Natural Resources, School of


First Advisor

Dr. Mark Burbach

Second Advisor

Dr. Michael Hayes

Third Advisor

Dr. Charles Francis

Date of this Version



Haigh, T. (2019) Rangeland Management during Drought: Assessing Social-Ecological and Cognitive Indicators of Ranchers’ Adaptive Capacity. University of Nebraska - Lincoln PhD dissertation.


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Natural Resource Sciences (Human Dimensions), Under the Supervision of Professor Mark Burbach. Lincoln, Nebraska: October 2019

Copyright 2019 Tonya R. Haigh


Rangeland managers face challenges to adapt to climate extremes, and research is needed on how to support their adaptive capacity for managing climate risk. This study evaluates adaptive capacity using an integrated vulnerability and resilience conceptual model and three cognitive behavioral models. Overarching research questions focus on the relationship between protective action and impacts and the best predictors of taking action in response to drought. Three studies address these questions, using quantitative data collected from two post-drought surveys of rangeland-based livestock managers in the Northern Great Plains of the U.S. The studies find evidence of the roles of social-ecological sources of adaptive capacity, use of drought early warning and monitoring, and manager perceptions of their own efficacy in managing drought and the barriers they face, in predicting the actions taken (and at what time) during drought. However, in the studies, actions were not necessarily associated with experiencing fewer impacts, leaving questions about the effectiveness of post-event measurement of proactive drought action and impacts. A nested cognitive-social-ecological model of adaptive capacity is proposed to inform future research on drought management and climate adaptation.

Advisor: Mark Burbach