TUSCALOOSA, Alabama – The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) awarded nearly $200,000 in funding for water research to be conducted by UA’s Institute for Communication and Information Research (ICIR). 

The partnership, called the Cooperative Institute for Research to Operations in Hydrology (CIROH), began development in the summer of 2023. During that time, work on the funding proposal included building a team within the ICIR, creating a budget for the research and forming research questions grounded by theory. 

ICIR associate director Anneliese Bolland, Ph.D., said, “This project truly represents the ways in which C&IS is making a difference in our local, state and national communities.” 

In January, NOAA approved the funding for $199,427 and the work began. The CIROH partnership is set to end by July, and it involves over 28 different organizations from the academic, government and private sectors. Of the different teams working on CIROH, UA’s ICIR and the Digital Media Center (DMC) will help to provide the research component. They will study water hazards in Alabama, water crises such as floods,and strategic communication during weather-related incidents. 

The goals of the CIROH project are to lead research in water data and weather forecasting, to collaborate and accelerate the research into real-world uses and to develop products and education surrounding weather and water usage in Alabama. 

“The way that we communicate about weather hazards is so important, and the potential for weather to become a catastrophe is 100%,” Bolland said. “Minimizing the risk that weather will catastrophically impact individuals has broad impact.” 

The first study will be a survey of adults to discover their approach to water hazards, as well as their reaction to ‘Turn Around, Don’t Drown’ public service announcements. Then the DMC and broadcasting station WVUA 23 will create print and video imagery related to the hazards of flooding. Those images from the DMC will be shown to adults in Tuscaloosa and Mobile, Alabama, to gauge their responses using biometric sensors. Finally, the first survey of adults will be repeated again to give comparisons iof pre-test and post-test data. 

Funding from the $199,427 that the ICIR received will cover the DMC’s creative role in the project, incentives for Alabama residents to participate in surveys, employment for UA students and consultants, travel for collecting data and the scholars’ time in researching. 

For more information, you can find out more about CIROH here

Bolland is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication Studies in the College of Communicaiton Studies & Information Sciences (C&IS). She also serves as the ICIR associate director, where her expertise is in methodology and health communication. 

The College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS), with a total enrollment of more than 3,400 students, was founded at The University of Alabama in 1973. Among three academic departments and one school, the College offers five bachelor’s, five master’s and one multidisciplinary doctoral program designed to hone students’ knowledge and skills within the communication and information sciences. Learn more about the college and its community here.