Painting to preserve biodiversity

By Samuel Gonzalez ’24

If you’re someone that enjoys watching and listening to birds, the following statistic may be as shocking as walking straight into a glass door: According to a 2014 study, collisions with windows could be responsible for up to one billion bird mortalities each year in the United States alone. Just to emphasize, that number could account for as much as a tenth of the national bird population each year. And these losses have been compounded with numerous hazards — habitat destruction, pesticide use, and others — to culminate in a net loss of 2.9 billion birds from the national population since 1970. The Center for Environmental Studies and Austin College Thinking Green (THINK) propose to reduce fatal bird-window collisions at the Idea Center’s north entrance with a mural that combines artistic depictions of birds with the research done to preserve their populations.

There are two main reasons for a bird to fly into a window. Birds may either see into the interior of a building and mistake the window for an opening into the building, or they may see reflections from the window and attempt to fly towards what they perceive as open sky or a row of trees. In either case, birds believe they can fly through the glass and hit the window at injurious and often fatal velocities. Although birds cannot interpret transparency or reflections, they are highly visual creatures that perceive light at far greater distances and resolutions than humans. When birds see openings between tree branches, for example, they can tell from a considerable distance whether or not their bodies can fit through the gaps. Similarly, when windows are dirty and smudged, they can perceive that no spaces between the smudges are large enough to fit through.

Research has shown that placing visible obstacles on windows in patterns at least two to four inches apart can significantly reduce the number of collisions because birds can tell that flying through is going to be a tight fit for their wingspan.

For several years, AC students and staff have brainstormed possible solutions, especially at the Idea Center, which has an exterior mostly comprised of reflective surfaces. However, solutions to problems like these are difficult because they must account for the problem itself as well as the relevant stakeholders. In this case, many want a solution, rightly so, that will not damage the windows, their framing, or the views they provide us.

To generate awareness on campus and help reduce needless bird deaths, a temporary mural depicting a flock of birds perched in trees now covers what has been considered one of the deadliest sets of windows on campus, the Idea Center’s north entrance. The project will recur before each migration season in the fall and spring, applied by THINK members, Environmental Studies student workers, and anyone else interested in contributing. Ultimately, the project intends to show that some collective action can yield opportunities to reduce our impact on vital aspects of our ecosystem.

The project is dedicated in honor of Austin College faculty member Dr. Kim Snipes, who passed away last year after battling with breast cancer. As an instructor of physiology, evolutionary biology, and ornithology, she led a career of fascination with birds as complex organisms and advocated for a world where humans could coexist with thriving biodiversity.

A colorful summer experience at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge

By Sam Gonzalez ’24

After 30 minutes of being rocked gently by the sloping contours of Highway 75, I was more than half-asleep when our van stopped by a road within Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge. My research professor, Dr. Wayne Meyer, had taken another student and I earlier to this part of Hagerman to locate the male territories of a neotropical migratory songbird species called Painted Buntings. These birds are almost a gorgeous caricature of bright passerines. Their name derives from the variety of colors older males sport, which includes blue on their heads, red on their chests and bellies, bright green on their backs and dull green on their wings. Younger males and females are bright green on their backs and greenish yellow on their chests and bellies. During our first visits to Hagerman we recorded the songs of several individual males. Today, we were focused on collecting data for a study my professor had been conducting for the last 10 years or so. The study involved an experiment designed to compare how aggressively males responded to males in a subadult age class and an adult age class. It was remarkable how cool the weather was that June.

We got out of our van and set up our equipment to test a bird we called PBh 7. We put a wooden decoy of a Painted Bunting on a pole and placed a speaker underneath him. That speaker then played recordings of other Painted Buntings singing. Rushing to the taunting threats of a rival’s song, PBh 7 soon appeared perched on his favorite tree. His little chest rose mightily and his wings began to quiver as he sang. (I only hope the absurd joy of this moment is properly conveyed here.) In this moment, we had impersonated a Painted Bunting in order to aggressively challenge PBh 7 into a singing and wing quivering contest. Around me I could see my professor and the student beside me delighted at the sight of this bird’s adorable temper tantrum. Dr. Meyer especially seemed to appreciate such a macho display. This was the closest he had been to a displaying Painted Bunting in a few years.

