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.
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.
Our specific objectives are to:
- develop tailored, sector-specific information relevant for drought-related decision points,
- deliver information in accessible and usable formats, and
- improve the transparency of the drought monitoring process through enhanced engagement and communication with decision makers.
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.
|Task||Agriculture/Forestry Timeline||Water Resources Timeline|
|Survey extension agents, resource managers, and other identified sectoral representatives about their information needs, perceptions of drought, and awareness of existing resources||Fall 2018||Fall 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 sector||Fall 2018||Fall 2018|
|Develop prototype products and communication strategies to best meet the identified needs of sectoral stakeholders||Fall 2018 and Winter 2018-19||Winter 2018-19|
|Host focus group discussions and eye tracking studies at statewide conferences to evaluate current and newly developed resources||Regional Workshops and Training|
|Water Resource Research Institute Annual Conference|
March 21-22, 2019
|Refine developed products based on feedback and usability testing from the conference engagements||Winter 2018-19||Spring 2019|
|Re-convene with key partners and sectoral representatives on a final set of webinars to provide feedback on revised tools and communication strategies||Spring 2019||Summer 2019|
|Share a final survey with extension agents and resource managers to assess their potential usage of the newly developed resources||Summer 2019||Summer 2019|
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:
- the NC Division of Water Resources
- the NC Cooperative Extension Service
- Duke Energy Carolinas
- the National Weather Service offices in Raleigh, NC and Greenville-Spartanburg, SC
- the NC Forest Service
- the USGS South Atlantic Water Science Center
- the Southeast Regional Climate Center
- the Southeast Regional Climate Hub; and
- the US Army Corps of Engineers Wilmington District.
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”.
If you would like more information about Project Nighthawk, please fill out the following form: