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|Degree||MS in NRES|
249 North Hardin Hall
3310 Holdrege St
Mary Hillis is a master's degree student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's School of Natural Resources. She has a bachelor's degree from California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo in Earth Sciences, with minors in soil science and sustainable environments. Mary developed an interest in water resources through her senior project, Estimation of Spatial Variation in Hydraulic Conductivity Using Geoelectrical Methods at Swanton Pacific Ranch. Mary's thesis research, an NDMC partnership with the National Integrated Drought Information System, is on strategies for improving drought impact tools and management plans.
- Presentation Type: Thesis Defense
- Date: 6/10/2019
The United States Drought Monitor (USDM), a weekly-updated map depicting severity and spatial extent of drought, is a key indicator for federal and state policy decisions including the distribution of hundreds of millions of dollars for agricultural financial relief in the United States annually. However, the current table describing potential drought impacts for the map's severity levels fails to adequately represent a state's unique environmental, economic, and social values affected by drought. One approach to improve this broad, national-scale assessment is to transition from the former platform to a more detailed characterization of drought impacts at the state level. To accomplish this, state and regionally specific drought impact classification tables were developed by linking multi-sector, qualitative impacts chronicled in the Drought Impact Reporter (DIR) to historic USDM severity levels across the United States and Puerto Rico. After creating state-level tables, a nationwide survey was administered to local experts and decision makers (n=89), including the USDM authors, in an effort to capture greater resolution of drought impacts at a local level. As a result, 76% of responses indicated the state table as acceptable or good when classifying drought impacts in their respective state. This updated classification scheme builds a narrative supported by a reproducible methodology that can be simulated in future research for a multiplicity of drought events to better understand the complex relationship between drought severity and corresponding impacts. This thesis includes one article (Chapter Two) currently in preparation for publication in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. It highlights the methodology, products, and next steps surrounding the drought impact classification table scheme, building upon the importance of enhancing qualitative impact reporting and drought characterization to improve drought preparedness, planning, and mitigation.
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