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Current Projects

Developing a Coastal Communities Planning Atlas as an Educational Tool for Decision Makers and Local Residents    >> Link to Coastal Community Planning Atlas Map ViewerNew!
Funded by the Nation Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration's Sea Grant program, this project will develop a coastal communities planning atlas to help local jurisdictions in Texas understand the implications of development decisions and plan appropriately for the future. It will provide an easily accessible, graphically represented, interactive database on environmental, hazard, and land use related issues for local communities. Specifically, the project will create an Internet-based spatial decision support system that will allow users to identify and visualize critical hotspots related to environmental degradation, natural hazard risks, and significant changes in land use patterns. In additional, users will be able to query data and create custom maps based on multiple development scenarios. Communities will be able to use this educational tool to guide future decisions on growth in a sustainable manner such that the need for economic development is balanced with priorities associated with environmental protection and human health, safety, and welfare. The system will also help address important research questions related to where future growth will occur in the Texas coastal zone, the impacts of this growth, and the usefulness of WebGIS in facilitating sustainable planning.

Development of a Land Use Change Early Warning System
The objective of this project is to develop an “early warning” system for planned or permitted changes in land use occurring outside the national parks of the Gulf Coast Network (GULN).  The system will compile publicly available information about changes in land use and provide that information to the park staff in a format that is geographically linked, easy to use, and able to be frequently updated.  This will be accomplished by mapping permits that affect properties adjacent to the Park on a continual basis and delivering this information as maps to park managers. Park staff will then have the option to participate in, comment on, or respond internally to any actions they deem appropriate.  The intent is to give park managers the information needed to plan accordingly for upcoming changes in land use near the park.

Border Enforcement, Importer Behavior, and Trade-Related Invasive Species
The goal of this project is to inform government decision makers concerning border enforcement and inspections given heterogeneous importers and ports-of-entry in order to mitigate trade-related invasive species risk. The investigators will develop a theoretical model of port inspection/enforcement behavior to analyze both intended and unintended importer response to enforcement effort. This theoretical analysis will provide the framework for a spatially explicit agent-based model (ABM) of importer and inspector behavior. The ABM framework allows for a comprehensive account of both risk and heterogeneity of actors. The model will be calibrated for representative commodities using data on border enforcement, shipments, interceptions, importers, and port attributes. Enforcement and inspection policies will be evaluated using a spatially-informed damage function, allowing for the ranking of policy options based on welfare effects, rather than just on infection rates.

Understanding Local Support for Climate Change Mitigation in the United States, in partnership with the Institute of Science, Technology and Public Policy
This study examines local level support for climate change initiatives in the United States . First, we extend previous conceptual models explaining risk perception associated with global climate change by adding a spatial dimension. Specifically, we use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and spatial analytical techniques to map and measure survey respondents' physical risk associated with potential climate change. Using existing spatial data, we analyze multiple measures of climate change vulnerability along with demographic, attitudinal, and social contextual variables derived from a representative national survey that predicts variation in risk perception. Analysis of the data suggests that the relationship between actual and perceived risk is driven by specific types of physical conditions and experiences. These results provide important information to policy makers interested in mitigating the adverse impacts of global climate change on local communities. Second, we examine the reasons why local jurisdictions in the U.S. voluntarily commit to the Cities for Climate Protection (CCP) campaign. Using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) analytic techniques, we map and measure a locality's vulnerability to climate change impacts at the county level of spatial precision. We analyze multiple measures of climate change vulnerability, including expected temperature change, extreme weather events, and coastal proximity, as well as economic, demographic, and civic participation variables that constitute a locality's socioeconomic capacity to commit to climate change policy initiatives.

Perceived Risks and Willingness to Pay for Hurricane Protection
Currently transplanted New Orleans residents will be in the sample used for the analysis, with possible inclusion of other Gulf Coast residents who may be relocating because of Hurricane Rita. These residents will then be tracked for approximately one year and asked their updated perceptions and willingness to pay to reduce hurricane risks. The results will test the commonly held hypotheses that perceived risks are high immediately following an event such as Hurricane Katrina, but will fall over time, and that willingness to pay will depend on the magnitude of these risks. State-of the art economic thinking on the way to incorporate subjective risks into behavioral modeling will be combined with a formal model of willingness to pay under risk or uncertainty. WTP will be obtained using choice experiments, where respondents will be presented with choices, each containing several attributes of housing location decisions. Included in these will be possible chances of future hurricane damage, and a key economic variable relating to the price of a home or the cost of living in that location. The research team will design a survey to give in person, to transplanted New Orleans residents currently living in College Station , Texas , and possibly some from the Galveston area who may evacuate because of Hurricane Rita.