Among ornithologists, Dr. Meyer is one of the few who does research on Painted Buntings. If you look for any literature on Painted Buntings, you may likely find very little. That’s part of the reason he has spent so long researching these birds. When he first set out to research Painted Buntings, nobody knew how they expressed aggression through song. Eventually, he figured out that Painted Buntings communicate how aggressive they are by attempting to outperform rivals’ songs with singing that is described as virtuosic. That is to say, the longer and more complex the singing, the angrier the Painted Bunting. This research led him to the question we asked last summer: Why are young males green? Could having entirely green and yellow feathers signal to males that they should be treated with less aggression? Are young males trying to trick older males into treating them like females who are also green? That is what we were trying to figure out. Getting an answer meant we needed to spend a lot of time out at Hagerman NWR recording birds as we attempted to make them as angry as possible.

During these trials, I pointed a mic at the bird we were testing while Olivia, Dr. Meyer’s other student, counted how many times a bird quivered its wings, which is another indicator for aggression. It was during our time analyzing all these recordings on computers that I got to know Olivia and become her friend. Together, we bonded over the long and sometimes arduous walks through the tallgrasses, and discovered how fulfilling and complicated research can be. We learned how desperate for an answer people can get when no one else can answer it.

When PBh 7’s tirade came to a stop, I knew what the answer probably was to our summer’s question. What immediately tipped me off to it was that by the end of our observation period, PBh 7 came closer to our decoy than any other bird. Further, Olivia observed him display 11 wing quivers, which was a fair number. The decoy was painted to look like a subadult. That is to say, PBh 7 did not care how old our decoy looked. He did not go easy on green subadults. This sort of behavior continued with other subjects, which means by the end of our research, we found no evidence to suggest being treated with less aggression is the reason younger males are green. After all the walking through wet grass and all the tick bites, we still were without an explanation as to why younger males look like females. This is what makes the slogging process of research so wonderful. It takes an incredible amount of time to collect and analyze data on wild animal behavior. And yet this logistical nightmare comes with zero guarantees as to what you might learn from the data. But learning anything, even simply that you have the wrong hypothesis, feels like a step in the right direction.

When relatives or friends ask how I spent my summer, I typically say, “I made some birds really angry,” but I hope to be less reductive as I sum up my experience. I got the chance to see complex organisms display complex and mysterious behavior. I spent hours discussing evolutionary theories that attempt to explain the timing of developmental changes in Painted Buntings. I met and worked with fascinating and kind people. Finally, I learned I love research. I hope as time goes on, my career leads me on to new research opportunities.

Winter gardening tips for new plant parents

By Samuel Gonzalez ’24

As we layer up to bear the cold air outside, we may sometimes become so preoccupied with staying warm that we forget we’re not the only ones trying to survive the winter. Though they may be brown and a little sad, your perennials are probably still alive. With a little effort, your spring garden is likely to thrive — if you follow measures to meet its basic needs. Let’s go over the ways you can make sure your garden blooms again in spring.

Watering your plant babies

Without the boiling heat of summer, you may not need to water your garden as frequently as you do in warmer months, but like all living things, it still requires a steady intake of water to survive. It is especially important to keep the soil somewhat moist when plants are still attempting to establish their roots. We recommend that you water your garden around 1-2 times a month for 15-20 minutes each. Make sure you concentrate that water onto the root balls of plants transplanted within the last year.

Protecting your plant babies from bullies

ENVS work study students planted artemisia, fall asters, and mealy sage in this prominent bed on Windsor Mall. (Photos by Rebecca Jones)

Winter is the best time to clear your garden of weeds while their growth is suppressed. Weeding now will save you a lot of time and effort in spring when weeds grow, well, like weeds. Watering your plants more than they need may also stimulate their growth early, so never water more than 20 minutes unless your garden is completely dry two inches deep into the soil.

Keeping your plant babies warm

Just as a coat keeps you warm, mulch insulates gardens throughout the winter while trapping moisture. Two to three inches of mulch will suffice to keep the temperature in your garden more constant in the winter. If you did not get around to mulching before winter, you still can before freezing weather puts your garden in jeopardy.

Extra measures may also be necessary to prevent winter damage. Keeping an eye on the forecast is the best way to determine if further measures are required. If you anticipate a freeze soon, make sure that your soil is moist because drier plants are more susceptible to harm from cold. If forecasts expect temperatures below 20 degrees, you may even consider pruning or covering certain plants with insulating fabrics, depending on the species.

