Planning Overview

If your community lies within the path of totality, you will be in the spotlight.  

The eclipse will happen regardless of any planning. Delayed or little planning will give the impression of disorganization and lack of engagement. Such negative PR can impact tourism for years.

Preparing for a total solar eclipse is a daunting task—there are many unknowns and unique challenges that differ from planning other major community events. You may find yourself facing the following uncertainties:


Where do you get the information that is needed to start with planning?


How do you prepare for something you have never seen or experienced?


Who can I check with that this is OK? Am I the right person for this?


How do you lead a team of others when there are so many unknowns?


I developed these planning resources to help you prepare your community for the total solar eclipse.


My motivation for writing ‘Being in the Shadow: Stories of the First-time total solar eclipse experience’ was to fill a much-needed gap.

In my work preparing communities for a total solar eclipse, I saw that Eclipse Coordinators needed urgent help to understand WHY tens of thousands of people would come to see a celestial event lasting a few minutes. They then needed to convince everyone else and speak confidently about difficult-to-verbalize experiences at public events and in the media when they hadn’t experienced totality themselves.

This book shares the first-time total solar eclipse experience from multiple perspectives, also sharing insights into how these individuals decided to travel into the path of totality, how they prepared, what they did the night before, how the day unfolded, and of course – the personal impact of totality.

All eclipse planning stakeholders will benefit from the many valuable insights within this book to help with preparations. 


“Over a year ago I found Dr. Kate Russo’s work on community planning and preparing for the eclipse. She wrote about how the emotional reaction can be surprising, awe-inspiring. Reading Being in The Shadow has excited me even more for this coming event. The narratives were well written and the whole book flowed nicely. The stories were broken up in a way that allowed me as a reader to think about each of the different moments of preparation, decision, and response.
I think as this eclipse approaches people should be looking for more and more information to understand what to expect and Being in The Shadow should be at the top of their lists.”


“I just finished reading “Being in the Shadow,” and all I can say is WOW. I’ve read many books in preparation for the Great American Total Solar Eclipse, and this one is so much better than others I’ve read that focus on the teeniest, tiniest scientific details but largely ignore the EXPERIENCE that most people are seeking. No wonder many people decide that they will just skip eclipse day even if they’re in the path of totality or near enough that traveling to it will not put an undue burden on them. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.”


I have been community eclipse planning for a decade, and continue to research and distill learnings and lessons from previous eclipses to help future efforts. This guidance is written in a White Paper on Community Eclipse Planning, which is now in its second edition.

I offer these White Papers as a free educational tool to facilitate community eclipse planning. Downloads will be free, without needing to leave any details, and you are welcome to share widely.

The first edition (2015) was informed by planning insights and experiences from 2012 in Australia and 2015 in the Faroe Islands. The need for written guidance was pressing—over a thousand communities across the US found themselves “in the dark” preparing for the 2017 total solar eclipse, something that hadn’t happened in the US since 1979.

The second edition (2022) is more detailed and supplemented with material from a needs analysis of eclipse planners across the 2017 path of totality, along with in-depth interviews with over 30 eclipse coordinators completed pre-and post-eclipse.

Both editions will be available to download in the Resource section below.

“Your White Paper on Community Eclipse Planning has become a very useful document in leading us towards a well-planned event.
“Extremely valuable for our planning.”
“This White Paper was crucial in helping us get our stakeholders together – thank you.”
“This is a great resource that gives us confidence in moving forward. Everything you need is right here, making it easy to get people on board. We always refer back to the information and wouldn’t have known where to start without it.”


I can help tailor general event planning and eclipse information specific to your community, with most of this work undertaken via Zoom. See my HOW CAN I HELP page for details. 

I LOVE coming to communities to help whip up excitement related to the eclipse. Not only can I engage your community with talks about the totality experience, but I can also deliver stakeholder workshops and help with site selection, event planning, content development, and other practical tasks. I will highlight the MANY opportunities that others do not see.

Most importantly – I get year-round requests from media outlets wanting to film my activities. They love the visuals of what I do and the interest I generate. They care less about where I go and more about the human stories. Why not allow your community to be the one featured? 

Here is just one example. My community visit to the small town of Ravenna in Nebraska involved a range of stakeholder and community engagement events that were the focus of many positive stories. The VICE video alone reached millions, showcasing the small-town community welcome of Ravenna. Please view my MEDIA section for many more examples from this community and others.

These stories are a refreshing alternative to the dry, repetitive announcement stories that only comment on facts, figures, and meeting dates.   

I can help you identify your alternative media message and generate opportunities to help your community shine.

This 2017 VICE video of community eclipse planning in the tiny town of Ravenna, Nebraska (population 1,300) generated over 3 million views.This could be your community in 2024.

Having a clear eclipse planning strategy puts you in control of the narrative, and can be used to build up positive PR for your region. The earlier you start, the more you benefit. I can help!

Complete the form to let me know you exist so I can support you in your efforts.  


    I have extensive experience in helping communities prepare for a total solar eclipse, and am the only person researching and providing evidence-based guidance.

    The 2012 path of totality went through my home region. Here is a summary of how I was involved in these preparations.

    I took what I learned from 2012 and was able to take the lead as Eclipse Coordinator, where the 2015 path of totality went through the Faroe Islands. Here is a summary of my role, and what was undertaken in helping this wonderful community prepare for totality.

    Then after launching the first edition of the White Paper, I supported over 30 communities across the U.S. to prepare for the 2017 total solar eclipse. From a personal perspective, my hands were incredibly tied—you can read my personal challenges of trying to get my US visa to help with planning efforts that only came through after the eclipse. Despite these challenges, I was still able to gather extensive interview data before and after the eclipse to further develop White Paper guidance.

    In 2022, I released the 2nd Edition of the White Paper, having identified the detailed lessons learned, and launched an Australian version for 2023 and a U.S version for the 2023 and 2024 eclipses. As well as providing extensive guidance for the Australian eclipse, I am in the midst of detailed post-eclipse interviews to gather lessons learned – and there are many!

    I continue to support planning efforts for the 2023 and 2024 eclipses in the US, and contribute toward national planning efforts. I also have commenced efforts for planning for the multiple Australian eclipses over the coming decade, and will be soon engaging in further academic research in this niche field.

    I was involved with community eclipse preparations for Ravenna and Grand Island in Nebraska. During a 10 day stay in 2017, a range of community and stakeholder engagement activities generated significant media interest. (c) 2017 Dr. Kate Russo