Great Plains Studies to host drought symposium April 1-4

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Great Plains Studies to host drought symposium April 1-4

Jason Clay
Jason Clay

Drought hit the southern Great Plains hard in the summer of 2011 with all the classic signs: withering plants, cracked earth, water restrictions. Then it expanded across most of the Plains in 2012. And it continued in 2013.

Though drought may wreak havoc on our lives, it is actually a recurring pattern on the Great Plains — a part of the natural climate. Drought or the ever-present threat of it has had a pervasive effect on the region and its people. The University of Nebraska’s Center for Great Plains Studies will hold its 40th annual interdisciplinary symposium on this topic on April 1-4 at the Nebraska Union. The symposium theme is “Drought in the Life, Cultures and Landscapes of the Great Plains.”

More than 40 speakers from across the spectrum of disciplines and organizations will share their expertise and perspectives as the symposium explores all aspects and ramifications of drought in the Great Plains.

Speakers include New Yorker writer Ian Frazier, Harvard economist Richard Hornbeck, World Wildlife Fund senior vice president Jason Clay and officials and scientists from the Centers for Disease Control, the National Climatic Data Center and other agencies. Topics include agriculture and livestock impacts, Dust Bowl history, drought in literature and art, climate extremes, human health impacts and more.

“Drought is one of the defining features of the Great Plains, affecting not only agriculture and the environment but shaping the lives and identities of those who live here,” said Richard Edwards, director of the Center for Great Plains Studies. “The symposium will explore all these dimensions and ramifications of drought, in non-technical language everyone can understand.”

“The symposium will also consider the implications of a changing climate on drought occurrence and how projected changes may alter the region’s social and environmental fabric,” said Donald Wilhite, co-chair of the symposium and professor at UNL’s School of Natural Resources.

The symposium’s events will be enhanced with an upcoming exhibit at the Great Plains Art Museum, 1155 Q St., that features ceramic artist Jess Benjamin’s drought-related artwork along with an exhibit curated by Elizabeth Ingraham, associate professor of art at UNL. Conference events also include poster sessions, exhibitors and a display of drought-inspired infographics created by a UNL graphic design class.

The symposium is a collaborative effort between the Center for Great Plains Studies, the National Drought Mitigation Center and the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute. Major support is provided by the offices of the Vice Chancellor of the Institute for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Vice Chancellor for Research and Economic Development and the Cooperative Ecosystems Studies Unit at UNL; and corporate sponsors Monsanto and Lindsay Irrigation.

For registration and more information, go to

Ian Frazier
Richard Hornbeck

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