Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Environment and Society

Committee Chair(s)

Jordan W. Smith


Jordan W. Smith


Spencer Wood


Peter Howe


Yoshimitsu Chikamoto


Anna Miller


When people post photos on social media, these photos often contain information on the location, time, and date the photo was taken; all of this information is stored as metadata and is often never seen or used by the individuals posting the photos. This information can be used by researchers however, to understand the total number of visitors to parks and protected areas, as well as specific places people visit within those parks and protected areas. The first study in this dissertation reviews all the ways social media has been used to understand visitation and visitors’ experiences in parks. Researchers can connect the photo locations from social media to other datasets to understand how different factors, such as the weather or climate, influence park visitation. Weather refers to the conditions, such as temperature or precipitation, at any given place and time; climate refers to the long-term weather averages at a location, often over a period of 30 years or more. The second paper explores how weather affects where visitors go within 110 U.S. National Parks. Daily temperature and precipitation influence visitors’ elevation and distance to roads, parking areas, buildings, and bodies of water. However, the effect of weather varies in parks with different climates and landscapes. Visitors in some parks may be more able to adapt to adverse weather conditions by visiting park areas with preferable weather. In the third study, I examine how the climate of federal and state-managed public lands impact visitation by season. Across the conterminous U.S., visitation was higher in places with warmer average temperatures in the fall, spring, and winter. However, visitation was higher in places with relatively cooler average temperatures in the summer. Climate has a larger effect on visitation to public lands in the summer and winter, and in the Western U.S. Collectively, these studies provide insight into how visitation to and within parks, protected areas, and public lands in the U.S. may change due to weather conditions and climate change.