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Research Project: Weather Data and Forecasting Applications for Management of Ecologic Site Transitions (Utah State University)

Location: Watershed Management Research

2013 Annual Report

1a. Objectives (from AD-416):
Identification of strategies to facilitate adoption of weather-centric management and forecasting strategies by land management agencies and professional restoration planners.

1b. Approach (from AD-416):
We will initiate two, closely linked studies: one of factors that can make the forecasting tools more accessible to managers in terms of perceived ease, and one that tests the utility of social marketing approaches to influence decision-making behavior toward the use of forecasting and other weather-centric planning tools. The first study will be accomplished through a combination of focus-group and delphi methods. The purpose of the initial groups will be to identify factors that influence the perceived usefulness of forecasting and weather-centric planning tools such as those that will be developed in this project. From within the membership of these groups we will recruit a smaller panel of volunteers who are willing to respond to a series of questions about the tools, each building on respondents’ answers to the previous question, during the tool-development phase. This technique, called delphi, is used by social scientists in combination with focus groups to fine-tune understanding of complex topics. Finally, a second set of focus groups will be conducted where the defined area of interest will be the set of forecasting and weather tools that we develop, in order to ascertain what potential users perceive as advantages and disadvantages of our approach when applied in both reactive and proactive restoration contexts.

3. Progress Report:
This Specific Cooperative Agreement by ARS and Utah State University (USU) in support of ARS and USU rangeland restoration research, technology-transfer and educational outreach programs. In this Fiscal Year (FY), the focus group strategy was developed for initiation in the second year of the study. Initial focus groups will be developed for three demographic groups: federal land managers, tribal managers, and private land-owner/ranchers. These groups will convene to identify factors that influence the perceived usefulness of forecasting and weather-centric planning tools as proposed under objectives 1-5 of this project. This information will be used for iterative development of tools initiated during the first year of this project. A smaller panel will be recruited from within the initial focus groups to respond to a series of questions for iterative feedback throughout the project development phase. This agreement was established in support of Objective 2 of the in-house project, the goals being to develop decision-support tools that will improve the success of rangeland restoration projects in the Great Basin by integrating weather, climate, micro-climate and forecast data into ecological site descriptions and conservation practice models to reduce the risks of climatic uncertainties.

4. Accomplishments