Current Projects

Visitor Transit Survey to Inform Park Planning in Yellowstone National Park

This study seeks to inform management decisions about alternative transportation and managed access options in Yellowstone National Park and investigate if investments in shuttle bus systems and infrastructure can solve issues associated with the park’s high levels of visitation. In particular, the study seeks to provide insight about the visiting public’s willingness to adopt shuttle busses as a means of access and transport in the park along with a timed entry system that allows a limited number of personal vehicles to access the park each day.


Jake Jorgenson (co-PI) & Jeremy Sage (co-PI), RRC Associates

Mandi Roberts (co-PI), OTAK

Lauren Miller and David Pettebone, National Park Service

Examining Commercial and Non-commercial Visitor Use on Blue Mesa Reservoir and the adjacent Gunnison River at Curecanti National Recreation Area

This project seeks to develop descriptive information about visitor use types, amounts, and patterns as well as perceptions of visitor experience on Blue Mesa Reservoir and the adjacent Gunnison River at Curecanti National Recreation Area.


Jennifer Thomsen (co-PI) and Cindy Leary, University of Montana

Ashley D'Antonio, Oregon State University

Christopher Armatas, U.S. Forest Service, Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute

Assessing Visitor Flow and the Spatial Distribution of Recreational Ecosystem Services

This study explores visitor use patterns, visitor perceptions of safety and risk in frontcountry recreation areas, and the spatial distribution of recreational ecosystem services at Grand Canyon National Park.


Derrick Taff (co-PI), Peter Newman, and Bing Pan, Pennsylvania State University

Comprehensive review of National Park Service sustainability projects including water, transportation, energy, and waste management

This study responds to a gap in our present understanding of how National Park Service sustainability projects are distributed: 1) across National Park Service units, 2) time, and 3) within the categories outlined in the National Park Service Green Parks Plan.


Karen Hevel-Mingo, National Parks Conservation Association

Shawn Norton, Sustainable Operations Branch of the Park Facility Management Division, National Park Service

Study of Recreation Patterns and Experiences in City of Missoula Open Space Lands and the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area and Wilderness

This study responds to a pressing research need concerning visitor flow between Open Space lands and the RNRA, and drivers of visitation to these sites, through a comprehensive assessment of visitor use to the RNRA and proximate Open Space lands.


Christopher Armatas, U.S. Forest Service, Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute

Katie Knotek and Ryan Mcfarland, U.S. Forest Service, Lolo National Forest

Jeff Gicklhorn, Morgan Valliant, and Grahm Johnson, City of Missoula

Using Big Data to Assess Protected Areas' impacts on Rural Adolescent Health

This NIH NIGMS-funded study (with the UM Center for Population Health Research) explores how the attributes and use patterns of parks and protected areas impact adolescent health outcomes in rural Montana using big data.


Sarah Michels, Miranda Foster, Jon Graham, and Jennifer Thomsen, University of Montana

Assessing visitor use and the wilderness experience in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Wilderness, Everglades National Park

This visitor use study seeks to document visitor use patterns and assess the quality of the wilderness experience in Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas Wilderness and serves as a pilot study for a Wilderness visitor survey for the National Park Service.


Jennifer Thomsen (co-PI) and Jaclyn Rushing, University of Montana

Christopher Armatas, U.S. Forest Service, Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute

Guiding a Strategy for Recreation Planning at Fish Creek State Park and Wildlife Management Area

This project seeks to inform the planning process for Fish Creek State Park and Wildlife Management Area through collection and analysis of spatial data related to ecological, managerial, and social conditions and through a structured stakeholder and public engagement process.


Libby Metcalf (PI), Shawn Johnson (Co-PI), Jennifer Thomsen (Co-PI), Travis Anklam, Kaity Reintsma, and Zachary Hummel, University of Montana

Charles Besancon, Global Park Solutions

Completed Projects

Behavioral responses to wildfire smoke in parks and playgrounds

This project seeks to build understanding concerning how visitation to city parks, and their playgrounds, changes in response spatial and temporal variation in air quality during the main wildfire season in the Intermountain and Northwestern U.S.


Katrina Mullan, Teigan Avery, Patrick Boise, Cindy Leary, and Erin Semmens, University of Montana

Reimagining the Interagency Pass Program

This project seeks to identify the range of interagency and other pass opportunities available within federal public lands in the U.S., identify constraints and issues associated with these pass programs, and make recommendations on the Interagency Pass Program and ways to improve communications to help visitors when purchasing passes.


Mandi Roberts (co-PI), OTAK

Jeremy Sage (co-PI), University of Montana & RRC Associates

Jake Jorgenson (co-PI), RRC Associates

David Pettebone and Linda Thurn, National Park Service

Designing and testing Leave No Trace signage using research-based visual communication and outdoor recreation messaging principles

Through a unique collaboration, cohorts of students in the Department of Design at the University Kansas and the Parks, Tourism, and Recreation Management Program at the University of Montana are working together—each employing their own expertise in either graphic design or recreation management—to design and test signage containing Leave No Trace messaging in Missoula, Montana's Conservation Lands.


Jeremy Shellhorn (co-PI), University of Kansas

Jeff Gicklhorn, Morgan Valliant, and Clancy Jandreau, City of Missoula

Ensuring equitable access to outdoor recreation: Evaluating spatiotemporal patterns and trends in campground use on federal public lands

Federal lands in the United States provide important recreation opportunities to the public, but there is a growing need to understand and mitigate inequities in access to outdoor recreation. This project addressed this need by creating an interactive platform for summarizing and visualizing park-specific patterns and trends in visitation volume, demand, and visitors’ location of origin.


Clarissa Boyajian and Halina Do-Linh, University of California Santa Barbara, Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, Master of Environmental Data Science program

Kaitlyn Gaynor, National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis

Rick DeLappe, National Park Service

Eric Levine, Sehlke Consulting

Jason Smurthwaite, U.S. Forest Service

Developing Quality of Life Indicators for City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks Management

This study seeks to establish domains of recreational ecosystem service contributions that are generated by Open Space and Mountain Parks in the City of Boulder, CO.


Deonne VanderWoude, City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks

Social science research to support visitor use management in Wilderness areas and related wildlands

This study intends to create a research agenda for visitor use management (VUM) in U.S. Wilderness areas, including a scoping review of Wilderness VUM research.


Jennifer Thomsen (co-PI) and Jaclyn Rushing, University of Montana

Christopher Armatas, U.S. Forest Service, Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute

Assessing new participation in outdoor recreation since COVID-19

This study examines participants new to outdoor recreation since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic using panel data.


Ben Lawhon, Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics

Derrick Taff and Peter Newman, Pennsylvania State University

Understanding Campsite-scale Demand in U.S. national parks

This study is aimed at creating models to understand what aspects of the campground setting most influence demand for individual campsites using big data.


Soyoung Park, Florida Atlantic University