Modeling watershed flooding and adaptive flood management: an integrative plan for research, teaching and learning. (NSF award number 0346673)
As population growth and urban development continue to expand in the coastal margin, flooding poses a major threat to human safety and the integrity of the natural environment. To mitigate the adverse impacts of coastal flooding, decision makers are increasingly advocating watershed or ecosystem approaches to management. While it is argued that some of the most serious flood hazards are the result of a failure to understand the regional ecological context, little empirical research has been done on how growth and development patterns increase the threat of floods at the watershed level and how communities respond over time to repetitive flooding events.
Associated Courses
   PLAN 689
   PLAN 641
   RLEM410 Lecture

Past Projects

Ecosystem Planning in Florida
While much research has been geared toward instituting the broad principles of managing natural systems, comparatively little work has been done to evaluate the specific tools and strategies involved in implementing ecosystem management at the local level. To date, little or no empirical research has been conducted to determine how local jurisdictions can best incorporate the principles of ecosystem management into their planning and regulatory frameworks. Ecosystem management was derived from federal-level thinking, but effective implementation of the approach will be achieved at the local level with sound planning efforts. Long-term success of ecosystem approaches to resource management thus rests on understanding how local plans effectively capture their key principles and practices.

A Multi-Criteria Spatial Site Suitability Analysis for Oil and Gas Exploration in Texas
Recent interest in expanding offshore oil production within waters of the United States has been met with opposition by groups concerned with recreational, environmental, and aesthetic values associated with the coastal zone.  While the proposition of new oil platforms off the coast has generated conflict over how coastal resources should be utilized, little research has been conducted on where these user conflicts may be most intense and which sites may be most suitable for locating oil production facilities in light of the multiple, and often times, competing values.  In this article, we develop a multiple criteria spatial decision support tool that identifies the least contentious locations for oil and gas production activities in the coastal margin of Texas.  We use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to measure and map a range of potentially competing values impacted by establishing energy extraction infrastructure and then spatially identify optimal locations that may reduce the possibility of intractable conflicts for all leased tracts in Texas state waters.  Visual and statistical results indicate that oil and gas lease blocks within the study area vary in their potential to generate conflict among multiple stakeholders and display a clear spatial profile.
Associated Courses
   PLAN 689

Conflict Mapping in Texas
The sustainable management of coastal natural resources inevitably involves identifying stakeholder conflicts and developing planning processes which prevent these conflicts from becoming intractable disputes. This study links environmental conflict to specific areas within a large ecological system.
   • completed by students in PLAN 689
   • Publication PDF

Mapping Environmental Perceptions in Texas, in partnership with the Institute of Science, Technology and Public Policy

This project is based on a series of studies conducted in partnership with the Institute of Science, Technology and Public Policy at the Bush School of Government. This research focuses on spatially analyzing environmental perceptions in major urban areas across the state. We combine survey data with spatial analytical techniques to better understand how location, proximity, and space impacts environmental perceptions. Two studies examine environmental perceptions for water quality in San Antonio and one study examines perceptions of air quality in Dallas and Houston.
   • Institute of Science, Technology and Public Policy
   • Bush School of Government

Modeling the Per Capita Ecological Footprint for Dallas County, Texas: Examining Demographic, Environmental Value, Land-Use, and Spatial Influences
An Ecological Footprint (EF) represents how much humans depend on natural resources. This study addresses the elements driving the variation in the per capita EF in Dallas County, Texas. The explanatory variables include demography, environmental values, spatial attributes, and land-use patterns. The study is based on a survey, GIS routines, and a multiple regression method. 800 residents were sampled from the 2003 Dallas Central Appraisal District residential records. Census TIGER data, 2000 land-use map, and Landsat7 ETM+ image are utilized to measure the spatial attributes. This study will contribute to the understanding of the ecological, social, and spatial dimensions of sustainability.