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Integrating Aspatial and Spatial Data to Improve Visitor Management: Pairing Visitor Questionnaires with Multiple Spatial Methodologies in Grand Teton National Park, WY, USA

Ashley D'Antonio, B. Derrick Taff, Jenna Baker, William L. Rice, Jennifer N. Newton, Zachary D. Miller, Peter Newman, Christopher Monz, Stephanie Freeman


Recent advances in geospatial technology resulted in GPS and GIS-based approaches becoming more common in visitor use management studies. Many of these studies focus on describing the spatial and temporal patterns and trends of use. While these descriptive data are useful, recent reviews of the recreation literature using GPS and GIS techniques suggest that spatial technologies should be linked to aspatial approaches – such as visitor surveys – to better understand the experiences and behaviors of visitors. However, these calls in the literature have not provided directions for how such an integration could be achieved in a way that is useful to both scientists and managers. This paper presents a multi-faceted methodological approach employed in a study of visitor use and experience at String and Leigh Lakes in Grand Teton National Park, WY. We used an intentional, integrated approach, where aspatial data was linked to three different types of spatial data to better understand the social and ecological environments of SLL and their influence on visitor experiences. Visitors completed questionnaires before and after their experience at SLL that were combined with GPS-based tracking data. We related both the survey results and GPS tracking data to a GIS analysis of mapped, biophysical user-created resource impacts. We also paired spatial-aspatial data in an experimental design to evaluate the effectiveness of visitor messaging. The deliberate combination of aspatial and spatial data allowed us to investigate site-specific management concerns and theory-based questions. We found that paired spatial-aspatial data provided a more nuanced understanding of the relationships between the social, experiential, and biophysical factors measured in our study. Overall, this paper provides a method for thoughtfully integrating GPS and GIS-based techniques with questionnaires in a way that contributes to both the science and management of visitor use in parks and protected areas.


GPS tracking; interdisciplinary; visitor use management; resource impacts; aspatial

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