Onion Creek Watershed and Montopolis

GEO371T students visited the Guerrero Metro Park in the Montopolis area to meet Dr. Timothy Goudge, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin, who informed students about the environmental justice issues in the area and methods to record geological data. The park’s construction removed several trees in the area, bringing into question the environmental impact the park has on an area already susceptible to environmental impacts. Concerningly, a neighborhood near the park faces threats of collapse due to the soil’s vulnerability to erosion. The soil texture, which is mostly loose and fine-grained—similar to sand—is extremely susceptible to erosion, making the area’s tendency to flood catastrophic for houses near the banks. Most worryingly, the process of erosion is an unsolvable problem—it is impossible for humans to stop this natural process, making the only solution a remediation tactic rather than a true solution. Dr. Goudge also explained the usage of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), more commonly known as drones, in recording geological data for research usage. The benefits of UAVs include its relatively low cost, accuracy, and ease of use. The limitations include a limited range of usage, as the user of the drone must always be in a clear line of sight of the drone; however, the benefits outweigh the limitations, as Dr. Goudge often uses it for his research.

A representative from Ecology Action spoke to students about Circles Acres and other Ecology Action initiatives in Austin. Ecology Action is an environmental justice organization in Austin dedicated to fighting against climate change by recycling and restoring natural areas that have been negatively impacted by pollution and climate change. An example of their work is Circle Acres, a nature preserve that was previously an illegal dumping site. Through recycling and restoration efforts, Ecology Action has successfully made Circle Acres safe for the public to admire nature, while still being reminded of the impacts they have on the environment.

To finish the week’s activities, GEO371T students visited Daniel Llanes’ studio. Daniel Llanes is an Austin-based performance artist specializing in dance and music. He tackles political issues through his art and song. Mr. Llanes has been dancing for thirty years but upon learning about deeper political issues that could affect him and his family, he decided to protest and speak up against them through song and dance. To demonstrate, Mr. Llanes performed a series of beautiful dances and songs for the class that emphasized the beauty of nature. In appreciation of his art, the Mayor of Austin proclaimed August 6th, 2015, to be “Daniel Llanes Day”. Mr. Llanes revealed a unique but effective way to induce change.