Planning for spring

Remember that all this hard work in winter is leading to the huge payoff of spring’s colors and fragrances, and that all these gorgeous organisms rely on your toil to live and bloom. If you’ve adopted a garden bed on campus or have one at home, you have probably spent hours planning your garden, transplanting, weeding, and watering like I have. Every winter, we’re at risk of losing this investment. If we’re intent on holding on to our little chunks of natural capital, we must endeavor to provide what we can to keep our gardens alive and reduce the number of plant deaths on our collective conscience. At the very least, you can save yourself the time and money of transplanting new ones!

My Summer at the East Foundation

By Kabyl Utley ’24

Kabyl Utley (left) and another intern at the East Foundation.

This past summer I was given the opportunity of interning for the East Foundation for two months. The East Foundation is an organization that promotes the advancement of land stewardship through ranching, science, and education. They are a working cattle ranch, managing over 217,000 acres in South Texas. Here, scientists and ranchers work side by side to address the problems that are important to wildlife management, rangeland health, and ranch productivity.

I always knew Texas was a huge state, so it was no surprise to me that I would have to drive around six hours from my home in central Texas to the ranch where I would be working. The ranch that I worked at encompassed more than 150,000 acres and was located in the South Texas Sand Sheet. The change of scenery from central Texas to the ranch was absolutely mind blowing. Beautiful flowering cacti and plants dotted the sides of the highways. The plant life there was very pretty, except for the fact that essentially every plant has spines or thorns of some sort.

A typical workday in the punishing south Texas sun.

I’m not originally from Texas, so I haven’t been around cattle ranches that much up until this past summer. Working on the ranch as a “Ranch Ecology Technician” was one of the greatest experiences I have ever had in my life up until this point. The never-ending sandy dunes of the South Texas Sand Sheet, along with the beautiful wildlife that scattered the hundreds of acres were simply amazing to witness. I worked alongside three other interns, along with many other groups of scientists who worked on different research studies around the ranch. I was even lucky enough some days to even go out with some of these different groups to help them out with their research.

My tasks as an intern focused on collecting data for two different research studies. The first research study was determining the amount of preferred and nonpreferred vegetation present around the ranch. We did this by collecting data at about 100 different points at various set locations at the ranch. Our supervisor would then use this data to determine the stocking rates of the cattle for the next few years, along with seeing if the current ranching techniques are sustainable or not. Our second research study focused on the population and habitat quality of the bobwhite quail on the ranch. We did this by visiting 140 set points around the ranch, using various factors such as woody density, bundle grass size/density, and vegetation height, to then determine whether or not bobwhite quails have available quality nesting sites.

My favorite experience from the entire internship was being able to see the wildflowers bloom after a rainstorm one night. Because I live in such an urbanized town, I am not used to seeing native wildflowers and plants bloom after it rains, so being able to witness such a beautiful thing was amazing. Being able to just step outside of headquarters on the ranch and see hundreds of stunning, unique flowers dotting the landscape was truly spectacular and peaceful. It was one of those moments where you kind of just stand there and soak in the beauty that life is and the beauty that it brings with it. It was moments like these that I was grateful to be given the opportunity to intern at a place like the East Foundation.

“Adopt a Butterfly Bed” proposal approved

The Center for Environmental Studies is happy to announce that its recent proposal to increase native, perennial landscaping on campus has been enthusiastically approved by the college’s senior leadership. The “Adopt a Butterfly Bed” project will not only help to enhance campus aesthetics, but ultimately aims to provide learning and service opportunities for interested student and staff groups while promoting biological diversity and increasing native habitat area and ecosystem services. Hardy perennials also require less water and active maintenance than annuals, saving additional college resources and manpower. 

Environmental Studies faculty and staff members worked with the Physical Plant’s Executive Director of Facilities, David Turk, to create the proposal last fall. Since then, ENVS staff and students have worked to review and expand upon a list of suggested native and perennial plants for our area, identify suitable beds for adoption around campus, and establish connections with the local chapter of Master Gardeners, who are excited to lend a green thumb to burgeoning horticulturists at AC. 

The project has already garnered interest from a number of student organizations on campus, but staff and faculty groups may also apply to adopt. Once high priority beds have been distinguished, beds will be assigned on a first-come-first-served basis. The Center for Environmental Studies will distribute tools and training materials in addition to scheduling information sessions for adoptive groups. To maintain a high standard, groups will sign a contract outlining their responsibilities and adopted beds will undergo quality control inspections on a regular basis. 

