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Learn more about the faculty, staff, and students working with the Park Studies Unit.


Peter Newman

Department Head and Professor, Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management

Dr. Newman's research focuses on social carrying capacity decision making in the context of protected areas management. He has conducted numerous visitor use management studies in parks and protected areas within the United States, and internationally. His current research interests include visitor management in and regarding protected areas, soundscape/acoustic management in parks, transportation management and planning, efficacy of Leave No Trace practices, and health and well being.

Before pursuing an academic career, Peter worked several years for the National Park Service. He received his bachelor of arts in political science degree from the University of Rochester, his master's of science in forest management from SUNY ESF, and his Ph.D. in natural resources from the University of Vermont.

Derrick Taff

Assistant Professor, Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management

Dr. Taff's research focuses upon education as it pertains to visitor-use management, visitor behaviors, and social conditions in parks and protected areas. He has conducted field studies in Sequoia National Park, Mount Ranier National Park, Bandelier National Monument, and Denali National Park and Preserve addressing visitor perceptions of sounds, and have also conducted studies in Rocky Mountain National Park concentrating on visitor perceptions of Leave No Trace practices, crowding, and alternative transportation. Additionally, he has conducted environmental psychology laboratory studies addressing perceptions of alternative energy, resource impacts, effectiveness of information sources, and biophysical responses to sounds and landscapes. He is currently researching visitor use issues in Grand Teton National Park, and co-managing the Penn State Social Science Acoustics lab, examing the role of nature and leisure on the restorative health of veterans, and evaluating the restorative effects of natural sounds on stress.

Dr. Taff received his bachelor's degree in wilderness recreation from the University of Alabama in 2003. He also received his master's degree from the University of Alabama in 2005, focusing upon American studies, with an emphasis on U.S. National Parks. He has worked seasonally in Rocky Mountain National Park and directed the Outdoor Recreation Program at the University of Alabama from 2003-2008. He started his Ph.D. program in human dimensions of natural resources in the Warner College of Natural Resources at Colorado State University in 2008, and completed his degree in 2012. He was nominated as a board member for the Society for Wilderness Stewardship.

Current Students

Jennifer Newton

Jennifer "Jenn" Newton is a Pennsylvania native who received bachelor's degrees in criminology and psychology from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Upon completing her studies, she joined the Peace Corps and served in Senegal as a sustainable agriculture extension agent. She worked in a rural village, teaching farmers improved field crop and gardening techniques. Once returning to the states, she worked tutoring Somali refugees English as a second language. Enjoying teaching, she moved to China and taught English as a second language to elementary, high school, and college students.

Loving the outdoors and helping others, Jenn decided to combine these interests and pursue a master's of science degree in recreation, park and tourism administration at Western Illinois University. Finding human dimensions of natural resources fascinating, she is continuing her education and currently pursuing a dual-title degree in recreation, park and tourism management and human dimensions of natural resources and the environment at Penn State.

Lauren Abbott

Lauren grew up in suburban Chicago and left the flatlands to pursue an undergraduate degree from Colorado State University in natural resource, recreation, and tourism Management. She was fortunate enough to work as a summer intern for the Student Conservation Association in Yosemite National Park. During that summer, Lauren collected visitor use data on the cables section of the popular Half-Dome hike. This experience sparked her interest in working within the field of parks and protected area management.

Since graduating from CSU, Lauren has spent time in Estes Park, Colorado working as a rock climbing and backpacking instructor for summer camps, schools, and other organizations. Along with playing outside, Lauren has had a diverse mix of different jobs and most recently worked as a manager and jewelry designer for a small design company based in San Diego, California. Currently, she is committed to her passion for the conservation of parks and protected areas and is working on her master’s degree at Penn State. Lauren enjoys doing anything outside: hiking with her dog, Woody, skiing, rock climbing, biking, surfing, and yoga.

Colin Leslie

Colin was born and grew up on a small farm in the country outside of Las Cruces, New Mexico. From New Mexico, he headed off to college at Humboldt State University in the Northern California town of Arcata. Though the rainy Pacific Northwest was a big change from the aired southwest, it proved to be one of the best choices of his life.

Colin received a bachelor of arts degree in geography with an emphasis in GIS and cartography. During his time at Humboldt, he was extremely fortunate to take part in a research project in Tibet where he spent two months and 2,100 miles documenting the impacts of transportation development in remote regions to subsistence Tibetan economies. During his time at Humboldt, he was also fortunate to begin his current career with the National Park Service where he spent each summer (with the exception of Tibet) working at Devils Postpile National Monument just outside of Mammoth Lakes, California. From Devils Postpile, Colin transitioned over to Yosemite National Park where he has spent the last three years working with the Branch of Visitor Use and Social Science. His work at Yosemite has included everything from wilderness management to transportation design and modeling.

He has continued developing his skills in the areas of GIS and statistics and looks forward to continuing his work and education with the Park Studies Unit.

Tim Archie

Tim received both a bachelor's degree and master's degree in parks, recreation, and tourism from Cal Poly State University. As an undergraduate student, he spent a year studying at Lincoln University in New Zealand. Tim has worked as a ski instructor, whitewater raft guide, park ranger, trail builder, and most recently as a university academic adviser.

Tim is currently working as a researcher at UNLV, while he completes his Ph.D.

Former Students

Find out where our former students are currently working!