodities and Baker Institute continues its bridge-building role with the Middle East, then Rice is in an advantageous position to be involved in the global energy/CO2 problem/resolution. This exciting prospect will require a major faculty enhancement across the campus.




    Research initiatives of departmental scope or topical character



    Water resources - surface flow, hydrology, quality, pollution, geochemistry, aquatic biology, wetland ecology, estuarine ecology


    Atmospheric processes - transport, pollution, atmospheric chemistry, global warming, vegetation-atmosphere exchange of materials (water vapor, bvocs, energy)


    Green chemistry - applications to environmental issues.

    • Chemistry, biochemistry, medical applications, industrial and engineering applications, synthesis processes, etc.



    Geology & Geophysics.

    • Basin analysis - tectonics, stratigraphy, seismic reflection, sedimentation, hydrology, geochemistry, resource geology, etc.

    • Crustal tectonics - structural geology, geochronology, petrology, geomorphology, geophysics, etc.

    • Paleoceanography/climate change - marine geology, sedimentation, glaciology, geochemistry, paleontology, climate modelling



    Ecology & Evolutionary Biology.


    • Biogeochemistry - identification of effects of human alteration of global biogeochemical cycles on natural and managed systems;

    • Biodiversity - understanding what determines system biodiversity;

    • Conservation biology - studies of natural systems to identify goals for system restoration and potential restoration mechanisms that mimic or enhance natural processes.

    • Studies of invasive species, invasibility of nature preserves, pressure on natural systems.

    • Global warming - effects of global warming on natural vegetation patterns and processes