Strategic Plan

grass in the middle of a salt marsh

The strategic planning process

In 2022, IRIS initiated the strategic planning process, consulting with our stakeholders and members to hear their thoughts about how IRIS currently functions and what it should strive to grow into.

Based on that feedback, we put together a strategic plan that outlines our values, goals and the steps we plan to take to take us there.

Our Vision

Natural and conventional infrastructure working together for thriving communities, businesses and natural systems.

waterfalls in forest

Our Mission

Advance the integration of natural and conventional infrastructure systems to strengthen long term resilience to flooding, sea level rise, drought and other disruptions.

Enable communities, businesses and institutions to deliver equitable infrastructure strategies for enhanced social, economic and environmental benefits.

Support informed decision making through interdisciplinary expertise, cutting edge tools and techniques, holistic education and collaborative partnerships.

Our Expertise

  • Community engaged resilience planning for multiple hazards
  • Natural infrastructure planning, design and evaluation of social, economic and environmental performance
  • Hydrometeorological extremes and risks
  • Engineering With Nature® methodologies
  • Hydrodynamic, ecological and climatological modeling 
  • Military-community resilence
  • Risk communication and landscape visioning and design
  • Water resources planning, management and governance
  • Coastal adaptation planning
  • Social and environmental justice issues
  • Air quality assessment and exposure effects
  • Regional sediment management
  • Interdisciplinary education and training
  • Ecological engineering of river, wetland, forest, coastal and urban ecosystems
  • Waste management and public health
  • Transportation and power systems

Our Values


Each person feels like a welcomed, valued and respected part of the team.


A culture that is transparent, safe, inclusive, open and egalitarian.


Our cutting edge research advances fundamental understanding in the field.


Our team is able to respond to unforeseen opportunities, concerns, and challenges.


A network of people who work together effectively to produce new work and cultivate shared understanding.

Action Items


Be a world-renowned leader in cutting edge resilient infrastructure research and application. 

Answer fundamental questions about how to manage infrastructure as a complex adaptive system, how broadening participation influences infrastructure adaptation choices and outcomes, and how adaptation at scale can function across jurisdictions. Take on research that has clear societal benefits to people, communities and livelihoods locally, regionally, and around the world. 


Have a thriving, inclusive communications and outreach strategy that produces resources for a diverse set of stakeholders. 

Increase awareness of natural infrastructure solutions among communities, policy- and decision-makers, engineers, investors, and the insurance industry and other businesses. Develop resources in multiple languages for diverse communities, with acknowledgement that they face an array of infrastructure challenges.


Foster diverse partnerships that enhance implementation of equitable, resilient infrastructure. 

Build on an expansive network of existing relationships with private industry, governments, nongovernmental organizations, and standard-setting bodies to mainstream and scale up the next generation of natural and hybrid infrastructure systems. Build relationships with key government officials and private sector leaders to strategize for change. Serve as a leader and connector among stakeholders.


Provide world-class education and training in equitable delivery of resilient infrastructure with multiple points of entry. 

Develop natural infrastructure as a new convergent research field and create a workforce training model needed for transformative climate change solutions that are resilient, sustainable, and equitable. Train students across the full knowledge-to-action spectrum by embedding students’ research projects in the real-world context of their future work through collaborations and internships. 


Empower communities, businesses, and institutions to equitably provide enhanced infrastructure benefits

Advocate for communities that do not typically have a place at the table. Partner with local, community, and faith-based organizations; state and federal agencies; and military installations to protect infrastructure and the lives, livelihoods, and critical services in urban and rural communities. Develop, assess, and prioritize flood protection infrastructure to support equitable and sustainable adaptation pathways.

From Research to the Real World

Resilient infrastructure systems can help save lives, support businesses and communities, and provide benefits such as water quality improvements, recreation, health and well-being, and habitat for fish and wildlife. This work matters, and it is our goal to collaborate with communities to co-produce the knowledge required to do it. 

We will work along multiple fronts: Building the next generation of researchers and practitioners who are systems thinkers, can integrate concepts across multiple fields and can engage in respectful collaboration and communication; Understanding the impacts of climate disruption on communities, and recognizing that it intensifies historic inequities; Collaborating with our community partners and extension agents to better understand their needs; Amplifying the voices of impacted communities; Developing outreach resources that are accessible to diverse audiences.

The Next Five Years

Build a national hub

We want to strengthen connections within our extensive network of industry, NGO and government partners. Establish a regional proving ground where foundational methods can be tested and demonstrated.

Expand our expertise in equity 

We need increased expertise in the field of equity in order to guide our efforts. Throughout the strategic planning process, equity and inclusion emerged as one of the most important aspects of climate resilience. 

Develop a training program

We believe that our students are future leaders. Our  infrastructure is undergoing a generational transformation, and the world needs a workforce that can equitably deliver climate resilient infrastructure. IRIS programs will give students the collaborative, systems-thinking skills they need to change the world.

Increase capacity

We hope to tackle big problems, which requires lots of hands and perspectives. In the next five years, we hope to build our team of technical staff and private sector, academic and government partnerships so that we can  continue to accelerate the field of natural infrastructure.

Strategically broaden our focus

We are excited to expand our expertise in interconnected systems like the interfaces of transportation, energy and public health to help shape infrastructure for the coming decades. The time is now: sweeping infrastructure legislation presents new opportunities for communities to build a more resilient future.

Our Accomplishments

• A close-knit interdisciplinary team spanning over 15 of UGA’s colleges, public service organizations, and extension programs. ​

• Home to a cohort of over 60 graduate students with a resilient infrastructure focus. ​

• Founding partner of the Network for Engineering With Nature (N-EWN), an active community of researchers, practitioners and educators addressing the major infrastructure challenges facing our society while creating opportunities that align ecological, social and engineering processes to achieve multiple societal benefits. ​

• More than 50 high-impact, interdisciplinary publications cutting across over 10 different disciplines and domains. ​

• Partnering with Ducks Unlimited Inc., U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, American Society of Civil Engineers, N-EWN and others to establish diverse training programs, including a graduate curriculum, certificate program, and short courses for a new wave of infrastructure professionals and current practitioners. ​

• Providing training to municipal officials, state and federal agencies, and state transportation engineers from coast to coast across the US.

• Extensive collaborative research and implementation projects with over 12 communities and military installations, including partnerships with defense communities surrounding Fort Benning, Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield, Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base, Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, and Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, and Naval Station Mayport.

• IRIS research is featured in high impact outlets including Forbes, AGU Eos, and the Washington Post.

• Established “IRIS in Focus,” an online publication series focused on overcoming policy and planning challenges in the use of natural infrastructure.

A woman wearing a blue and orange puffy vest with a black shirt smiles as she looks at a small glass box containing an aquatic specimen. Three students gather around to look closely at it. In the background, sunlight filters through green tree canopy.