Projects receive funding from Rice Houston Engagement and Recovery Effort

Nine projects for post-Hurricane Harvey research have been awarded funding by the Rice Houston Engagement and Recovery Effort (HERE). The projects are aimed at making the city of Houston and surrounding areas stronger and more sustainable following the devastation caused by the storm’s record rainfall.

Photo credit: Rice University

Photo credit: Rice University

“When Hurricane Harvey dumped its historic rains on Houston, many at Rice volunteered immediately to help those affected and provide advice,” President David Leebron said. “We also recognized the necessity of using Rice’s research capacity both to understand better the effects of Harvey and how we can best respond—now and in the future. This initiative is part of that response. We appreciate that our faculty and staff have volunteered to continue pursuing this effort with the support of university grants to cover expenses.”

“Rice HERE leverages the university’s expertise broadly to serve Houston with new and innovative approaches to address issues of pressing local importance,” Provost Marie Lynn Miranda said. “We are partnering with the city to ensure a strong response to what has already happened and to better position the city, including its social and physical infrastructure, for the future.”

Following the completion of the projects, all data will be available via Rice’s Urban Data Platform (UDP), created to support a deeper understanding of Houston’s people, government and built environment. The UDP is housed within Rice’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research and is a computing environment and secure data repository of research-ready geocoded data for the Houston metropolitan area that aims to facilitate cross-disciplinary research and community investigations.

The winning projects received grants ranging from $15,000 to $50,000 and were chosen from 27 proposals submitted by researchers from across the university. A committee appointed by the president and provost selected the awardees on the basis of the quality, significance and potential impact of the project, the novelty of the project relative to work already in progress and the contribution it will make to serving Houston.  The winners are listed below.

Look for the Helpers, Listen for the Stories: Supporting Prekindergarten and Kindergarten Students Post-Harvey
Rice collaborators: Karen Capo, director of literacy and culture for the Glasscock School of Continuing Studies and Jennifer Gigliotti-Labay, associate dean of the Glasscock School of Continuing Studies.
Overview: For more than 25 years, School Literacy and Culture (SLC), part of the Glasscock School, has promoted children’s socio-emotional and literacy growth through storytelling and story-acting, a research-into-practice approach through which teachers invite meaningful conversations with young children. Drawing upon this expertise, the SLC will leverage the impact of a newly created early childhood resource guide and related workshops to help classroom teachers create spaces for children to process emotions post-Harvey.

Houston Urban English Study — Harvey Oral Narratives on Record
Rice collaborators:
Robert Englebretson, associate professor of linguistics; Nancy Niedzielski, associate professor of linguistics; Suzanne Kemmer, associate professor of linguistics; and David Durian, lecturer of linguistics. 

The project will provide a diverse range of Houstonians the opportunity to honor their lived experience of Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath by telling their individual stories, which will be available online to community members and to researchers at Rice.

Impacts of Flood Damage on Airborne Fungi and Bacteria in Homes After Harvey
Rice collaborators: Lauren Stadler, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering; Qilin Li, professor of civil and environmental engineering; James Elliot, professor of sociology; and Carrie Masiello, professor of Earth, environmental and planetary sciences.
Overview: The research will characterize airborne microbial exposures, study how the environmental conditions impact those exposures and assess how differences in geographic location, flood damage extent and resident socio-economic status correlate with exposure burdens.

Evaluating the Impact of Recent Extreme Precipitation Events on Rainfall Risk Estimates Through Updated Extreme Value Analysis Methods
Rice collaborators: Kathy Ensor, professor of statistics; Philip Bedient, the Herman and George R. Brown Professor of Civil Engineering; and Chris Hakkenberg, a postdoctoral fellow.
Overview: This analysis will leverage the most up-to-date data and methods to provide new design rainfall estimates that can aid engineers and infrastructure planners in developing a more flood-resilient city. This analysis will also quantify the increasing frequency of high-intensity events, which will better represent the true rainfall-risk in any given year.

Learning From Harvey: Temporal Evolution of Flooding and Transportation Accessibility
Rice collaborators: Jamie Padgett, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering; Philip Bedient, the Herman and George R. Brown Professor of Civil Engineering; and James Elliot, professor of sociology.
Overview: This project will develop new understanding of the spatial and temporal evolution of flood risks on transportation accessibility for vulnerable communities in the Greater Houston region.

Highways + Waterways: A Diachronic and Iconographic Map of Houston
Rice collaborators
: Farès el-Dahdah, professor of humanities; David Alexander, professor of physics and astronomy; Dominic Boyer, professor of anthropology; Anne Chao, adjunct lecturer in the School of Humanities; James Elliot, professor of sociology; Kathy Ensor, professor of statistics; Stephen Fox, lecturer in the School of Architecture; Cymene Howe, associate professor of anthropology; Melissa Kean, university historian; Jan Odegard, associate vice president for the Office of Information Technology and executive director of the Ken Kennedy Institute for Information Technology; Albert Pope, the G.S. Wortham Professor of Architecture; Moshe Vardi, the Karen Ostrum George Distinguished Service Professor in Computational Engineering; and Gordon Wittenberg, professor of Architecture.
Overview: The goal of the project is to create an online cartographic platform that charts the urban history of Houston as well as its susceptibility to flooding and other environmental events. 

Harvey Memories Project
Rice collaborators: Scott Carlson, metadata coordinator for Fondren Library; Anne Chao, adjunct lecturer in humanities; Dara Flinn, archivist and special collections librarian for Fondren; Amanda Focke, assistant head of special collections for Fondren; Rachel Kimbro, professor of sociology; Caleb McDaniel, associate professor of history; Jeanette Sewell, database and metadata management coordinator for Fondren; and Lisa Spiro, executive director of digital scholarship services for Fondren.
Overview: The Harvey Memories Project will launch and maintain a state-of-the-art, open-access digital repository to collect, preserve and publish community-contributed memories of the storm in multiple formats, such as photos documenting storm preparations, audio and video recordings of the storm in progress and survivors’ narratives.

Effect of Climate Change on Future Harvey-like Hurricanes and the Implications for Houston
Rice collaborators: Pedram Hassanzadeh, assistant professor of mechanical engineering; Phil Bedient, the Herman and George R. Brown Professor of Civil Engineering; Daniel Cohan, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering; and Laurence Yeung, assistant professor of Earth, environmental and planetary sciences.
Overview: This project will use the projections of future jet stream’s wind, sea-surface temperature, and sea level as input in the hurricane track and surge models to produce the first-ever quantitative estimates of the potential impact of climate change on flooding, storm surge, and air pollution in Houston.

Post-Harvey Perspectives on Population, Land-use and Neighborhoods (PLAN)
Rice collaborators: Tony Brown, professor of sociology; James Elliott, professor of sociology; and Stephen Klineberg, professor of sociology.
Overview: This project will produce original survey data and analyses on the experiences and attitudes of Houston-area residents, collected in successive phases. The results will inform and enhance long-range plans for serving the people of Houston affected by Harvey.

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About Amy McCaig

Amy is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.