Summer Research Program

ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE INSTITUTE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS IN AUSTIN 
SUMMER RESEARCH PROGRAM
IN URBAN WATERSHED EVOLUTION

The Environmental Science Institute (ESI) of the University of Texas at Austin will host a remote Summer Research Program on Urban Watershed Evolution during the summer of 2021 for undergraduates interested in environmental science research. The 2021 program will begin Monday, June 7, and end Friday, August 6, 2021. You can apply here. Applications are due February 15, 2021.

WHY CONDUCT RESEARCH ON URBAN WATERSHED EVOLUTION IN AUSTIN, TEXAS?

More than 80% of the US population currently lives in urban areas and it is estimated that by 2030, 80-90% of the global population will live in cities. Texas, one of the most rapidly urbanizing states in the nation and a state where water resources are limited, has a critical need to improve the management of its urban watershed health, especially in the context of climate change. We must improve our monitoring of soil, vegetation, and other ecological processes that govern watershed hydrologic function so that we can better understand the essential ecological function of our urban watersheds. The implementation of such monitoring and management practices in the city of Austin is timely given the high levels of urbanization of key watersheds such as the Waller Creek, Shoal Creek, and Bull Creek watersheds, among others.

The Waller Creek watershed covers ~6 square miles of central Austin, including portions of downtown, the University of Texas campus, and a mix of residential, commercial, and civic land uses and is a great testbed for research on the biodiversity and ecological functions supported by a heterogeneous watershed. The Waller Creek watershed is also fully urbanized, with approximately 60-70% of the total land area covered by impervious surfaces. Because much of the development in the Waller Creek watershed occurred before stormwater management regulations were in place, Waller Creek exhibits symptoms of the “urban stream syndrome,” such as flashy flows, substantial erosion, loss of baseflow, and impaired water quality. Thus, there is increasing concern about its current and future ability to support biodiversity and ecological function.

WHY STUDY AT THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN?

UT Austin is home to top faculty and researchers in the area of global change research, and ESI brings together UT researchers from a variety of disciplines to build connections between scientific and policy fields related to the environment in the area of Global Change, thereby giving program participants a broad perspective on the state of climate change science and impacts. This also means that undergraduates in the program conduct environmental research that cuts across disciplinary boundaries and participants are encouraged to tackle these multidimensional environmental issues with this unique, interdisciplinary perspective. ESI’s remote Summer Research Program in Urban Watershed Evolution offers: (1) an engaging research experience, (2) the excitement of scientific inquiry, (3) professional development opportunities, (4) research communication workshops and symposia, and (5) an expanded perspective on graduate school and a career in science.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Please check out our frequently asked questions.  For questions not listed, please contact our office at esi@esi.utexas.edu or (512) 471-4974.

 

PHOTOS FROM PREVIOUS SUMMER PROGRAMS

wortham in lab

Research Program student preparing a dissolved calcite sample in the Isotope Geochemistry Clean Lab.

frieda in the field with litter and duff

Research program student in the field collecting forest litter and duff.

waller in lab

Research student operating the sediment feeder for the experimental flume.

damaris in lab

Student extracting lipids from Arctic sediment core samples for IP25 analysis.

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Students performing a benthic macroinvertebrate survey in Bull Creek, Austin, Texas.  Here, a Surber sampler is used to assess a community of indicator organisms in order to assess stream health.

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Students investigating Cretaceous limestone faulting of the Edwards Aquifer in Inner Space Cavern, Georgetown, Texas.  Faults play a significant role in the hydrogeology of this regionally-important water resource.