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Hill Country Field-Station

UT Expands Hill Country Nature Studies with $50M Dripping Springs Facility

Dripping Springs has long been known as the gateway to the Hill Country. Coming in 2026, our area’s unique placement on the edge of the landscape will be home to a world-class research facility. The University of Texas Hill Country Station will support biological and environmental research, educational programs and public outreach. 

Funded by a $50 million gift from the Winn Family Foundation, along with another $150 million in estimated institutional and additional philanthropic support, the Hill Country Station will cover 340 acres. It will help landowners and policymakers better understand how changes in climate, species and development affect our land, water and other natural resources.

DSCL recently spoke with Kenneth P. Wray, Ph.D., Managing Director for the Texas Field Station Network about this unprecedented natural gift.

Why is studying the edge of the terrain important?

In the Hill Country and the Edwards Plateau, a large number of species have evolved in this very unique ecosystem over millions of years. As we continue to experience global changes in temperature and precipitation, the edges of these long-standing ecosystems are going to be the first places we see the effects of these changes. Studying the edges of major ecosystems allows us to monitor the situation and detect these changes as they are happening. In some cases, it may allow us to act to prevent the loss of biodiversity.

What are the goals of the initiative?

We want to bring world-class research and researchers to this unique ecosystem. This will strengthen the relationships between researchers and our stakeholders, including private landowners, private businesses, and local and state agencies. And we want to use this scientific research to help educate the next generation on the importance of conserving biodiversity and managing natural resources.

How will this impact local landowners?

Much of the research has direct impacts on local ecosystems. The Hill Country Field Station will be no different. It is a primary objective to work directly with private landowners to help them make data-driven land management decisions.