Spring 2017


Working to Understand Humans in the Wild

Professor Steve Martin Submitted

WHAT IF PERSONAL LOCATOR BEACONS change the behavior of people, convincing them to take more and greater risks, putting them in danger, taxing rescue resources, and changing the wilderness environments they visit?

Those were the questions at the heart of a recent study by HSU Dept. of Environmental Science & Management Chair and Professor Steve Martin, who received the U.S. Forest Service Chief’s 2015 National Award for Excellence in Wilderness Stewardship Research recognizing his ongoing work examining human relationships with the wilderness.

Martin says he thinks it was the applied nature of his research that caught the attention of the U.S. Forest Service chief.

“It gives wilderness managers a better understanding of the issues they’re dealing with and gives them some tools to deal with those issues,” Martin says.

He has also looked into wilderness food storage, trailhead quota decisions based on backpacker travel patterns, visitor attitudes about intervention to adapt to climate change, and ecological restoration to fix problems caused by past human behavior.

Wilderness means different things to different people, and it is an evolving human construct. The existence and protection of wilderness remains an extremely popular notion in the United States, even as its definition, and how humans use it, may change. For that reason, Martin says, it’s crucial to study these lands from a variety of disciplines.

“There are a lot of human dimensions of natural resources,” Martin says. “There’s as much social science involved as there is natural science.”