If you or someone you know would like to get involved with this project, please reach out to ENVS coordinator Rebecca Jones or faculty member Dr. Mari Elise Ewing to express your interest.  

In honor of this laudable landscaping announcement, we’ve (almost literally) taken a page from the work of late local author and Grayson County Master Gardener Jessie Gunn Stephens to offer a few tips for maintaining your own Texoma garden. Her book, “When to do What in your Texoma Yard and Garden,” is available for sale at the Agri-Life Extension office in the Grayson County Courthouse. 

Francesco Gallarotti / Unsplash

How to Plant from Pots 

  1. Take the plant out of the pot. Seems like a no-brainer but, as Stephens writes, “you’d be amazed how often this comes up.” While some pots are biodegradable, Stephens prefers removing the pot to allow for quick root growth. 
  1. Inspect the plant’s root system. Understanding the strength of a plant’s roots can help inform your watering and care practices. Thin, weak roots indicate that a plant may require special treatment until it is established. Thicker, hardier roots (especially in perennials) are more likely to survive transplantation but need to be loosened to allow for spreading. 
  1. Don’t pile dirt over the root ball. According to Stephens, “It’s almost always best to set a plant in the ground so that the surface of the soil ball is either level with or fractionally higher than the surrounding soil.” 

Happy planting!

GreenServe Native Plantings Draw Pollinators and People


A student enjoys GreenServe 2018’s on-campus project. Photo courtesy of Dr. Andrea Overbay.

GreenServe 2018 saw the expansion of native plantings on campus.  Sixteen volunteers filled an empty bed behind the Abell Library with six different native species selected with the help of Dr. George Diggs.  Drs. Peter Schulze, Keith Kisselle, and Mari Elise Ewing helped with the effort alongside Thinking Green Campus Awareness student co-leader Julian Coronado.  Even President Steven O’Day and First Lady Cece O’Day dug in and got their hands dirty!

President O’Day digs in. Photo courtesy of Dr. Andrea Overbay.

Native pollinator garden volunteers. Photo courtesy of Dr. Andrea Overbay.

Austin College President Emeritus Dr. Marjorie Hass and the Board of Trustees launched Austin College Thinking Green in 2011 to serve as an umbrella for all campus greening initiatives.  One of the outcomes was the formation of Thinking Green Campus Awareness, a committee of students who identify, organize, and publicize greening activities on campus.  Dr. Mari Elise Ewing, Professor of Environmental Studies, serves as the Director, and Katie Collins and Julian Coronado, both seniors, serve as the two student co-leaders for this academic year.  The mission for Thinking Green Campus Awareness is to increase campus participation in environmental responsibility and sustainable utilization of resources so that students will enrich their communities beyond Austin College.

Organized by Thinking Green Campus Awareness, GreenServe engages students from around campus in a morning of service focused on environmental responsibility and sustainability. Students volunteer at places like Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, Eisenhower State Park, both the Sherman and Pottsboro Community Gardens, and elsewhere throughout the Texoma community on projects such as trail maintenance, invasive species control, and habitat restoration.

A butterfly hovers over Purple Mistflower. Photo courtesy of Dr. Mari Elise Ewing.

GreenServe often includes an on-campus project.  For GreenServe 2016, the on-campus project consisted of expanding the native plants around the LEED Gold certified IDEA Center.  Ninety volunteers planted over 550 native plants paid for by the Student Sustainability Fund, created in 2011 by a vote of the entire student body and maintained through a five dollar annual student fee.  The project increased awareness of and interest in native plants on campus, which lead to GreenServe 2018’s pollinator garden project.

Over the summer, the native plants were in full bloom, drawing numerous butterfly and bee species.  Native plants and pollinators share an important symbiotic relationship, contributing to the health of their ecosystems.  Pollinators use the nectar and pollen they gather for food.  During foraging, they often carry pollen from one flower to another, which is a vital part of the reproductive cycle for many native plants.  Over the years, pollinator populations have declined through habitat loss, disease, and pesticide use.  Planting your own pollinator garden is a great way to help pollinator populations recover, and the pollinators are fun to watch!  More information can be found at the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s pollinators page.

The native plants draw lots of pollinators. Photo courtesy of Dr. Mari Elise Ewing.

