Taking advantage of state-of-the-art facilities and led by experts among its affiliated faculty, ESI helps sponsor, support, and conduct environmental science research across central Texas. Like ESI, these research efforts transcend disciplinary boundaries. Featured current projects include:
Texas Climate Change and Drought History
Beginning in May, 2009, the Environmental Science Institute at The University of Texas at Austin (UT) partnered with the Guadalupe Blanco River Authority (GBRA) and the University of Arkansas Tree Ring Lab (UA) to research and reconstruct the drought history of central Texas over the past several hundred years by studying the cores of bald cypress trees.
Calibrating the Paleosol Carbonate CO2 Barometer for Vertic Paleosols By Monitoring Soil CO2 in Modern Vertisols
Dr. Dan Breecker, Assistant Professor, Department of Geological Sciences
With a grant from the National Science Foundation and support from Environmental Science Institute, and in collaboration with Baylor University scientists, Dr. Dan Breecker is investigating the persistence of greenhouse climates (warm, ice-free Earth) under these relatively low atmospheric CO2 concentrations, and the suggestion that the Earth’s surface temperature is much more sensitive to atmospheric CO2 than currently thought.
The Hidden Half of Ecosystem Responses to Climate Change: What Happens Belowground
Dr. Christine Hawkes, Assistant Professor, Section of Integrative Biology
With a grant from the Department of Energy’s National Institute for Climatic Change Research and support from and the Environmental Science Institute, Dr. Christine Hawkes is researching how soils and soil microorganisms will respond to climate change and how these responses will feedback to ecosystem carbon cycling. Ultimately, this research will provide the information needed to quantitatively assess how belowground responses, particularly soil fungal responses, will alter soil carbon cycling under projected future climate scenarios.
Mechanisms of Regional Climate Change and Impacts on Water Availability in Texas from the Last Glacial Maximum to Present-Day
Dr. Jay Banner, Director, Environmental Science Institute
Dr. Liang Yang, Professor, Department of Geological Sciences
With funding from the National Science Foundation and support from the Environmental Science Institute, Drs. Jay Banner and Liang Yang are exploring the American Southwest and the Edwards Plateau’s high sensitivity to climate change and water availability. Integrating cave calcite proxy records and models of climate change, Drs. Banner and Yang will reconstruct past climate change in this region to improve our understanding of present and future climate change processes.