Environmental Strategic Plan&emdash;Natural Sciences

Assessment&emdash;Feb 4, 1999

Areas for development that build on an existing base in science or engineering:

  • Ecosystems and Natural Resources includes biodiversity, ecosystem structure and dynamics, environmental microbiology, environmental modeling, and environment in literature.

    Surficial Processes primarily addresses the physical aspects of the geo- and hydrospheres, including particularly low-temperature geochemistry and surface-air interactions relevant to global change.

    Atmospheric processes are relevant to both air pollution control and global climate change.

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    Specific Goal: 3) Develop Ecology and Earth Systems.

    a. Environmental Geology

  • low-temperature geochemistry [Andreas Luttge started Jan ’99. Specialty is experimental studies of weathering reactions. He is also interested in microbial influences on geochemical reactions]

    geomorphology [search re-directed to include paleoclimatology/paleooceanography, which could strengthen global change capabilities]

  • b. Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

  • ecosystem modeling; aquatic systems; biosphere &endash; surface interactions; large-scale processes (analysis of complex environmental problems at regional scales) [EEB search in 1998 for a community ecologist resulted in hiring of E. Siemann, who studies biodiversity]
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    Hiring priorities

  • Atmosphere (paleoclimatology, chemistry, biosphere-atmosphere exchange)

    Biogeochemistry

    Biodiversity

  • Issues

  • Interest in Physics, Chemistry, Biochemistry and Math seems low. We need to find ways to gain broader support across the science departments.

    Both EEB and G&G feel strong needs to maintain existing strengths; our ability to influence them to target environmental specialties would be greatly enhanced if we could offer incentives. We should examine the dynamics of what influences such decisions.

  • Recommendations

    • Explore the possibilities of creating at least one environmental science position that is independent of (or additional to) existing departmental slots, but will be filled with an environmental scientist in an area complementary to existing departmental strengths.
    • Promote development of programs with strong local applications (e.g. Environmental Health or Galveston Bay, or regional sustainability). Galveston Bay is the nation’s second most productive estuary, but is threatened with overuse and neglect as well as rapid population growth. Such ecosystems elsewhere in the nation and the world have assumed a high priority for study and protection. Also, our proximity to the Johnson Space Center may offer opportunities in remote sensing, understanding modifications to regional habitats and global climate change. Such programs could be effective vehicles for attracting new funds.