Research Groups

Nature, Culture, and Parks (NCP) Research Group 

The History of Adventure Outdoor Recreation

Grand Teton National Park, WY

This multiple year (2016 – 2020 AY) , grant-funded, collaborative, and transdisciplinary project seeks to document and interpret the social, cultural, and environmental history of outdoor recreation in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.  Specifically, our team is tracing the history of three important outdoor recreation pioneer groups in the park: Upper Snake River guides, NPS River Patrol Rangers, and NPS Jenny Lake Climbing Rangers from 1950 to 2020. 

As PI (lead Project Investigator) of this group, I seek to bring together university scholars, students, NPS personnel, and local stakeholders to better understand and preserve the history of outdoor recreation in  GRTE in a way that includes rigorous scholarship, lasting connections to the community, and dynamic interpretive displays (museum displays, public talks) that both inform and engage a wide public audience. 

This work involves an interdisciplinary team of faculty and students at Idaho State University working in a transdisciplinary partnership with cultural resources and museum technicians and managers at Grand Teton National Park (GRTE) and stakeholders in the river rafting and mountaineering community of GRTE and Jackson, Wyoming. 

This work is made possible through a partnership and with the U.S. National Park Service (US NPS), Idaho State University (ISU),  and the Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit (CESU) national network. The project is funded by the US Department of the Interior (DOI – US National Park Service), Idaho State University, and the National Science Foundation (NSF). It provides real world and applied research experience for undergraduate and graduate students at ISU. 

Products and Activities of this project:

  • Oral Histories: Gathering and transcribing oral histories of pioneer river runners, river rangers, and mountaineering rangers to document this important history 
  • Digitizing thousands of historic photographs and documents for preservation.  This includes a digitization lab (see slide show below) where undergraduate and graduate students at ISU have the opportunity to learn and hone their skills with digitizing historic documents and photographs, transcribing oral history interviews, managing large data sets, and learning archival resource collections management. 
  • Expanding Preservation of Historic Materials: Building and expanding a new Outdoor Recreation History Collection in Grand Teton NP archives and museum dedicated to preserving the history of Jenny Lake Rangers, Snake River Patrol Rangers, and Snake River Scenic Guides and Company Operators
  • Archival Research: Conducting archival research of hundreds of historic photographs and documents in local, regional, and national archives
  • Museum Collections: Assisting the US NPS in Grand Teton NP in collecting historic objects, photographs, documents, and audio oral histories for museum displays throughout the park dedicated to scenic river rafting and guiding, climbing and river ranger history in the park
  • Repeat photography: Creating a set of repeat photographs of “then and now” (1974 & 2018) images of historic boat launch sites along the Upper Snake River in Grand Teton National Park. These photographic sets document cultural landscape changes, outdoor recreation use patterns, and river morphology conditions over time. 
  • Fieldwork: Students work in collaborative and interdisciplinary teams conducting river transect surveys by kayak, ground truthing historic photographs and imagery, meeting with US NPS managers and resource specialists, rafting the Upper Snake River in historic boats, and other activities
  • Written histories: Products from this project will also include short, written histories of three important outdoor recreation groups in Grand Teton National Park: Upper Snake Scenic river guides, GRTE River Patrol Rangers, and GRTE Jenny Lake Climbing Rangers (illustrated with historic photographs and maps)

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NSF EPSCOR Managing Idaho’s Landscapes for Ecosystem Services (MILES) project

Cultural and Recreational Ecosystem Services of the Portneuf River, Idaho

Our research group seeks to better understand and interpret the social and cultural values of recreation, tourism, and parks for ecosystem services along the Portneuf River in Pocatello, Idaho.  This project is part of a larger state-wide effort to better understand and manage water resources and ecosystem services in Idaho. It is funded by the National Science Foundation EPSCoR Grant (Award No IIA-1301792). 

As a research team leader and active faculty scholar (PI) of several seeds grants in this larger state-wide project, I brought together teams of interdisciplinary faculty, students, city and state personnel, environmental researchers, and local stakeholders for a range of scholarly and community outreach activities.

Products from this project included:

  • GIS based Story Maps: These dynamic visualizations and GIS products brought together social science methods and analysis to visualize changing recreational and cultural geography along the Portneuf River over time.  (recreational opportunities, multiple use pathways, water trails, kayaking, agricultural use, rural and urban development along the river corridor, riparian habitat change over time)
  • Repeat photography: The project team created sets of historic “then and now” photographs of along the Portneuf River to better visualize and understand changing use patterns (US Bureau of Reclamation, State of Idaho, City of Pocatello photographs)
  • Community outreach: K-12 teaching training modules and field exercises in repeat photography use for history, geography, and social studies classes


  • Fieldwork : This project involved field work and methods including kayaking and hiking river transects for repeat photography, ground truthing historic photographs, Geotagging imagery for later use in GIS Story Maps
  • Archival research 
  • Social surveys of visitor use and perception of the river
  • GIS data collection, use, and analysis

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