Colorado State Partners with Finnish and Dutch Universities to Study Recreational Experiences at Finnish National Park

A Colorado State University researcher and graduate student partnered with Wageningen University in the Netherlands and the University of Oulu in Finland on a grant to study the links between biodiversity and visitor experience at a Finnish national park.

Stuart Cottrell, associate professor, and Katie Lyon, doctoral student in CSU’s Department of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources, collaborated with Ramona van Marwijk, assistant professor at Wageningen University, and Pirkko Siikamaki, director of the Oulanka Research Station, on the project in Oulanka National Park in Finland. Understanding the link between tourist satisfaction and biodiversity variances at Oulanka could provide information on how to improve national park management around the world.

“The purpose of the project is to explore how biodiversity and other environmental characteristics contribute to a park visitor’s experience. This is of interest to many parks, such as Oulanka, which have dual goals of ensuring nature conservation while offering visitors a high quality experience,” said Lyon.

Future research will look at how the satisfaction of park visitors correlates with certain biodiversity hotspots in the park. This would show if areas with a higher level of diversity, higher number of habitat types and an increased number of rare species were more appealing to visitors.

The Oulanka project findings will eventually be combined with other research on nature based tourism studies including projects with the PAN Parks network, a European-based wilderness protection organization.

Lyon intends to release some of her research at the CSU Geographic Information Systems Day on Nov. 19 in the Lory Student Center. Cottrell and his Finnish and Dutch collaborators are currently seeking follow-up grants to gather more information next summer.

The grant, awarded through the Lapland Atmosphere-Biosphere Facility, is for research conducted in Finland. Cottrell co-authored the grant with Esther Duke, coordinator of Special Projects and Programs in the Department of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources.

For more information on Oulanka National Park, visit and for more information on PAN Parks network, visit