Park Studies Unit
The Colorado State University’s Park Studies Unit has worked in many parks and protected areas to assist management with visitor use. The Unit’s research focuses on visitor use as it relates to visitor perceptions and attitudes that lead to behaviors within protected areas. Much of the research informs indirect and direct management pertaining to education/interpretation initiatives, infrastructure and development of trails and transportation systems, and soundscape management. Most of the research takes place on-site, using visitor surveys, GPS tracking, as well as trail and traffic monitors.
However, the Park Studies Unit also collaborates with the Colorado State University Psychology Department to test and improve methods in the Environmental Psychology Laboratory. Additional collaborative research partners include Utah State University, which focuses on resource ecology, Resource Systems Group Inc., which assists the Unit with visitor use modeling, and the National Park Service Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division (NSNSD), which focuses on soundscape management in NPS units. Over the past six years, the Park Studies Unit has worked hand-in-hand with the NSNSD through many research projects throughout the United States. The NSNSD’s mission is to “protect, maintain, or restore acoustical environments” and to “increase scientific understanding and inspire public appreciation of the value and character of soundscapes.”
CSU’s Park Studies Unit provides graduate students opportunities to connect first-hand with park managers. This relationship between graduate students and park managers has allowed for further examination of visitor experience related to soundscapes in national parks. In 2005, Colorado State University graduate student, Ericka Pilcher was awarded the NSNSD first fellowship position for her work involving soundscapes in Muir Woods National Monument in California. Another Colorado State University graduate, Dave Stack was bestowed with the fellowship award in 2007 for his work as a ranger at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine in Baltimore, Maryland.
The Park Studies Unit recently returned from the 2013 George Wright Society Conference on Parks, Protected Areas, and Cultural Sites in Denver, CO. During the conference, the Unit presented information regarding their soundscapes, Leave No Trace, and wilderness character mapping research. Additionally, Dr. Newman was honored during the conference awards banquet, as he received the 2013 George Wright Society Social Science Achievement Award .
Peter Newman and the Park Studies Unit were also recently awarded with the 2012 Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit Network National Award for their soundscape research in National Parks.
Park Studies Unit staff are currently working with the Monument staff to develop the most effective methods for determining social soundscapes indicators in a cultural park. Staff will be conducting field research during the summer of 2013.
Park Studies Unit staff are currently working with Park officials to identify data and data needs, and develop protocols to support wilderness character monitoring in Rocky. During the summer of 2009, Park Studies Unit staff conducted visitor surveys related to beliefs toward Leave No Trace in the popular Bear Lake area of the park. In 2010, Park Studies Unit staff conducted visitor soundscape surveys in the Bear Lake area.
During the summer of 2012, Park Studies Unit staff conducted research in three Wyoming State Park units to improve understanding of visitor attitudes toward Leave No Trace practices.
During the summer of 2011 and 2012, Park Studies Unit staff assisted the park with acoustic monitoring and visitor soundscape surveys with mountaineers on the basecamp of Mount McKinley, backpackers at the Park's Backcountry Information Center, and day-hikers on the Triple Lakes and McKinley Bar Trails. Unit staff are currently conducting analysis, and will be sharing results with the park early 2013.
During the summer of 2010, Park Studies Unit staff assisted the park and Resource Systems Group with acoustic monitoring and visitor soundscape surveys in the Van Trump Park and Clover Lake areas of the park.
During the summer of 2009, Park Studies Unit staff conducted visitor soundscape surveys and acoustic monitoring in Crabtree and Giant Forest areas of the park.
During the summer of 2009 and 2010, Park Studies Unit staff conducted visitor soundscape surveys and acoustic monitoring in several popular locations of the park.
During 2005 - 2008, the Park Studies Unit staff conducted visitor soundscape surveys and acoustic monitoring in the Cathedral Grove area of the park. This research helped the park to define indicators and standards for soundscape and explore the effectiveness of particular actions (i.e., quiet zone and quiet day) in managing sounds in the park. Click here for example sound clips used in this research.