Our Work

Wetlands Friendly Drilling Tool

HARC analyzed impacts of oil and gas exploration and production (e.g. transportation infrastructure, pipelines, and exploration and drilling site impacts) on wetlands, specifically Upper Texas Gulf Coast Wetlands; prioritizing these impacts specific to wetland functions (such as coastal flooding mitigation or density of wintering waterfowl). The objectives of the project were to prioritize wetland functions dependent on wetland type, wetland location and availability of function; cross-reference these functions with possible energy exploration and production operation impacts on the wetlands and then use this information to develop a decision support tool that will aid managers in determining best management practices in determining where to drill, technical alternatives to mitigate certain impacts, and choosing the options that will have most mitigation effect given limited financial resources.

Wetland benefits to surrounding coastal areas are wide-ranging and diverse, including impacts to both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Physical benefits of coastal wetlands include wave dampening, flood control and sediment trapping. Chemical processes performed by wetlands include nutrient cycling and storage and contaminant interception and storage. Wetlands also provide ecosystem services that have direct commercial impacts including tourism, birding, hunting, recreational fishing, and commercial fisheries. Biologically, wetlands are complex ecosystems that provide habitat for terrestrial, palustrine and estuarine plant species, nursery habitat for commercially and biologically important finfish and shellfish species, and refuge and breeding habitat for birds, reptiles, amphibians, mammals and fish. The different functionalities of wetlands are important to quantify for long-term resiliency of coastal communities. Loss of wetlands can contribute to property degradation and disturbance, habitat loss for endangered and commercially important species, disruption of food webs in adjacent systems, increases in the frequency and scale of flood events, release of land-derived contaminants to fragile coastal ecosystems and release of long-term carbon storage. These environmentally sensitive areas are often found in drilling and exploration territories in the Upper Texas Gulf Coast. The Wetland Friendly Drilling Tool provides options to decision makers in terms of technical alternatives or BMPs that will enable resources to be developed in a more environmentally sound manner.

To learn more about Wetlands Friendly Drilling Tool, please visit

Project Announcements

Publications, Lectures & Presentations

Erin Kinney will present at the 2016 Society of Wetland Scientists meeting themed “Protecting wetland ecosystem services. Promoting stronger economies.” in Corpus Christi on June 1, 2016.

Publications, Lectures & Presentations

Stephanie Glenn will present at the 2015 AWRA Annual Water Resources Conference in Denver, Colorado, November 18, 2015.

Primary Researcher