IRIS teams up with the Natural Infrastructure Initiative

Professor Brian Bledsoe and graduate student Devan Fitzpatrick discuss infrastructure research in a drainage culvert on Lilly Branch Creek.The University of Georgia’s Institute for Resilient Infrastructure Systems (IRIS) has become the first academic organization to join the Natural Infrastructure Initiative (NII), a team of companies and organizations working together to promote the adoption of natural infrastructure in the United States.

In 2017, Caterpillar formed the NII after its Restoring Natural Infrastructure Summit, which brought interested groups together to develop a white paper on how to advance the use of natural infrastructure—things like forests, dunes, and marshes—to capitalize on the many services they naturally provide: water purification and protection from storm surges and flooding.

“It’s an honor to be the first academic institute involved,” said Brian Bledsoe, IRIS Director and Georgia Athletic Association Professor of Engineering. “We had representatives from Caterpillar and AECOM—one of the world’s leading engineering firms—visit campus to discuss how to develop rigorous standards and sustainable development for natural infrastructure. A lot of people are talking about those things, but we have an interdisciplinary team primed to tackle those challenges.”

Joining the NII will also provide new opportunities for IRIS.

“By joining the NII, we become part of a network of people working toward a common goal. We’ll be able to see the emergence of natural infrastructure through a variety of lenses. Having a diversity of perspectives at the table makes us all better positioned to realize our mutual goals,” Bledsoe said.

IRIS is a team of experts at the University of Georgia from 15 different disciplines, ranging from engineering to ecology, who specialize in blending natural and traditional infrastructure to create more resilient communities. To learn more, visit:

By Sarah Buckleitner

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