Integrating Information Flows and Supporting Communities as Decision-Makers in Response to Acute and Chronic Stressors
Lead PI:
Katherine Lieberknecht

Local communities, and the people who live within them, experience firsthand the impacts of severe weather events, such as flooding, extreme heat, and wildfire. At the same time, vulnerable populations see these impacts further magnified by chronic stressors such as poverty and poor health. As extreme weather events increase in frequency and severity, all communities across the US—and especially vulnerable ones— need to improve resilience planning and outcomes. At the same time, residents on the front line of acute events and chronic stress often have critical knowledge about the characteristics of these episodes, the harms they cause, and potential solutions. This valuable local knowledge has been difficult to integrate into policy and decision-making. Local agencies, nonprofit organizations, researchers, and communities have identified the urgent need to better link everyday knowledge about people’s experiences of and responses to extreme weather events to larger scale planning and preparation work conducted by municipalities and their partners. To address this need, this Smart & Connected Communities project will build upon a partnership with the Dove Springs community of Central Texas – a diverse, socially vibrant, but economically challenged neighborhood experiencing repeated and severe flooding—to develop a safe and secure online portal where residents can share knowledge about their community and their response to stressors. Using data shared through this portal, researchers will work with community members to design an information framework and policy process to link local knowledge with existing large-scale data sets—such as Census data, historic flood information, and land cover data– already used to prepare for extreme weather events, while building long-term community health, prosperity, and safety. These integrated data will also be used to envision and model healthy, safe, and prosperous futures at regional and statewide scales. This project serves the national interest by contribution to the National Science Foundation’s mission to promote the progress of science advancing national health, property, and welfare. Specifically, the models, information framework, online data portal, community engagement processes, policy-making process, and data security protections created for this project can be adapted by other communities in the US experiencing extreme weather events and chronic stressors, serving the national interest and society. Furthermore, this project will promote the progress of science through new contributions to data and social sciences; advance the national health and welfare through enhanced resilience in the pilot community through better preparation for extreme events and chronic stressors; and create professional development and educational opportunities for participating residents.

In this project, we will produce a community-led, innovative interface which will help residents prepare for acute stressors while building long-term resilience to chronic stressors; a safe, secure, and private technological system to collect, store, and analyze local vulnerability indicator data based on lived experiences of extreme weather events, community assets, and day-to-day threats to well-being; an original knowledge management framework to integrate and aggregate multiple data types and scales; a co-developed process to integrate local data into resilience policy and decision-making; and a system to integrate local knowledge into big-dataset integrative modeling. We will use integrative research methods, including qualitative and quantitative methods to conduct a longitudinal assessment of community resilience and measure decision-making processes; participatory co-design of the portal; development of data privacy processes and construction of a knowledge graph; and data visualization, multi-modal analysis, and machine-supported reasoning. We anticipate the following broader impacts to society: provision of local knowledge to improve municipal and nonprofit decision and policy-making; sharing of innovative contributions with other US cities; establishment and training of residents as Climate Navigators (community-based experts on the neighborhood-scaled impacts of climate events), which will increase short and long-term resilience in the community (including opportunities for professional development and a Higher Ed Pathway Project); and integration of local knowledge into computer-based modeling protocols to improve the ability to guide resilience, preparedness, and acute responses across the state.

Katherine Lieberknecht
Katherine Lieberknecht is an assistant professor in the School of Architecture at The University of Texas at Austin. She researches urban water resources planning, metropolitan-scaled green infrastructure planning, and urban climate planning. Dr. Lieberknecht teaches courses on sustainable land use planning, water resources planning, and urban ecology. Prior to joining the faculty, she worked in regional land conservation. She received her Bachelor of Science in Biology from the College of William and Mary, a Master in Environmental Management from Yale University, and a Ph.D. in City and Regional Planning from Cornell University. Dr. Lieberknecht was the inaugural chair of Planet Texas 2050, The University of Texas at Austin's first grand challenge research program and continues to serve on its leadership team. She was the faculty lead for the Texas Metro Observatory, a Planet Texas 2050 research project and is co-lead for the Planet Texas 2050 Flagship Project Equitable and Regenerative Cities in a Post-Carbon Future. She serves as principal investigator for a National Science Foundation Smart and Connected Communities project located in Dove Springs, Austin, Texas. Katherine also serves as the lead for the Co-Design theme for the Department of Energy funded Southeast Texas Urban Integrated Field Laboratory. Other recent projects include contributing to a UT Austin-EcoRise collaboration funded through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and serving as a co-PI for the Mellon Foundation 2021 CHCI Global Humanities Institute on Climate Justice and Problems of Scale. She is a 2020-2022 UT Austin Humanities Institute Fellow, and she received UT Austin's School of Architecture's Outstanding Service Award in 2018-2019 and UT Austin's School of Architecture's Outstanding Teacher (Lecture) in 2020-2021
Performance Period: 09/01/2020 - 08/31/2024
Institution: University of Texas at Austin
Award Number: 1952196
Project Material