Amid projections of active hurricane season, Rice experts available to discuss variety of storm-related topics

Hurricane Harvey viewed from space. Elements of this image are furnished by NASA

Atlantic Hurricane season begins June 1, and experts have shared projections of above-average activity and a dangerous season. Rice University experts are available to discuss a variety of storm-related topics with the media.

Hurricane Harvey viewed from space. Elements of this image are furnished by NASA
Hurricane Harvey.

Hurricane and flooding risks and impact

Rice’s Herman Brown Professor of Engineering Philip Bedient serves as director of the Severe Storm Prediction, Education and Evacuation from Disaster (SSPEED) Center and he is the designer of the Rice/TMC Flood Alert System (FAS5) and Houston’s FIRST system. Bedient and his team have designed theGalveston Bay Park Plan, a multifunctional approach to providing surge protection, recreational opportunities and enhanced environmental conditions for the Houston Ship Channel and surrounding areas. Bedient can discuss flooding issues that arise from tropical depressions, hurricanes and severe storms. He authored “Lessons from Hurricane Ike,” covering its nearly $25 billion in damages, and was Rice’s most-cited Hurricane Harvey expert in 2017. He also can speak to the effects of urban-development practices and protection strategies for the region.

Jim Blackburn is co-director of Rice’s SSPEED Center, a faculty scholar at the Baker Institute for Public Policy and a professor in the practice of environmental law in Rice’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He can speak about the impact that climate change has had on storm and flood risks. Blackburn also can address the environmental and economic sustainability of regional hurricane protection proposals, including structural options for dikes, levees and gates in and around Galveston Bay and the use of coastal wetlands and prairies and carbon credits to implement nature-based engineering solutions. Among other issues, Blackburn is particularly focused on rapid intensification of hurricanes as a major risk to the Texas coast and equity issues in the provision of flood protection in the Houston region.

Climate change impacts

Dominic Boyer, a professor in the Department of Anthropology and co-director of Rice’s Center for Coastal Futures and Adaptive Resilience, is a cultural anthropologist whose research focuses on climate mitigation and climate adaptation. Following Hurricane Harvey, he led a National Science Foundation-funded project to investigate the social and emotional burdens of recurring catastrophic flooding and why some Houstonians chose to remain and rebuild while others decided to move on from their homes, neighborhoods and even the city itself. He is currently working in the Kashmere/Trinity/Houston Gardens neighborhoods of northeast Houston, researching how green stormwater infrastructure could help climate resilience in Houston’s historically underserved regions.

Sylvia Dee is an assistant professor of Earth, environmental and planetary sciences and a joint assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering. She can speak about extreme weather events and tropical cyclones along the Gulf Coast as well as early warnings and the prediction of flooding, climate change-influenced storms/weather patterns, climate mitigation and adaptation and the impacts of climate stressors for coral reef ecosystems, animals and microbiomes. Dee can also address how El Nino/La Nina and patterns of oceanic warming can influence hurricane frequency, government reaction to storms and public opinion on policies related to hurricanes and flooding. Dee was named a National Academies of Science and Engineering Gulf Research Program Early Career Research Fellow in 2021 for her work on climate change impacts on the Gulf of Mexico.

James Doss-Gollin’s research focuses on developing statistical and probabilistic methods to quantify and manage risks from climate extremes in a changing climate. His approach combines statistical modeling, machine learning, operations research techniques and a physics-based understanding of the climate system to address impactful and policy-relevant challenges in three core areas: (1) characterizing the intensity, frequency and spatial patterns of extreme rainfall in a changing climate; (2) integrating machine learning, statistical models and physics-based models to improve predictions of urban flooding and its impacts; and (3) quantifying temperature-driven risks to the electricity grid. Doss-Gollin, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, also works on incorporating these findings into adaptive strategies for resilient infrastructure planning with a particular emphasis on the role of decentralized systems in enhancing the resilience of water and flood management.

Jim Elliott, professor and department chair of sociology and co-director of Rice’s Center for Coastal Futures and Adaptive Resilience, is an expert in social inequality and the environment and studies the intersection of natural and industrial hazards.

Avantika Gori is an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Rice. Her research focuses on understanding and quantifying coastal flood risk under evolving climate and landscape conditions. Gori examines climate change impacts on tropical cyclone climatology and hydrometeorological extremes; coastal flood and resilience; multihazard risk assessment; and the interaction of coastal hazards, climate change and the built and natural environment.

Cymene Howe, a professor of cultural anthropology who researches the relationship between social and environmental systems, specializes in human-caused climate change, the loss of glaciers and rising seas around the world’s coastal cities.

Politics, emergency preparedness, disaster recovery

Ed Emmett, a fellow in energy and transportation policy at Rice’s Baker Institute, was county judge of Harris County during Harvey and served as director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. As the chief executive of Houston’s county, Emmett was one of the most prominent government leaders tasked with steering the community through the greatest disaster in the city’s history. He can speak about what is required to make a community resilient to natural and manmade disasters.

Mark Jones, professor of political science and fellow in political science at Rice’s Baker Institute, can discuss government reaction to storms and the politics in play as well as public opinion on policies related to hurricanes and flooding.

Anna Rhodes, an assistant professor of sociology, can discuss residential decisions of households in the wake of disaster, highlighting the ways that climate change and disasters increase economic vulnerability and inequality among households in affected communities. She is the co-author of “Soaking the Middle Class: Suburban Inequality and Disaster Recovery,” and co-authored a New York Times op-ed on the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Harvey titled “Losing Your Neighborhood to Climate Change Is Sometimes Necessary.”

Bob Stein, the Lena Gohlman Fox Professor of Political Science, is an urban politics expert and can talk about local government reaction to storms and the politics involved in decision-making.

Miscellaneous topics

Lisa Biswal is Rice’s William M. McCardell Professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and material science and nanoengineering and senior associate dean in the George R. Brown School of Engineering. Her research focuses on understanding the fundamental physics that govern colloids, surfactants, lipids, polymers and foams — all examples of soft matter, the physical properties of which are easily deformed by thermal forces. These systems are commonly found in nature and have a number of important applications, including in industrial processes such as enhanced oil recovery; medical technologies, such as biosensors; and energy, e.g. battery design.

Michael Wong is Rice’s Tina and Sunit Patel Professor in Molecular Nanotechnology, chair and professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and professor of chemistry, materials science and nanotechnology and civil and environmental engineering. Using materials chemistry and nanotechnology, Wong’s research seeks to address broader, real-world energy and sustainability goals through focused inquiry in water decontamination, nanoparticle synthesis and catalysis.

To schedule an interview with any of the experts, contact Chris Stipes, executive director of news and media relations, at or Amy McCaig, senior media relations specialist at Rice, at