The following list provides an overview of some of the research projects we have been working on at the Socio-Environmental Research Lab (SERL). If you would like more information about any of these projects, please contact Dr. Michael Schuett:

• Volunteerism in Natural Resource Management Agencies. Fiscal constraints over the past quarter century have led to natural resource management agencies to be increasingly dependent upon volunteer work as a critical resource for their programs’ continued success.  Even though agency budgets are declining or staying flat, more and more people are engaging in outdoor recreational activities, thus increasing the need for more extensive and prolonged management of natural resources.  The purpose of this research is to develop a comprehensive model to examine the effects of volunteer motivations, satisfaction, and generativity on volunteer commitment in a natural resource-based volunteering context.
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This online study surveyed individuals who volunteer for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD).  This research examined motivations, satisfaction, generativity, socio-demographics, and the combined effect of these factors on volunteers’ commitment in a natural resource-based volunteering context.  The findings of this study will help natural resource management agencies understand the various factors that may help them recruit, satisfy, and retain environmental volunteers. This study was conducted by Chen Ding.

• The Use of Social Media in State Parks. The use of social media for sharing and learning about new information has increased at a dramatic rate; however, its application in the area of parks and protected area management has gone unnoticed. The purpose of this research is to examine social media in natural resource management and outdoor recreation at a state agency. We are collaborating with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) to explore the use of Facebook by state park units. The goals of this research are to examine the level of engagement fans’ have with Facebook in order to determine their involvement with TPWD and to obtain feedback from staff on the use of this social medium.
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We are working on two pilot projects that will provide baseline information for more in-depth social media studies in the future. Project 1 will determine the level of engagement by fans at selected state parks’ Facebook pages by assessing current Facebook metrics at selected park units. Project 2 measures the relationship between event postings on state park’s Facebook pages, intention to participate and actual participation in a particular event. This study is being done by Jieun Song and GwanggyuBob” Lee.

• Strategic Partner Assessment for the U.S. Forest Service. Social networks play an important role in facilitating effective and sustained connections between organizations responsible for natural resource management and planning. Working in conjunction with the U.S. Forest Service and the University of Texas, this strategic partner assessment  will rely on a social network analysis (SNA) to create an understanding of partner relationships (including and among NGOs, foundations, and corporations), organized by thematic focus and geographic location.
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Data for this project will be collected from organizations that are partners with the U.S. Forest Service. In this study, partners are defined as “…people, organizations, agencies, and communities that work together and share interests.”  The organization must also have had an executed grant or agreement with the USFS within a 3 year period from 2012-2015. Data will be collected online and focus on partnership history, structure, relationship with the U.S. Forest Service and other related variables. Dr. Patrick Bixler from the University of Texas is leading this research study.

• Examining the Relationship between Stakeholders and Everglades National Park. Diverse groups of stakeholders have become increasingly involved with parks and protected areas that are impacted by impending development, population shift and other natural processes. A collaborative approach to landscape conservation is necessary to cultivate natural resource stewardship but challenging given the diverse backgrounds of external partners. This study examined the relationships between stakeholders and one of the most biologically diverse U.S. national parks, Everglades National Park. This park is home to over 20 rare, endangered/threatened species and provides habitat for over 400 species of birds. However, Everglades NP is also on the World Heritage Danger list threatened by poaching, disruption in water flow, pollution, and development.
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The results of this research report on interviews with 51 stakeholder groups representing government, businesses, and conservation organizations. Study participants were asked about meanings of the park, change over time, involvement with the park, relationships, and the future. Data analysis is ongoing. Theoretically, the findings provide a better understanding of diverse stakeholders’ and their relationships with national parks. For park managers, the results facilitate more effective strategies to guide conservation in and beyond park boundaries. This study was conducted with Yunseon Choe and Dr. David Matarrita.


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