The Latest Conservation Research All in One Place


By Kevin Roth, PhD, and Teresa L. Penbrooke, PhDc|Posted on September 19, 2017

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There are many important and valuable research articles published each year related to parks and recreation. Yet most of this research is not freely available or easily readable for those professionals practicing in the field. To help remedy this gap, NRPA contracted with North Carolina State University’s Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management Department to review recently published papers focused on park and recreation’s role in conservation and resiliency.

The Relevant Research for Practice 2017: Focus on Conservation and Resiliency covers recent academic articles related to protecting open space, connecting people to nature and engaging communities in conservation practices. Teresa L. Penbrooke served as editor to cull through hundreds of peer-reviewed articles to summarize key findings from research on these topics.

To help make the summary more manageable, Penbrooke organized 33 research articles under three themes:

Community Resiliency and Capacity Building

Topics for this theme includes research and practices related to how agencies can address natural and man-made disasters and change, including preparation and conservation of natural areas to withstand, protect and revitalize the communities they serve. Hot topics covered in these articles include how agencies are addressing conservation in their communities from an ecosystems approach, and new studies that address climate change, sea level rise, wildfire mitigation, resiliency, sustainable tourism, management of natural coastlines and how agencies can better deal with these issues.

Human Restoration from Natural Areas

This theme includes new research on the validated effects of health impacts, nature “dosing,” prescriptions for parks and natural areas, and potential return on investment from providing natural environments in communities. These studies highlight the attributes and design characteristics that can promote health, along with new work in how humans benefit from the natural environment, and how to measure those benefits.

Measuring and Communicating the Role of Conservation

Much research has been conducted related to the development of updated evaluation metrics and measurement tools to help communities determine how their parks and conservation areas are performing and providing service. This section includes new research on evaluating, monitoring, mapping, and communicating the role of education and stewardship to promote conservation, quality of life and community capacity building.

The report concludes with a summary section called “So What - What Might This Research Mean for Practitioners in the Field? ” which presents a summary of key ideas and implications for the park and recreation field. The end of the report also shares additional background information on the creation of the report and a full reference section, including links to access the publicly available reports and contact information of authors of papers not available through open source online channels. 

We see this article as an important resource that will help better connect vital academic work with park and recreation professionals to make a real impact in the field. We would love to hear your feedback. Please share your comments with Kevin Roth at kroth@npra.org or with Teresa L. Penbrooke at tplenbro@ncsu.edu or teresap@gpred.org.