A bee lights on some Mealy Sage. Photo courtesy of Dr. Mari Elise Ewing.

If you’d like to recreate our pollinator garden at home, here is the list of species we planted, all native to this area of North Texas:

Gregg Sage (Salvia greggii)

Mealy Sage (Salvia farinacea)

Mistflower (Eupatorium coelestinum)

Coneflower (Echinacea species)

Rock rose (Pavonia lasiopetala)

Desert willow (Chilopsis linearis)


For photographs and more information about the plants listed above as well as other Texas natives, visit UT Austin’s Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center webpage.

The pollinator garden in full bloom. Photo courtesy of Dr. Mari Elise Ewing.

Grace Fullerton ’20 Wins Honorable Mention in Thoreau Essay Contest

Grace Fullerton, Class of 2020, won Honorable Mention in the 19-21 age group for the 2018 Live Deliberately Essay Contest put on by the Walden Woods Project!  You can read her essay here.  This year’s contest saw a record number of entries, with over 2,400 submissions across three age groups.

This year’s prompt was “In an essay of 750 words or fewer, describe a time in your life when you pursued a path that was ‘narrow and crooked,’ but felt like it was the right path for you.  In what ways are/were you able to, as Thoreau advises, walk that path with ‘love and reverence?’  How has navigating that path shaped you into the person you are becoming?”  The essay was an assignment in Dr. Mari Elise Ewing’s Janterm course, “A Deliberate Life,” which explored meaningful ways to live a more environmentally and socially sustainable life.  Grace wrote about lessons she learned in Ecuador during a gap year.

Originally from Austin, Texas, Grace plans to pursue a career in education after graduating.

Schulze TEDx Talk and Princeton Review Green School Recognition

On September 23rd, 2017, Dr. Peter Schulze gave a presentation at the 2nd Annual TEDx Austin College event.  Titled “We Aren’t Going to Mars,” Dr. Schulze’s talk is an exploration of why we should not count on escaping to another planet, and how to make better decisions about this one.  He critiques four routine but errant arguments commonly used to oppose environmental protection.

Dr. Schulze’s talk is available for viewing here.

Dr. Schulze regrets that the TED format does not allow for acknowledgments included in the videos. He thanks the following people for help with his presentation: Kelby Archer, Megan Aultman, Priya Chary, George Diggs, Mari Elise Ewing, David Hall, Keith Kisselle, Lynn Womble, the many students who organized the 2017 Austin College TEDx event, and Ben, Helen, and Matt Schulze, but notes that only he should be blamed for any errors or shortcomings.

In other news, Austin College has been selected for Princeton Review’s 2017 Guide to 375 Green Colleges.  The Guide “profiles colleges with the most exceptional commitments to sustainability based on their academic offerings and career preparation for students, campus policies, initiatives, and activities.”  This marks the fifth year that Austin College was selected for the list.  The 2017 Guide can be viewed here.

Introducing Kelby Archer ‘09, the new Center for Environmental Studies Coordinator

I was in college when An Inconvenient Truth came out.  After seeing it, I remember thinking “Man, that sure does sound like a pretty bad problem…I hope the scientists can figure it out!”  The raw truth of what is happening was too massive – and painful – for me to allow it to penetrate into my daily life.  It would take another film, Godfrey Reggio’s Koyaanisqatsi, to wake me from my comfortable, ignorant slumber.  The broad theme of that film, a rumination about humanity’s relationship to nature and technology that contains no dialogue, is “life out of balance.”  It cemented a conviction that I carry with me today: things don’t have to be this way.

Film was a significant part of my life at the time.  I graduated from Austin College in 2009 with a degree in Communications (Media Studies emphasis), and within a few months was working for a local TV station, KXII-TV, as the technical director and production supervisor for the morning shift.  I am a Denison native and felt right at home in local TV.  After a few years, I moved into a commercial production role at KXII.

I couldn’t get our ecological problems out of my head, though, and I knew I wasn’t doing much to contribute to the solution.  Sustainable lifestyles involve living in ways that are fundamentally different to the way most of us live right now, and I had a sneaking suspicion that sustainable lifestyles are more satisfying and contented, in addition to not being a burden on the Earth.  I knew there were people out there exploring these lifestyles (Transition Towns, ecovillages, homesteads, the Tiny House movement, etc.), but I didn’t know how to get started or how I could explore these alternatives without making a hefty investment.  That’s when I discovered Help Exchange.

