Impetus for environmental research initiatives


  • • Environmental problems will have increasing impact in the future

    • Most of these problems are complex and 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 develop critical mass

    • Adopt thematic research/curricular initiatives to focus and intensify our impact


  • Examples of possible initiatives


    1. Health and the Urban Environment (topical approach)


    Impacts of air, water, and soil quality on biological and economical health and overall quality of life of urban areas. Focus on Greater Houston area as a laboratory offers advantages:


  • Partnering between Rice Science & Engineering Departments and Institutes, UT School of Public Health, and other entities

    High-profile public-interest research; define health/environmental problems in the Houston area 

    Will require interfacing between Science, Engineering, Social Sciences and Humanities. Rice with its partners 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 in research /teaching partnerships with Houston community and institutions to assess/solve environmental problems at many scales/topics:

    Local environmental issues reflect many important global-scale environmental problems, with interfaces between natural, agricultural, industrial, and space-age environments. Research on these issues (incl. demographics, land-use planning, transportation, environmental history and quality, industrial processes [pollution, product designs, mathematical modelling, etc.]) will be widely transferable, can be at the ‘cutting edge’, and should be fundable (perhaps from non-traditional sources).







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

    • Increased communication within the Rice community

    • Outreach to the Greater Houston community to establish entry points for Rice faculty/students and vice versa



    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.



    3. Rice faculty enhancement. 

    • Pinpoint discrepancies between existing faculty strengths and what positions or academic structures are needed to enhance/optimize research efforts


    (supplemental handouts - other examples)
  • International Environmental Issues

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


    Research initiatives of departmental scope or topical character


  • Green chemistry - applications to environmental issues

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


    Remote sensing, satellite imaging, instrumental developments - science and engineering advances to monitor environmental conditions at various scales


    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)


    Geology & Geophysics

    • ‘Basin analysis’ - tectonics, stratigraphy, seismic reflection, sedimentation, hydrology, geochemistry, resource geology, etc. - related to water and resource issues

    • Crustal tectonics - structural geology, geochronology, petrology, geomorphology, geophysics, etc. - related to evolution of the land surface

    • Paleoceanography/climate change - marine geology, sedimentation, glaciology, geochemistry, paleontology, climate modelling - related to atmospheric/oceanographic enviromental conditions over long time scales


    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