USU hosts first in-person Research Landscapes event since the pandemic began
Utah State University conducted its first in-person Research Landscapes speaker series event since the beginning of the pandemic on May 12.
USU’s Research Landscapes series took place in person at the O.C. Tanner headquarters in Salt Lake City. Jordan Smith, director of the Institute of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism at USU was the featured speaker.
Anna McEntire, executive director of research communications at USU, and lead organizer of the event, said his presentation revolved around Utah’s outdoor recreation, specifically how social media can improve these popular locations within the state.
“He really is an expert on understanding how people in the state are using outdoor recreation resources, where they are using them, and starting to dig up some data that will help managers make decisions on how to manage and invest in infrastructure over the coming-years when it comes to outdoor recreation,” McEntire said.
Using social media tagging and geotagging, Smith is able to track where people commonly visit at recreational areas. When these areas are mapped out after being tracked on popular apps such as Instagram or Facebook, they give researchers insight as to where popular parts of the state are and locations that may need improved recreation infrastructure.
“Some of that research helps pinpoint recreational areas that might be under-recognized by state managers or other people who manage those places,” McEntire said.
McEntire said the presentation also included the announcement of three current research projects. First, Smith highlighted visitation trends in Little Cottonwood, Big Cottonwood and Millcreek canyons. Then, he mentioned the plan to select a location for the Bears Ears National Monument visitor center in collaboration with native tribal leaders. And finally, he announced the opportunity for investments on outdoor recreation infrastructure development throughout Utah.
McEntire said there are two more in-person Research Landscapes presentations planned for the rest of the year, both specifically focusing on agriculture, water-management and water conservation, which is crucial right now as the state is currently facing a severe drought.