The Waller Creek Research Group gathers historical and current information on Waller Creek. We provide a historic perspective on Waller Creek by developing a readily accessible archive of drainage-wide information on the Waller Creek watershed. Through our field research, we work with multiple stakeholders to better understand basic processes affecting urban creek ecosystems. Through our interdisciplinary work, we hope to improve the sustainability of this vital asset to the city of Austin.
Waller Creek's green ribbon of "natural" creek/riparian habitat through the heart of the UT campus has long been a pleasant respite from the hub-bub of campus. It has also served faculty and staff as a convenient laboratory where many students get their first fieldwork experiences.
Like most urban creeks, Waller Creek faces a number of issues that challenge its sustainability as a valuable asset to the campus and the city. Pollution, fish kill events, runoff from artificially fertilized lawns and asphalt, floods, and droughts have tested the creek over the years. These events have scoured many parts of the creek to bedrock. In addition, street and building drains feed it with water of variable quality.
While we made personal observations of these events, when we searched for scientifically valid quantification of such factors, we found very little. We compiled some of what we did find as we worked on a recent paper on a non-native fish that has persisted in the creek for far longer than we would have expected. Large holes clearly persist in our knowledge of the diverse factors making the creek what it is today.
With this project we are searching for, digitizing, and archiving (see our repository) all information we can find about Waller Creek, and increasing our efforts, with the help of anyone interested, to get out and inventory all species in our study area. We have already documented an impressive diversity of species living in the Waller Creek watershed, but that's only the tip of the iceberg! Join our effort, and you'll be amazed at how quickly we can document so many more cool plants and critters in our own campus creek!
In addition to documenting biodiversity along the creek, we are working with several offices on the UT Austin campus, The Nature Conservancy, and the Waller Creek Conservancy to identify point and non-point source stressors in the creek that significantly impact ecosystem services, fecal bacteria, and contact recreation.
Our study site
Waller Creek watershed in Austin, Texas.