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Working with the Land

Under the direction of Drs. Peter Newman and Derrick Taff, the Penn State Park Studies Unit works in parks and protected areas to inform management regarding visitor use. The Unit's research focuses on visitor use as it relates to user capacity.

Our research examines visitor perceptions and attitudes that lead to behaviors within, and regarding protected areas. Furthermore, the Unit's research informs the role of environmental and human health and wellbeing through the lens of parks and 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 in parks and protected areas, using visitor surveys, GPS tracking, as well as trail and traffic monitors. However, the Park Studies Unit also manages the Penn State Social Science Acoustics Laboratory.

Some of Our Partners

The Park Studies Unit has conducted research in numerous parks such as Rocky Mountain, Yosemite, Sequoia, Mount Rainier National Parks, and many state parks. The Unit is currently finalizing soundscape projects in Denali National Park and Preserve, and Banedlier National Monument, and just starting a visitor use project in Grand Teton National Park.

The Park Studies Unit works with disciplinary colleagues across Penn State campuses in fields of psychology, biobehavioral health, acoustic engineering, arts and humanities, and ethics to collaborate on research projects. Additional collaborative research partners include Utah State University, Boise State University, Resource Systems Group, Inc., Applied Trails Research, the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, and the National Park Service Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division (NSNSD).