What’s happening on the trails? USFS, UW team up to get better information.

New research methods track outdoor usage

Appeared in Methow Valley News

An innovative approach to research is using texting, analysis of social-media postings, and a chatbot named Vic to collect data about recreation in the national forest.

Researchers from the University of Washington have been partnering with the U.S. Forest Service, supplementing the agency’s traditional visitor surveys with crowd-sourced data to provide more finely tuned information about how people use trails and other areas in the forest.

The traditional methods for learning about how many people recreate in the forest and what they do there — asking hikers to register at trailheads, counting parking and wilderness permits, and occasionally sending out a ranger to talk with people — are expensive and logistically challenging, said Emmi Lia, a research scientist in the Outdoor Recreation and Data Lab at the University of Washington’s College of the Environment… (continue)