Jennifer Thomsen

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Jennifer Thomsen

Assistant Professor of Park, Recreation, and Tourism Management

Curriculum Vitae: View/Download CV

Personal Summary

Ever since I can remember, I have had a passion for conservation, wildlife, outdoors recreation, and travel starting with childhood explorations in the woods and my first trip to Africa. I could not be happier that my life and experiences have led me to a profession where I can research and teach in the field of park, recreation, and tourism management. Bridging my natural science background in wildlife and fisheries biology with my social science background in parks and conservation area management, my research focuses on four main areas: 1) stakeholder collaboration associated with large landscape conservation, 2) sustainable tourism, 3) the relationship between human and ecosystem health, and 4) environmental education and interpretation. 

My work in large landscape conservation has addressed the challenges, opportunities, and outcomes associated with stakeholder collaboration and how these groups evolve over time in their transboundary ecosystem management. I have conducted work in the Southern Appalachians and the Crown of the Continent regions in North America, have also been heavily involved in the biosphere reserve program, and will be expanding my research to international locations and large landscape conservation networks.

My work in sustainable tourism focuses on the management of resources that balances the environmental, social/cultural, and economic needs of diverse stakeholders. I have explored unique types of tourism, such surf and medical voluntourism, as well as ecotourism, nature-based tourism, and adventure tourism. My work has taken place in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Peru, Namibia, and in numerous parks in the United States with plans to expand to Zambia and the Galapagos. 

My third research area focuses on the relationship between human health and ecosystem health. I have worked with the National Park Service to co-author the Healthy Parks, Healthy People Science plan and am collaborating with partners to explore the impacts and effectiveness of Park Prescription programs on the physical and mental health of participants. Working with a non-profit medical voluntourism group in Haiti, I have been able to conduct focus groups in multiple communities assessing the relationship between the health of their water and resources to their personal health to support how voluntourism groups can best address health issues. 

Environmental education and interpretation has been a common thread throughout my career. Working at an environmental education facility and then at the South Carolina Aquarium, I recognized the importance of environmental education in reaching diverse audiences to gain support for conservation and encourage pro-environmental behaviors. In this field, I helped conduct an assessment of the most effective techniques and strategies used by interpreters in National Park Service units throughout the country. This area of study also encompassed a large part of my postdoctoral research, which explored how people in the San Francisco Bay Area learn about the environment and form their environmental values and how these aspects relate to sense of place and their participation in sustainable behaviors. 

While I also am involved in other research projects, these four areas serve as the focal areas of my research and teaching. I fell in love with Montana when I first came to the state during my dissertation research and it could not be a more perfect place for my professional career. I love exploring new places, cultures, and perspectives and am always excited to work with students to help them fulfill their own passions in their future careers!


Post-doc, Woods Institute for the Environment and Graduate School of Education: 2015, Stanford University

Ph.D. Park, Recreation, and Tourism Management: 2014, Clemson University

M.S. Wildlife and Fisheries Biology: 2007, Clemson University

B.S. Wildlife and Fisheries Biology: 2006, Clemson University


Courses Taught

PTRM 210: Nature-based Tourism 

PTRM 484: Field Techniques 

PTRM 595: Stakeholder Collaboration and Conflict across Spatial and Temporal Scales 

NRSM 594: Conservation and Social Science Graduate Seminar 


Research Interests

Large landscape conservation

Stakeholder collaboration

Ecotourism and sustainability

Interpretation and education

Sense of place and sustainable behavior

Outdoor recreation benefits and impacts

Linkage between health of parks and people

Transboundary wildlife conflict and management