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Sheila Saia

Unpaid Faculty All Ranks


Research Building III 153


I work alongside a team of scientists at the State Climate Office of North Carolina at North Carolina State University. My current research uses data analytics (i.e., data wrangling, statistical and physically-based modeling, and data visualizing) to predict and minimize human impacts on water resources at regional and national scales. I’m passionate about open science and broadly interested in research questions exploring the relationships between humans, climate, and water resources (water quantity and water quality).

In general, I am interested in collaborating on research that explores the relationships between humans, climate, and water resources (water quantity and water quality). Specific areas of collaboration may involve (1) leverage data from nearly 50 Environment & Climate Observing Network (ECONet) weather stations across North Carolina and (2) improving access and usability of publicly available weather and climate datasets for decision making and natural resources management.


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Date: 03/01/23 - 2/28/28
Amount: $700,000.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of Housing & Urban Development (HUD)

The frequency and intensity of both floods and droughts are expected to increase in response to climate change; however, significant uncertainties remain regarding regional changes, especially for extreme rainfall. In particular, North Carolina???s geographic position makes it vulnerable to several natural hazards that pose significant flooding risks, including hurricanes, severe thunderstorms, and large winter storms. The most obvious problems within NC in recent years are the pluvial and fluvial flooding from notable hurricanes which paralyzed the NC infrastructure for weeks and caused extensive damage to homes and personal property. The heavy rainfall associated with Hurricanes Floyd (1999), Matthew (2016), Florence (2018), Dorian (2019), and Tropical Storm Fred (2021) generated record-breaking fluvial flooding along key economic corridors and in local communities. Though hurricanes receive a lot of attention in resilient design, as they should, transportation engineers, resilience professionals, community planners, and other local officials face additional challenges, including possible changes to rainfall intensity from localized thunderstorms and other ???no-name??? events. Increasing evidence suggests that precipitation intensity and frequency is changing across the Carolinas (SCO); however, what is poorly understood is how the distribution of rainfall (particularly sub-daily) is changing and what the distribution of this rainfall is now and in the future. Understanding sub-daily rainfall distributions is particularly important for developing design storms to assess the resilience of existing infrastructure to current and future events and for flood hazard mapping, used to establish future land use plans and building standards (e.g., freeboard). In addition, in a changing climate, flooding is expected to increase in some locations and decrease in others. As such, it is particularly important to understand where future rainfall patterns may drive future flooding to plan for a rapidly changing future. The objectives of this study are to 1) update statewide intensity-duration-frequency (IDF) curves to account for climate change projections to quantify future risk for the entire state of North Carolina 2) prepare statewide projections of future precipitation extremes using the newest downscaled climate model data (e.g., CMIP6) 3) evaluate the efficacy of existing IDF curve tools and potential applications in North Carolina 4) identify hotspots of future flood risk based on precipitation estimates, particularly in areas outside of mapped FEMA floodplains 5) create an end-user driven system in consultation with key stakeholders for analyzing, displaying, disseminating, and storing the data.

Date: 10/01/21 - 9/30/24
Amount: $61,517.00
Funding Agencies: BHP Foundation

The State Climate Office will work with the Internet of Water, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, and other stakeholders to develop a Water Utilities Dashboard. The Dashboard will incorporate climate data and other water utility data. The SCO will perform eye tracking analysis with stakeholders to gather feedback about dashboard efficacy.

Date: 08/01/23 - 7/31/24
Amount: $136,112.00
Funding Agencies: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)

The main goals of this project are to develop methods to assess climate suitability and to incorporate potential climate change impacts for the Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey (CAPS) pests to support USDA APHIS Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) by providing scientific information to conduct exotic plant pest surveys. This proposal includes the evaluation of climate conditions to estimate potential establishment areas and the development of innovative analytic approaches to evaluate potential pest establishment areas and climate change impacts.

Date: 04/07/20 - 2/06/24
Amount: $374,410.00
Funding Agencies: National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

North Carolina State University shall provide support to Synoptic Data Corp (Synoptic) in the continuation of the National Mesonet Program. The National Weather Service (NWS) desires to continue delivery of the National Mesonet Program capability that meets the needs of a broad and diverse set of constituents across the weather enterprise. This capability will enable NWS to improve forecasts and warnings for severe weather, enhance numerical weather prediction capabilities, and achieve effective collaboration among disparate network operators to promote NOAA??????????????????s objective of a Weather-Ready Nation.

Date: 02/01/23 - 1/31/24
Amount: $350,210.00
Funding Agencies: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)

The primary purpose of this agreement is to support further development of the Spatial Analytic Framework for Advanced Risk Information Systems (SAFARIS). This framework integrates a vast amount of abiotic/biotic data with the capacity and flexibility to produce forecast and analysis models to support Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ).

Date: 10/01/21 - 9/30/23
Amount: $86,024.00
Funding Agencies: United Soybean Board

We propose to develop a pilot Data Science Extension program at North Carolina State University, with a primary focus on data-driven soybean production. In the near-term, we will leverage our networks to interview stakeholder groups and identify grower interests and needs in data services and training, and use this information to prepare a vision and series of recommendations for Extension programs across the country regarding data science Extension programming. Additionally, we will develop a series of data science Extension products -- including tutorials, workshop materials, social media releases -- tailored for soybean growers. These products will be advertised through the Soybean Research Information Network to ensure national visibility and access. In the long-term, we will pursue additional funds to establish additional data-driven soybean research and Extension projects that serve the priorities identified through interviews held during this project, and advance the field and practice of data science Extension. USB funding is specifically sought to support personnel who will interview growers, summarize findings in a white paper, and prepare data-focused soybean Extension products.

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