Project Nighthawk

Innovating Approaches to Drought Communications with North Carolina Decision Makers

Background   |   Why Nighthawk?   |   Objectives   |   Timeline   |   Our Partners   |   Funding Source   |   Contact Us   |   For Participants

Background

In the aftermath of recent droughts in North Carolina, including the exceptional drought of 2007-08, decision makers across the state have articulated their needs for information and communications that enhance and improve upon existing resources. These needs include a better understanding of how drought is monitored, the environmental conditions that can cause or worsen a drought, and drought impacts on various sectors including agriculture, forestry, and water resources. This project focuses on improving the usability of drought-relevant information for North Carolina decision makers based on needs identified by the NC Drought Management Advisory Council and constituents such as Cooperative Extension agents and public water supply system managers.


Why Nighthawk?


The common nighthawk. Photo by Andy Reago and Chrissy McClarren, shared under CC BY 2.0.

Project Nighthawk takes its name and inspiration from nature. The common nighthawk, or Chordeiles minor, is a bird species native to North Carolina. When it comes to drought response, though, these birds are anything but common. Every aspect of a nighthawk’s life can be affected by drought:

  • They lay their eggs not in a nest but on bare ground, so even in forested areas, temperature and precipitation extremes can limit their ability to incubate eggs at night or cool them during the day (Albright et al., 2010).
  • Males roost in trees to keep watch over the nests, so drought impacts such as wildfire can indiscriminately destroy their closely guarded habitats (Fisher et al., 2004).
  • They feed on aquatic insects, so hydrological drought conditions can limit the availability of their major food source near ponds and streams (Environment Canada, 2016).

Despite those impacts, the common nighthawk has been observed as one of the first creatures to return to drought- and fire-affected areas (Robertson, 2016). Indeed, they’re one of nature’s best examples of drought resilience.

Just as the common nighthawk has learned to live with and recover from drought, our goal in Project Nighthawk is to help decision makers across North Carolina become better informed about and prepared to respond to drought and the weather and climate patterns that can cause and alleviate it.


Objectives

Our specific objectives are to:

  1. develop tailored, sector-specific information relevant for drought-related decision points,
  2. deliver information in accessible and usable formats, and
  3. improve the transparency of the drought monitoring process through enhanced engagement and communication with decision makers.

Timeline

We plan to approach Project Nighthawk through the lens of three key sectors that are affected by drought: agriculture, forestry and water resources. While working with each sector, our iterative approach will help us (a) identify information needs and gaps in existing drought resources, (b) develop new communication strategies specifically targeted to each sector, (c) evaluate these new prototypes using both qualitative and quantitative metrics, and (d) refine our new products to best meet stakeholder needs.

Our planned tasks for each sector are outlined below.

TaskAgriculture/Forestry TimelineWater Resources Timeline
Survey extension agents, resource managers, and other identified sectoral representatives about their information needs, perceptions of drought, and awareness of existing resourcesFall 2018Fall 2018
Hold follow-up webinars for key project partners, including members of the NC Drought Management Advisory Council, to refine key needs and priorities for each sectorFall 2018Fall 2018
Develop prototype products and communication strategies to best meet the identified needs of sectoral stakeholdersFall 2018 and Winter 2018-19Winter 2018-19
Host focus group discussions and eye tracking studies at statewide conferences to evaluate current and newly developed resourcesRegional Workshops and Training
Dates TBD
Water Resource Research Institute Annual Conference
March 21-22, 2019
Refine developed products based on feedback and usability testing from the conference engagementsWinter 2018-19Spring 2019
Re-convene with key partners and sectoral representatives on a final set of webinars to provide feedback on revised tools and communication strategiesSpring 2019Summer 2019
Share a final survey with extension agents and resource managers to assess their potential usage of the newly developed resourcesSummer 2019Summer 2019

Our Partners

Project Nighthawk's principal investigators at the State Climate Office of North Carolina — Ms. Rebecca Ward and Mr. Corey Davis — are joined by a co-investigator, Dr. Kirsten Lackstrom, from the Carolinas Integrated Sciences and Assessments (CISA) at the University of South Carolina.

Supporters of our project proposal and expected partners throughout the project include the North Carolina Drought Management Advisory Council, its member organizations, and other key regional stakeholders:


Funding Source

This project was made possible because of Climate Program Office FY 2018 funding opportunity NOAA-OAR-CPO-2018-2005133 in the Sectoral Applications Research Program (SARP) “Coping with Drought in Support of the National Integrated Drought Information” competition, with a focus on “improving/enhancing decision making through improved and varied communication techniques such as through the use of social media”.


Contact Us

If you would like more information about Project Nighthawk, please fill out the following form: