A case study on the status of environmental interpretation as a management technique at select Midwestern college and university natural areas

Karen Jane Dalman, Purdue University


Much research has been conducted on managing forests, wildlife, and entire ecosystems; much research has also been conducted on visitor behavior in outdoor settings. There is a large gap in the literature however, about techniques used to influence visitor behavior in natural settings---particularly as they relate to American colleges and universities. A number of colleges and universities are both owners and managers of natural areas; forests, prairies, and wetlands, that are visited on a regular basis by students and the general public. This study was conducted to find out what techniques, such as signs, onsite personnel, brochures or other literature, were being used on those natural-areas to influence visitor behavior. By using a case-study methodology, a clearer, more detailed picture emerged of this real-world situation. Four Midwestern schools were chosen to form the basis of this study. They represent a range of school types; private and public, small and large enrollment numbers, liberal arts and research institutions. Six natural area managers were interviewed, and ten properties at these four schools were visited to conduct onsite observations. Data were also gathered in the form of website information reviews, and printed document reviews. The results obtained from this study indicate that neither the size of the school nor its status as public or private was related to do the implementation of various behavior management techniques. All four schools were found to be using some similar techniques. And, as environmental education was more heavily emphasized at the school, the more these techniques were used. The results provide a basis from which several recommendations are made, addressing properties that are either open to or closed to the general public. Before it is determined which techniques are the most effective, it is important to discover first of all what techniques are being used. This study helps to serve that purpose. This case-study reflects a detailed study of four schools. It provides a foundation upon which more research can be conducted, and more questions asked.




Carroll, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Forestry|Environmental science

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