Highways and Waterways

The goal of Highways+Waterways is to create an online cartographic platform that charts the entire urban history of Houston as well as its susceptibility to flooding and other environmental events. Primary sources, such as photographs, historical maps, urban design/infrastructural plans, aerophotogrammetric surveys, spatially-defined datasets, and 50+ years of satellite observation will be located temporally and spatially in a web map, while their associated data –derived from a complex array of available datasets, e.g., infrared/optical hyperspectral imaging, radar scans, Lidar scans, aerial rasters, and vectors– will be integrated across a number of databases (including an open-access digital library of images, a geographic information system, an open source relational database, and a content delivery web service). Once brought together in a relational database with a PostGIS extension, disparate forms of data will not only produce unprecedented ways of depicting the history, design, development, and projections of Houston but will also set a precedent for constructing data chronologies from diverse sources. The relationship between the various project elements will produce a web environment where qualitative and quantitative data can be simultaneously loaded from an API, rendered across platforms, customized in many views, and queried by users in a system that supports multiple and interconnected expressions of diverse sources of information. Such an integrated approach will allow both humanists and scientists to reconstruct the history of Houston’s existence and provide a foundation from which to project the city’s future as it responds to climate change and rapid development.


Lead Investigators:

  • Farès el-Dahdah, Professor of the Humanities
  • Kathy Ensor, Professor of Statistics
  • Melissa Kean, Centennial Historian


  • David Alexander, Professor of Physics and Astronomy
  • Dominic Boyer, Professor of Anthropology
  • Anne Chao, Adjunct Lecturer in the Humanities
  • Jim Elliott, Professor Sociology
  • Stephen Fox, Lecturer in Architecture
  • Cymene Howe, Associate Professor of Anthropology
  • Jan Odegard, Executive Director, Ken Kennedy Institute for Information Technology
  • Albert Pope, Professor of ArchitectureMoshe Vardi, Professor of Computer Engineering
  • Gordon Wittenberg, Professor of Architecture


  • Jim Blackburn, Professor in the Practice in Environmental Law

Technical Support:

  • Bruno de Castro Sousa, GIS Researcher
  • Christian Hauser, GIS Specialist
  • Maddie Shen, Research Assistant


  • Jean Aroom, GIS Support Specialist, GIS/Data Center, Fondren Library
  • Bryan Evans, GIS Developer, Kinder Institute for Urban Research
  • Hien Le, Business Systems Analyst, Children's Environmental Health Initiative
  • Claire Osgood, Data Manager, Children's Environmental Health Initiative
  • Monica Rivero, Digital Curation Coordinator, Fondren Library


Rice University:

  • Rice Houston Engagement and Recovery Effort (Rice HERE)
  • The Kinder Institute Urban Data Platform (UDP)