News & Updates

Meet the Recipients of the 2023 Leave No Trace Research Grant

Chloe Lindahl - February 14, 2024
Over the shoulder of a volunteer filling out a form.

In 2023, Leave No Trace launched a research grant to further Leave No Trace science in adjacent fields.  Meet the 2023 recipients, Dr. Yu-Fai Leung and Dr. Lincoln Larson! Larson and Leung’s research will focus on “Using Leave No Trace Principles and Practices to Enhance Visitor Use Management at Popular Frontcountry Recreation Sites.”

COVID-19 brought a massive growth in visitors to local and national parks; with that increase in visitor numbers came an increase in recreational impacts. Many new visitors aren’t familiar with conservation practices such as Leave No Trace. While impacts from the pandemic continue to decline, there has been no decrease in visitors to outdoor areas.

Leung and Larson’s research will focus on how improving messaging and communication around the Leave No Trace Principles in these outdoor areas will lead to better outdoor etiquette for visitors.

Get to know the researchers:

About Dr. Leung

Dr. YuFai is a Professor in the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management at North Carolina State University. His research program addresses the sustainability challenges of visitor use in parks, protected areas, heritage sites, wildernesses, and other natural areas from local to global scales. He has focused on developing visitor use and impact indicators and monitoring protocols for protected areas in the United States and abroad. He has examined how use, environmental, and technology factors influence visitor use and impacts, shaping subsequent visitor behavior and experience. More recently, YuFai has been exploring the net positive impacts of tourism and recreation on protected area conservation, not only by minimizing visitors’ negative effects but also by increasing their pro-environmental outcomes and direct contributions, such as participation in citizen science/monitoring efforts.

Why is this research important?

“Protected areas such as national forests and national parks not only are a crucial component of biodiversity conservation strategy; they also provide ample opportunities for meaningful and memorable visitor experience, which can only be sustained by high-quality natural resources and well-maintained recreation infrastructure. The Leave No Trace programs and principles play an essential role in (re-)connecting recreationists with nature in responsible and sustainable ways through visitor education and communication. In this study, we integrate social and ecological methods and employ a pre-post intervention research design to evaluate the extent to which Leave No Trace messaging and its delivery are effective for different visitor groups at high-use recreation sites in western North Carolina based on empirical evidence from visitor and biophysical data.”

-Dr. Leung

About Dr. Lincoln Larson:

Dr. Lincoln Larson is an Associate Professor in the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management at North Carolina State University. His conservation social science research and teachings focus on promoting sustainable human-environment interactions and fostering healthy relationships between people, parks, and nature.

Why is this research important?

“As more and more people visit parks, impacting resources to an unprecedented degree, we must find ways to help outdoor recreationists embrace environmental stewardship and behave more responsibly. Leave No Trace principles offer a promising solution, but we need to know more about what messaging and communication strategies work the best and how they affect different visitor groups. Our research is designed to answer those questions. We are focused on highly visited sites in western North Carolina, but the lessons learned from this project could apply to parks around the world.”

-Dr. Larson


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