Human Impacts on the Earth

The world is more complex, interconnected, and uncertain than ever before. The future of our planet, the health of our society, and the welfare of its seven billion inhabitants will require creative solutions that balance resources, environment, health, and economy. Sustainable paths forward will require collective, non-partisan action coupled with the ability to see the world and all its components as fully interdependent.

EEPS is pioneering a new frontier of systems thinking called Whole Earth Systems Science. We are studying how the ocean, atmosphere, biosphere, and deep Earth each interact to give us a habitable planet. We are working with complex datasets that span a vast array of processes, length scales and time scales to make predictions about the future of our planet.

Our objectives:

  • To train the next generation of students how to think about complex systems through research and learning about the Earth and its environment
  • To identify and develop science-based solutions to the world’s most pressing problems through the convergence of Whole Earth Systems science expertise at Rice University and Houston’s unique combination of energy, medical, chemical and space sectors.
  • Building bridges between Rice and Houston-based industries and community
  • Great ideas come from interactive environments where people come together to work on problems of mutual interest. Many of the best ideas cannot come solely from academia in isolation; the world is now too complex.  We believe in opening a dialog between leaders in industry, business, government, and academia. As a major step towards building bridges with the community, for the last four years, we have been holding an annual industry-academia workshop called the Industry Rice Earth Science (IRESS) Symposia.


Texas-sized grand challenges

The city of Houston is the ideal place to develop new ways of tackling energy and environmental problems. As one of the fastest growing and most culturally and politically diverse metroplex in the country, many studies predict that Houston’s demographics might be the future face of the United States. How the Gulf Coast will move forward in the face of environmental change may ultimately be the template for sustainable growth for the world.

Towards a natural resource strategy

Build a natural resource (minerals, hydrocarbons, water, biodiversity) strategy for sustainable exploration, extraction, application and end-of-life processes.

State of the Texas coast: past, present and future

Develop accurate predictions on the future of the Texas coast to build economically sound strategies that prepare Houston’s response to environmental change

Fluid flow in everyday life

Share the science and technologies of fluid flow from volcanoes, groundwater systems, hydrocarbon migration, ocean circulation to blood flow.

Planetary habitability and exploration

Build a team of planetary scientists with the intent to grow Rice University’s legacy in planetary and space exploration.


Contribute to Human Impacts on the Earth!

Help the Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences provide unique educational, research and field experiences and opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students studying Earth processes, with a particular focus on understanding human impacts on Earth’s habitability. Projects and programs addressing the past and present state of Earth’s surface, subsurface, oceans, atmosphere, and climate contribute to our understanding of Earth’s future environment, hazards, and resources, which affect us all. The department works with Houston’s energy, medical, chemical and space sectors to train the next generation of undergraduate and graduate students in complex systems thinking about Earth, environment, and planetary sciences. We will pursue environmental grand challenges facing Houston and the Gulf CoastJoin us on this exciting journey of learning about our planet and making it more habitable.

To kickstart this effort, Mary Anne and William Dingus (BA ’81) formalized a challenge gift to the department to help establish an endowment called Human Impacts on the Earth. Their gift will match any donation or pledge of $2,500 to the fund. We are grateful for this generous gift and we hope you might consider contributing to this endowment or getting involved with the department by providing advice, helping our students, and more.

“We hope you can help with this effort to quantify our impact on the planet. After all, we can’t fix what we don’t understand.” – Mary Anne and Bill Dingus ’81


The Human Impacts on the Earth Fund now supports our active EXPLORE Program for Rice Undergraduates. The EXPLORE program provides opportunities for undergraduate students, whether majors or not, to contribute to scientific discovery through research to enhance their understanding and appreciation of the Earth, our solar system, and beyond. Come meet some of our active EXPLORERS HERE.


If interested in giving or helping, please contact Department of EEPS Chair Julia Morgan ( or Jackie Macha ( Director of Development Wiess School of Natural Sciences Office