Civil and environmental engineers to analyze storm’s long-term impact.

Photo by Jeff Fitlow

Rice scientists will research the short- and long-term impact of extreme flooding in and around Houston during Hurricane Harvey with support from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

A Rice team led by Lauren Stadler, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, will compare Harvey data with studies from previous floods to learn general principles about how disease spreads in their aftermath. They will also look at how chemical and microbial contaminants persist in impacted areas as a result of extreme flooding.

The NSF approved a one-year, $200,000 Rapid Response Research (RAPID) grant only one week after Stadler applied for it. RAPID grants support research of natural disasters and unanticipated events for which time is a factor in gathering data.

“The RAPID funding mechanism through NSF will enable us to collect time-sensitive and urgent data in the aftermath of Harvey,” Stadler said. “Our team is already on the ground collecting samples and preserving them for analysis.” Team members include James Elliott, professor of sociology and a fellow at Rice’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research; Qilin Li, professor of civil and environmental engineering and of materials science and nanoengineering; and Pedro Alvarez, the George R. Brown Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and director of the NSF-funded Nanosystems Engineering Research Center for Nanotechnology-Enabled Water Treatment.

“This survey will advance understanding of the risks of disease propagation following floods, find and characterize hot spots for pathogenic bacteria and toxic chemicals to inform remedial action selection, and describe the dynamics of natural attenuation of these pollutants over the following year,” Alvarez said. Stadler said Rice professors will integrate their findings into their courses and develop teaching materials that will be made available to the public.