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Featured Research Projects

Big Cat Research ProjectReducing Conflicts Between Communities and Large Cats Around Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya (2017-2018)

Dr. Larry Allen and graduate student Katie Krafte are exploring the support or opposition for predator conservation in communities surrounding Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. Communities in the region live side by side with lions and other predators that can prey on livestock and pose threats to local people. Conserving these apex predators is critical for ecosystem health but in order to do so, human needs and livelihoods must be met and protected. Allen and Krafte are examining social factors that impact susceptibility of a community to conflicts with lions and other predators. In addition, they will examine the role ecotourism may play in lessening community impacts of predator conflict as well as increasing tolerance for the lion populations that share their home (see FINAL-MMNR-Perception-Report-02-20-18.pdf ~ Building a Sustainable Management System for Maasai Mara National Reserve: Understanding Staff and Community Members Perceptions of the Management of the MMNR and their Attitudes toward Wildlife, Conservation, and Environmental Issues. Final Report. 78 pp.)

Arctic Wildlife Research Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (2017-2018) 

Dr. Jeffrey Hallo, Associate Professor and CUIP Fellow, and Dr. Bob Dvorak from Central Michigan University are working on a multi-year project to address visitor management and carrying capacity of polar bear-viewing tourism at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. The Arctic Refuge, and specifically the Native Alaskan village of Kaktovik, is one of three places worldwide where tourists regularly come to view polar bears. Demand for commercially-guided polar bear viewing there has quadrupled in the last six years. However, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), which manages the Arctic Refuge, currently places no limit on the number of commercial guides or visitors that come to view polar bears. Drs. Hallo and Dvorak will be providing social science research and expertise to help the FWS better understand polar-bear viewing tourists, identify an experience-based carrying capacity for this activity, and formulate and evaluate management alternatives as part of an environmental assessment and plan.  

National Park EducationEducation in National Parks and Nature Centers (2016-2018) 

Director Bob Powell and CUIP Scholar from Virginia Tech Marc Stern were awarded an Institute for Museum and Library Services Grant to study youth environmental education (EE) programs offered by the National Park Service and Nature Centers. This complements a previously awarded National Science Foundation grant they received. These programs often serve as gateway experiences in which diverse audiences engage in informal science learning. While there is evidence that these programs can have positive impacts on participants, little empirical research has been conducted to determine what makes one program more successful than another. Stern and Powell initiated the studies in Yosemite National Park with the National Park Service Advisory Education Committee, the North American Association for Environmental Education, and the Association of Nature Center Administrators.

Increasing Involvement of Women in Conservation and Nature-Based Tourism Projects in Southern Chile (2016-2017)

CUIP Fellow Dr. Lauren Duffy is identifying, examining, and addressing barriers for the involvement of women in conservation and nature-based tourism (NBT) projects in the Aysen Region of Chile. This analysis will specifically examine gender roles, identity, and power dynamics, which will be particularly useful in understanding patterns of involvement, behavior, and activities of women and men in various decision-making processes. In this regard, barriers to involvement and potential points of entry for women will be identified along with specific strategies of how to overcome and address these barriers to increase women’s empowerment and economic independence.

TN Falls Research Tennessee State Parks Visitor Management  (2015-2017)

CUIP Fellow Dr. Jeff Hallo is working on a project to assess visitor management and related carrying capacity issues at Cummins Falls, Burgess Falls, and Rock Island State Parks in Tennessee. The Tennessee State Parks (TSP) system contains sites that showcase the state’s most important natural, historic, and cultural resources. A current area of concern is the demand for waterfall-based parks. Water and waterfalls have acted as natural tourist attractions for centuries. A waterfall’s beauty and soundscape draw people to them primarily for picnicking and swimming. Visitation to waterfall-based parks like Tennessee’s Cummins Falls, Burgess Falls, and Rock Island State Parks is quite high, and apparently growing. TSP needs to reevaluate visitor use management and carrying capacity in these three waterfall-based parks. The overall purpose of the research is to gather accurate and defensible information that will help guide visitor management and related carrying capacity decisions at these sites. Study objectives focus on the three elements: 1) collecting baseline data on visitor use, visitor attitudes, and visitor perceptions of impacts, 2) identifying indicators and standards, 3) assessing how acceptable management alternatives (current and future) are to visitors.

Greenway Research Urban Greenways in Diverse Neighborhoods: Public Use, Constraints to Use, and Perceptions of Greenway-related Benefits (2015)

A growing body of research highlights multiple environmental, social, and health-related benefits associated with urban parks and natural areas. One type of urban park, greenways, represent a unique “corridors of benefits” that have attracted a great deal of attention from urban planners and recreation practitioners. Using a combination of onsite and offsite data collection methods in San Antonio, Texas and Atlanta, Georgia CUIP Scholar Dr. Lincoln Larson explored greenway use, constraints to use, and public perceptions of benefits along greenway segments that transverse racially and ethnically diverse neighborhoods.

Park TransportationSustainable Transportation Management and Planning in National Parks (2014)

CUIP Fellow Jeff Hallo, Institute Scholar Bob Manning, and other scientists published a book that establishes a series of principles to help guide sustainable transportation management and planning in the national parks. Their groundbreaking contribution on the relationship between transportation, visitor experience, and sustainability synthesizes multiple investigations over the past 20 years. The final conclusion drawn from their research provides a series of principles to help guide sustainable transportation in our national parks today. 

Everglades Research Best Practices Interpretation for the National Park Service (2009-2013) 

Institute Director Fellow Bob Powell and Institute Scholar Marc Stern conducted a study to identify best practices in interpretation for the National Park Service. The study is published in a special issue in the Journal of Interpretation Research. Read More.