Research Facilities

ESI is affiliated with a number of departments and institutes across UT, including the Department of Geological Sciences, the Institute for Geophysics, the Department of Geography and the Environment, the School of Biological Sciences, and Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry who maintain state-of-the-arts facilities for environmental analysis.


Marine Science Institute (College of Natural Sciences)

The Marine Science Institute, with continuous usage by a resident research staff since 1946, is the oldest marine laboratory on the Texas Gulf Coast. The Institute’s 83,000 square foot headquarters on 72 acres of beach front land consists of a series of interconnected buildings containing laboratories, offices, library, museum exhibit halls, classrooms, a visitors center, auditorium, seminar rooms, and workshops. All laboratories are air-conditioned and supplied with air, natural gas, deionized water and filtered seawater, and have approved chemical waste-disposal facilities. Facilities for biochemistry, mass spectrometry and image analysis exist. A 10,000 sq.ft. wet-laboratory is supplied with filtered running seawater. An additional 7,000 sq.ft. of wet lab is set up for fish studies. Other buildings on the grounds of the Institute include 9,500 sq.ft. of dormitories (70 beds), a cafeteria, physical plant complex, garages, greenhouses, walk-in freezers, and several outdoor pool/habitat tanks. A five-acre boat basin/marina provides homeport for research vessels (R/V Longhorn and R/V Katy, and eight small boats). A mile west of the main building complex, the Fisheries and Mariculture Laboratory occupies 26,000 sq.ft. of buildings on 10 acres adjacent to the ship channel. The Institute Library contains over 10,000 books and 37,000 bound volumes of journals.


Texas Natural Science Center (College of Natural Sciences)

The Texas Natural Science Center hosts a complete lab for growth and experimentation on diatoms, including paleontological and morphological studies, physiological experiments and DNA analysis in the Section of Integrative Biology on the Pickle Research Campus, where the collections are housed in a specially designed, climate-controlled facility. This facility also contains basic microscope and wet and dry labs as required for collection maintenance and research, as well as basic computation equipment for basic database maintenance. There is also laboratory space in which live fishes are maintained, and additional similar laboratory facilities in building 18A, including rudimentary environmental chambers where temperature and photoperiod may be controlled.


Brackenridge Field Laboratory (College of Natural Sciences)

The Brackenridge Field Laboratory (BFL) is a unique research unit because of the breadth and interdisciplinary nature of research it supports, its strong role in undergraduate teaching programs in the life sciences, and its value as a magnet attracting top faculty and graduate students to UT-Austin. The field laboratory is a focus for faculty and research students interested in phenomena and processes that arise from the interaction of organisms in nature. BFL provides a benchmark against which change can be scientifically evaluated. UT-Austin thus provides a unique opportunity for ecological research within an urban context and contributes to management and conservation of our ecological systems. For example, documentations of the native ant communities at BFL prior to arrival of imported fire ants placed BFL in a unique position to become a center of research on this pest species.


Center for Environmental Research (in collaboration with the City of Austin and Texas A&M University)

The Center for Environmental Research, located at Hornsby Bend, is a nationally recognized biodiversity research site that promotes research and education about urban sustainability and ecology.  The Center was founded in 1988 as a partnership between UT-Austin, the City of Austin Water and Wastewater, and Texas A&M University, and provides numerous Texas universities along with federal and state agencies with the opportunity to utilize the Hornsby Bend site for education and research on biosolids, soil ecology, biodiversity, riparian ecology, and more.


Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology (College of Natural Sciences)

The Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology provides facilities for DNA and protein sequencing at subsidized rates on a user-fee recovery basis and for the detailed analysis of those sequences. Other facilities available include a luminometer, phosphorimager, and plasmon resonance biosensor. Confocal and both scanning and transmission electron microscopes are also maintained by the Institute.


Plant Resources Center (College of Natural Sciences)

The Plant Resources Center consists of the combined Lundell and University of Texas Herbaria plus associated research and outreach activities, is the largest repository of vascular plant biodiversity in the US Southwest. Its 1,100,000 specimens document the historical and geographical plant diversity of Texas, the southwestern USA, Latin America, and other parts of the world. These collections allow researchers to study vegetation, plant evolution, and phytogeography. Scientists, engineers, government workers, and consultants use distribution data contained in these specimens for a variety of environmental research-related questions. Data for these collections are being made available over the World Wide Web.


