Public acceptance of forest health biotechnologies. Photo: Michigan Tech

Tourist experiences when swimming with manta rays. Photo: Jack’s Diving Locker

Public perceptions of Oregon’s new marine reserves. Photo: ODFW

Visitor impacts and behaviors in Hawaii’s marine protected areas. Photo: R. Garnett

Recreationist behaviors in Portland’s urban parks. Photo: B. Forster, Metro

Visitors and recreation use levels on wild and scenic rivers. Photo: B. Wojahn, Oregonian



The Natural Resources, Tourism, and Recreation (NATURE) Studies Lab is part of the Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society at Oregon State University. It is a group of faculty, staff, and graduate and undergraduate students with a passion and interest in research, planning, and management. The Director of the NATURE Studies Lab is Dr. Mark Needham.


The NATURE Studies Lab conducts research and planning involving recreation, tourism, marine and terrestrial protected areas, wildlife, forestry, and other natural resource issues. The goal of this lab is to examine human elements (social science) such as uses and impacts, and inform management and policy. This lab has collaborated with and received support from federal agencies such as the US Forest Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Bureau of Land Management; state agencies such as the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, Oregon Department of Forestry, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, Travel Oregon, and Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources; and local agencies such as Metro (Portland). The lab has also worked with nongovernmental institutions such as the US Endowment for Forestry and Communities, The Forest Health Initiative, The Nature Conservancy, and Tillamook Forest Heritage Trust, as well as private entities such as Intrawest Resorts and Powdr Resorts. The lab has also actively collaborated with other universities such as the University of Cape Town’s Institute for Communities and Wildlife in Africa (iCWild).

Recent studies examining human dimensions of natural resources include:

  • Public acceptance of using biotechnologies to address forest health issues such as chestnut blight.
  • Resident perceptions of the marine reserve system in Oregon.
  • Landowner incentives and tolerances for managing beaver impacts in Oregon.
  • Stakeholder perceptions of rhinoceros poaching in South Africa.
  • Resident and hunter responses to chronic wasting disease in deer and elk in multiple states.
  • Measuring the effectiveness of science center interpretation on local communities.

Recent studies examining recreation and tourism issues include:

  • Oregon resident perspectives about tourism.
  • Surfer behaviors, risks, and tradeoffs in response to encountering sharks in South Africa.
  • Behaviors and constraints among recreationists and communities of color in Portland’s parks.
  • Recreation capacities, crowding, and conflict on the Sandy River in Oregon.
  • Recreation impacts and management at various marine protected areas in Hawaii.
  • Crowding and conflict associated with swimming with manta rays in Hawaii.
  • Visitor motivations and satisfaction throughout Oregon’s state park system.
  • Effects of guides and outfitters on recreation and tourism in Alaska’s wilderness areas.
  • Visitor impacts and opinions of management at various alpine ski areas (e.g., Whistler, Mt. Bachelor).
  • Visitor experiences and preferences at Oregon’s state forest recreation sites.
  • Support, demand, and potential for revenue associated with recreation at the McDonald-Dunn Forest in Oregon.
  • Perceptions of volunteer tourists at a cloud forest reserve in Ecuador.


Research by the NATURE Studies Lab involves understanding human interactions with other humans and the environment through scientifically rigorous and empirically data-driven investigations that are based on solid conceptual and theoretical foundations. This research incorporates previous information, collaborative input from multiple stakeholders, and rigorous primary data collection that provides information that is both representative and generalizable. Most of the data collection methods involve survey research (e.g., questionnaires) and quantitative analyses, although several studies have also integrated qualitative approaches such as interviews and focus groups. These strategies inform grounded recommendations for resource management and policy development.


The NATURE Studies Lab has conducted scientific research in multiple states and countries. In the United States, studies have been conducted in Oregon, Hawaii, Alaska, California, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Arizona, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. Studies have also been conducted in other countries such as Canada, South Africa, and Ecuador.

Please contact the lab if you would like to discuss potential opportunities or collaborations:

Natural Resources, Tourism, and Recreation (NATURE) Studies Lab
Oregon State University
204 Richardson Hall
Corvallis, Oregon, USA 97331
Office:  (541) 737-1498
Fax:  (541) 737-5814