Overall Rating Gold - expired
Overall Score 70.76
Liaison Richard Johnson
Submission Date Oct. 13, 2017
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

Rice University
OP-10: Biodiversity

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 2.00
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution own or manage land that includes or is adjacent to legally protected areas, internationally recognized areas, priority sites for biodiversity, and/or regions of conservation importance?:

A brief description of the legally protected areas, internationally recognized areas, priority sites for biodiversity, and/or regions of conservation importance:

(1) Rice University itself is a designated arboretum, The Lynn R. Lowrey Arboretum. The Lynn R. Lowrey Arboretum is a teaching and research resource of Rice University. An outdoor classroom spanning the Rice campus, it serves programs, in biology, engineering, architecture, literature, and interdisciplinary studies on the environment. The Lowrey Arboretum consists of a collection of woody plants dispersed throughout the Rice University campus that represents native and introduced species suitable to the soils and climate of the Houston area. Dedicated on March 18, 1999, the arboretum honors the distinguished horticulturist Lynn R. Lowrey whose life work was dedicated to spreading knowledge and appreciation of the trees and plants of the Gulf Coast of the United States and northern Mexico.

(2) Rice University owns a timber plantation in Southwest Louisiana, known as The Rice Land Lumber Company. It comprises approximately 50,000 acres of mostly slash pine, and was initially used to fund the original buildings on Rice’s campus. Today, a portion of that timberland is harvested for logs for telephone and power poles, and the trees on those 50,000 acres are estimated to absorb more than 57,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, which offsets more than half of the university’s annual gross greenhouse gas emissions. The property is enrolled in the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ safe-harbor program for the Louisiana red-cockaded woodpecker, which helps protect the endangered bird that excavates its roost and nest cavities exclusively in live pine trees. Also noteworthy is use by Rice faculty members of residual forest biomass gathered from the Louisiana site for their research on biochar, which has the potential to accelerate biomass growth, improve water retention in soil and sequester carbon.

Has the institution conducted an assessment or assessments to identify endangered and vulnerable species (including migratory species) with habitats on institution-owned or –managed land?:

Has the institution conducted an assessment or assessments to identify environmentally sensitive areas on institution-owned or –managed land?:

The methodologies used to identify endangered and vulnerable species and/or environmentally sensitive areas (including most recent year assessed) and any ongoing assessment and monitoring mechanisms:

The Rice Management Company, owned by Rice University, employed Larson & McGowin Inc. "to intensively manage 219 acres [within Rice's approx. 50,000 acre tract] in Beauregard Parish for nesting and foraging habitat and to perform prescribed burning" for protection of the federally and state-listed endangered species red cockaded woodpecker. In 2010, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) enrolled all 49,712 acres of the land owned by Rice in its Louisiana Red-cockaded Woodpecker (Picoides borealis) (RCW) Safe Harbor Program.

A brief description of identified species, habitats and/or environmentally sensitive areas:

Off-campus, as described above, the identified species is the red-cockaded woodpecker, which is protected on the approx. 50,000 acre Rice-owned tract in SW Louisiana.

The biodiversity on Rice’s campus is extensive, housing approximately 117 species of trees and woody plants, including 12 species of oaks, 18 species of grasses, 31 species of vines and shrubs, and 25 species of wildflowers. Furthermore, 203 bird species have been observed, including 2 species of owls, 8 species of hawks, 5 species of woodpeckers, 3 species of hummingbirds, and 32 species of warblers. In addition to birds, a number of mammal, reptile, amphibian and insect species have also been sighted on Rice’s campus, including the Brown Anole, Rough Earth Snake, Gulf Coast Plains Toad, and the Rio Grande Chirping Frog. The following lists can be found on the Lynn R. Lowrey Arboretum website:
1. Species of trees and woody plants on the Rice Campus (GIS database at http://fon-gis.rice.edu/ricetrees/)
2. Partial Species List for the Harris Gully Natural Area
3. Wildflowers sown in the Harris Gully Natural Area
A list of bird species sited on Rice’s Campus can also be found on the Wild Rice website.

A brief description of plans or programs in place to protect or positively affect identified species, habitats and/or environmentally sensitive areas:

The project of the Lowrey Arboretum is a remnant of a riparian woodland on the banks of Harris Gully. Through plantings of native grasses, wildflowers, trees, and shrubs, Rice seeks to create a replica of a natural system once widespread in the Houston area. The natural area is designed not only to enhance the natural landscape of the campus, but also to provide a beautiful and appropriate transition between the urban environment of the Texas Medical Center and the scholarly, reflective atmosphere of the Rice Campus. The University’s efforts to maintain this natural landscape, as well as its efforts to uphold the campus’ status as a designated arboretum demonstrate its commitment to protecting species, habitats and environmentally sensitive areas on campus. Specifically, the mission of the Arboretum is to promote environmental literacy by enhancing the campus as a living laboratory of attractive, diverse plantings that engage and inform campus residents and visitors.

In spring 2016, Rice participated in the Katy Prairie Conservancy’s Grassroots for Change Challenge, which was a friendly competition between Houston universities to raise money for the creation and maintenance of pocket prairies. At Rice, the funds will go directly toward enhancing the Harris Gully Natural Area so that the area will become a thriving habitat for monarch butterflies and other wildlife.

The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:

Data source(s) and notes about the submission:

Lynn r. Lowrey Arboretum: http://arboretum.rice.edu/
Rice University Land Lumber Company: http://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/news/33058
Wild Rice: http://wild.rice.edu/Wild_Rice/Main.html

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution or simply email your inquiry to stars@aashe.org.