Elena Bigart

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Elena Bigart

PhD candidate, Forest & Conservation Sciences

Personal Summary

For the past 12 years I have been working with nature protected areas around the world to increase their capacity in visitor management, environmental education and cooperation with local communities and other stakeholders. I worked mainly in the nonprofit sector and academia and was involved in a number of projects focused on sustainable tourism, recreation management and stakeholder collaboration, including those associated with transboundary conservation in Russia and the U.S. In particular, after graduating from the Moscow State University, Department of Geography, I worked for a non-profit called “Environmental Education Center”, which is the only training center for protected area managers in Russia. My job was to develop and lead various workshops, trainings and study tours for the managers of national parks and nature reserves, that were aimed at increasing management effectiveness of natural areas. In 2013-2016, after being a Fulbright scholar in the U.S., I served in the Steering Committee of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas as a Regional Vice-Chair for North Eurasia (Russia and neighboring countries), which gave me a remarkable opportunity to learn from environmental leaders around the world, and increase my own capacity in management of national parks and nature reserves.

My current dissertation research is aimed at exploring cognitive-affective nature of destination image of Glacier National Park as perceived by park visitors, and measuring the peace dimension in the U.S. section of Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. I am using both qualitative and quantitative research methods to develop a model of the destination image, and hope that my results will help park managers to increase the value of the peace designation. For the last four semesters I have been teaching PTRM-217: Parks and Outdoor Recreation Management at the University of Montana, which has been one of the most rewarding experiences for me.

I am interested in conducting research on various aspects of national park management, nature-based recreation, visitor use management, assessing social and environmental impacts of tourism, and help park managers and tourism industry to make informed decisions.