Hi, I'm Don Wilhite, professor emeritus of Applied Climate Science and director emeritus of the School of Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL). I am the founding director of the International Drought Information Center in 1988 and the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC) in 1995. I served as director of the NDMC from 1995 until 2007, when I accepted the position of director of the School of Natural Resources. On August 1, 2012, I stepped down from the SNR director's position to rejoin the faculty. My principal research, outreach and teaching areas of interest are drought monitoring, preparedness, mitigation and policy; climate change; and climate impact assessment. I retired from UNL in 2016.
Throughout my career, I have worked with many federal and state agencies, foreign governments and international/regional organizations on a broad range of drought management issues. Most of my efforts have focused on the development and implementation of integrated drought management programs and risk-based drought preparedness strategies and policies. I have assisted states and the federal government in the U.S., foreign governments around the world and United Nations agencies on the preparation of policies and plans to prepare for and mitigate the effects of drought. To facilitate the development of drought plans in the U.S., I developed a 10-step planning process in the early 1990s that has been a model for drought plan development in many states. That planning process was modified in 2014 at the request of the Integrated Drought Management Programme (IDMP) in support of a global initiative to move nations to a risk-based management approach for drought preparedness and response. The IDMP program is sponsored by the U.N.’s World Meteorological Organization and the Global Water Partnership. This planning process is now the international standard for integrated drought management.
In 2013, I served as chair of the International Organizing Committee for the High-level Meeting on National Drought Policy (HMNDP), held in Geneva, Switzerland. The principal sponsors of this international conference were the World Meteorological Organization, the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification, and the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization. The goal of this conference was to promote the adoption of national drought management policies in drought-prone countries, largely based on the risk-based drought management promoted by the NDMC since its founding in 1995. Eighty-seven countries and over 400 persons participated in this conference. I am currently working with the U.N. and key scientists considering the organization of HMNDP+10 in 2023. The goal of this conference would be to evaluate global progress on national drought management policy development and determine the pathway forward to further promote integrated drought management.
There were several significant outcomes of the initial HMNDP conference, including the conduct of six regional capacity building workshops between 2013-2015 on drought management and policy in developing countries—those most vulnerable to the effects of drought. Over 70 countries participated in these workshops in the following regions: Eastern and Central Europe; Southeast and South Asia; Western and Central Africa; Eastern and Southern Africa; Latin America; and North Africa and the Mideast.
Another outcome of the HDMDP was the creation of the Integrated Drought Management Programme (IDMP) in 2013 under the auspices of the World Meteorological Organization and the Global Water Partnership (https://www.droughtmanagement.info). I chaired the advisory and management committees of IDMP from 2013 to 2019. In 2014, I authored a handbook, referred to earlier, Guidelines for National Drought Management Policy: A Template for Action, for the IDMP. The guidelines focus on the three pillars of successful drought management: monitoring and early warning; vulnerability and impact assessment; and mitigation and response. This publication is available at (https://www.droughtmanagement.info/literature/IDMP_NDMPG_en.pdf) in all languages of the United Nations.
In 2018, I published the 2nd edition of a book, Drought and Water Crises: Integrating Science, Management and Policy (https://www.crcpress.com/Drought-and-Water-Crises-Integrating-Science-Management-and-Policy-Second/Wilhite-Pulwarty/p/book/9781138035645). The 1st edition of the book was published in 2005. My co-editor for the 2nd edition was Roger Pulwarty, Senior Climate Scientist at NOAA. This book emphasizes progress in integrated drought management methodology and its application globally, including case studies from many countries. I am continuing to serve as the editor of the book series with the same title, Drought and Water Crisis, through CRC Press/Taylor and Francis Publishers. Six books are available currently as part of this series and other books are currently in various stages of the production process.
After stepping down as SNR director in 2012, the majority of my research and outreach efforts have focused on climate change and its implications for Nebraska. In September 2014, I was one of four authors that produced a University of Nebraska report, Understanding and Assessing Climate Change: Implications for Nebraska. This report was prepared in response to a request from the Nebraska legislature. The report has attracted considerable attention across the state. As a follow up to the 2014 report, I co-organized a series of eight sector-based roundtables to identify appropriate adaptation and mitigation actions for each of the eight sectors. This series of 1-day roundtable events included the participation of more than 350 stakeholders and resulted in the publication of a summary report in early 2016. Both this report and the 2014 report are available at https://go.unl.edu/climatechange. Several legislative bills and resolutions, were introduced in the Nebraska Legislature each year from 2016 to 2021. These bills sought the development of a climate action plan for Nebraska. The most recent bill (LB 483) remains pending with the Nebraska legislature.
I am also a member of the Nebraska Elder Climate Legacy group (https://elderclimatelegacy.org). This group is composed of emeriti faculty from the University of Nebraska and other retired professionals such as public school science teachers, clergy, and environmental advocates. As elder citizens of the earth, we strive to serve as catalysts in educating the public, opinion leaders, and decision makers regarding actions and policies that can effectively address critical environmental issues facing current and future generations, particularly climate change.
I am one of several co-editors, including Clark Archer, David Wishart, Rick Edwards, Les Howard and Fred Shelley, of a comprehensive Atlas of Nebraska, in 2017. This atlas was published by the University of Nebraska Press 2017 in conjunction with Nebraska's Sesquicentennial. The atlas received the Nebraska Book Award in 2018 from the Nebraska Center for the Book in the category of Non-fiction Reference.
Please continue to examine the SNR website and all of the programs in the School of Natural Resources. The field of applied climate science offers many opportunities for prospective undergraduate and graduate students. If you are interested in applied climate science, I encourage you to explore educational and training opportunities with this program through direct contact with applied climate science faculty.
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