UTEX Culture Collection (NSF Funded)

The UTEX Culture Collection serves as a source of living algae for the research, biotechnology and teaching communities. It is the oldest, and probably the largest and genetically most diverse collection of living algae in the world with over 2,200 strains, representing 15 divisions (phyla) of algae. More than 3,000 cultures are sent annually to users worldwide, most of whom use them for environmental assessment. The primary current research associated with the collection involves cryopreservation, and over a thousand different strains are now permanently maintained in liquid nitrogen.


Environmental Information Systems Laboratory (Department of Geography and the Environment)

The EIS Lab founded in 1985, provides comprehensive resources for learning and research in cartography, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), remote sensing, and spatial statistics. It is primarily a teaching laboratory, which (in conjunction with the hypermedia hall) has the capacity to train 400 students a year. As of summer 1999 the laboratory contains twenty-five Windows NT workstations, which are connected to the Internet and campus-wide network through high-speed ethernet connections. The laboratory is also equipped with scanners, digitizers, plotters, GPS receivers, a TOTAL station unit for field mapping, and audio-visual equipment for hypermedia production. The PCs run a variety of software for GIS, computer cartography, and remote sensing, including ArcView (with Spatial Analyst, Image Analyst, and 3D Modeler), Intergraph MGE, IDRISI, Surfer, and AutoCAD. Since it was founded, the laboratory has received over $1.5 million in extramural grants and equipment donations to expand its capabilities.


Digital Landscape Laboratory (Department of Geography and the Environment) 

The Digital Landscape Laboratory is a GIS and remote-sensing facility designed to support research efforts directed toward modeling and characterizing Earth’s varied processes through Geomorphology, Biogeography, and Landscape Ecology.


Applied Geomorphology and Geo-Archaeology Laboratory (Department of Geography and the Environment) 

The Applied Geomorphology and Geo-Archaeology Laboratory is designed for field study and laboratory analysis of soils, sediments, and archaeological materials.


Palynology Laboratory (Department of Geography and the Environment) 

The Palynology Laboratory is a modern facility designed for palynological preparation of all types of materials. The 3200-species UT Herbarium Pollen Reference Collection is housed in the Palynology Laboratory; most pollen is from the southern Great Plains, desert grasslands, and Chihuahuan Desert. The laboratory is used primarily for graduate student research in the disciplines of geography, botany, archeology, and geology.


Soils Laboratory (Department of Geography and the Environment)

The Soils Laboratory is designed to support both field research and laboratory analysis of mineral and organic soils and sediments. The laboratory also includes a wide diversity of equipment for pedological field sampling, topographic surveying, and soil-profile characterization., as well as instructional equipment for environmental education.


Weather and Climate Resource Center (Department of Geography and the Environment)

The Weather and Climate Resource Center is a facility designed to collect both local and global meteorological data. A satellite dish link provides real time alphanumeric weather data from the National Weather Service. A variety of public and proprietary radar and satellite imagery is available through an ethernet-linked computer system. A rooftop weather station installed in 1998 provides real time weather status; it is part of KVUE’s citywide network of local weather reporting units.


Jackson School of Geosciences Facilities

Research in environmental change in the Jackson School of Geoscience’s Department of Geological Sciences and Institute for Geophysics uses a range of state-of-the-art technology for dating biological and mineral deposits; for tracing the evolution of atmospheric gases, groundwater, surface water, the oceans, soils, and a range of fauna; for selecting sites and obtaining drill cores of ice sheets and ocean-floor material, and analyzing these samples. This technology includes: stable and radiogenic isotope and high-resolution trace element analysis by mass spectrometry; inorganic and organic geochemical analysis; computed X-ray tomography; a microbeam laboratory; computer modeling of the global hydrologic cycle and groundwater flow; remote sensing of changes in the Earth’s surface and atmosphere; undersea sampling/analysis; aerogeophysics; and modeling and inversion.