Help Exchange is a website that connects designated hosts all over the world with volunteer helpers.  It’s very similar to WWOOF (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms).  You’re expected to do 5-6 hours of labor, 5 days a week in exchange for room and board.  I began spending idle time clicking through HelpX listings all over the Western United States and daydreaming.  Near the end of 2015, I finally took the plunge – I quit my job at the TV station and declared my 2016 a belated, long-awaited gap year adventure that would afford me ample opportunity to directly experience homesteading and off-grid living.  It was like discovering a desert oasis as a man dying of thirst.

The experience was even better than I expected.  I climbed Emory Peak in Big Bend National Park, visited the Grand Canyon and Utah’s Canyon Country for the first time, and slid down sand dunes near Death Valley (in additional to a good bit of camping).  I lived on an off-grid solar-powered farm in Arizona for nearly two months, helped build a tiny house, and learned how to manage a dairy goat herd in the hills outside of Hollister, California.  Most importantly of all, I met a number of incredible people who are living more sustainably, people whom I now count as friends for life.  I made it as far as Brookings, Oregon (about 6 miles north of the California border) before deciding it was time to come home.

My campsite in Canyonlands National Park

A few short months after getting back to Texas, I saw the listing for the Environmental Studies Coordinator job and knew it was the job for me.  I’m delighted to be back at my alma mater working with a great group of people.  I’m eager to get my hands dirty out at Sneed Prairie and can’t wait to see what the next step is for the Center for Environmental Studies.  It feels great to contribute, and the students are a constant source of fun and inspiration.

It’s also great to settle down in the place that has always been home to me.  In the coming years, I hope to purchase some land and start my own sustainable homestead.  It will be fascinating to approach sustainability from two halves of a whole: how to build a sustainable community and institution at my job, and how to build a sustainable personal life at home.  I relish the challenges ahead!

LEED® Gold Certification for IDEA Center

In 2013 the Austin College campus eagerly opened our new science building, the IDEA Center.

Idea Center

The 103,000 square foot building includes contemporary classrooms and multi-purpose laboratories that support our experiential science curricula. In addition to 32 laboratories, 40 offices, 16 lecture rooms, and a 108-seat auditorium, the Center includes the Adams Observatory that houses a 24-inch telescope and high-resolution camera. The IDEA Center houses the biology, chemistry, computer science, environmental studies, mathematics, and physics programs.

On top of the building’s ability to enhance and support the teachings of our faculty, it has also been honored as the first facility in Grayson County. The LEED green building certification system (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design), managed by the The U.S. Green Building Council awarded the building LEED® Gold certification as a result of its many green design features.

Students in anatomy & physiology  lab.
Students in anatomy & physiology lab.

Some green aspects of the IDEA Center:

  • Responsibly Harvested Materials: 90% of the building’s wood was certified by the Forest Steward Ship Council. This system promotes environmentally sound, socially beneficial and economically prosperous management of the world’s forests.
  • Living Lab: The area around the Center is planted with native Texas grasses and wildflowers. The plants (over 180 species) also reduce water usage by over 50% and support local pollinators. Recently, Austin College volunteers planted hundreds of new plants around the building during GreenServe 2016.
  • Natural Lighting: Classrooms, offices, receive natural light. This provides a comfortable work environment and reduces the need for electric lights.
  • Cool Roof: Light colored roofing (as well as paving) was used to reduce the heat island effect.
  • Water Collection: A 15,000 gallon underground tank collects condensate from the air conditioning system and rain water from the roof. This reduces stormwater runoff and the need for city water for irrigation.
  • Regulated Air Flow: There is precise monitoring and control of indoor air quality and exchange rates. Over 30 fans power the building’s air flow which adjust speed based on air pressure as activity in the building fluctuates. The system closely monitors humidity, keeping it always between 50-60%. All air from laboratories is 100% exhausted so that none makes its way into the main building.
  • Construction Waste: 83% of construction waste was diverted from landfills.
  • Regional materials: 44% of the materials were extracted and manufactured within 500 miles of the project. For example, the building uses stone from Austin, TX and crushed recycled concrete from Lewisville, TX.

LEED Gold image

For more information on the U.S. Green Building Council’s  LEED ® Certification visit:

native flowers outside of the IDEA center.
Native flowers around the IDEA Center.