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Daniel R. Williams

Daniel R. Williams

Research Social Scientist
240 West Prospect Road
Fort Collins, CO 80526
Phone: 970-498-2561
Contact Daniel R. Williams

Current Research

1. Enhancing adaptive capacity and climate resilience in Southwest Colorado communities using iterative public scenario building processes. 2. Analyzing user-generated online content and social media as data sources for monitoring and managing wilderness areas. 3. Synthesizing theory and methods for identifying place-specific knowledge and social and symbolic meanings and values to improve collaborative governance of social and ecological changes across the landscape.

Research Interests

The practice of public sector natural resource management increasingly seeks more adaptive, integrated, and spatially multi-scaled ecosystem management strategies that emphasize collaborative multi-stakeholder governance. My research addresses several social science problems that arise out of this nascent context:

(1) How to improve and assess emerging collaborative governance practices in natural resource planning and decision making;

(2) How to apply social-geographic analysis to assess place specific meanings and values embedded in natural resource decision making and understand how these are shaped by and, in turn, shape social actions and ecological changes across the landscape;

(3) How to adapt the advances in philosophy and methods of social science for application to natural resource contexts and assess their implications for the interface between science and decision making; and 

Cutting across all three of these topics is a focus on geographic places, global scale social processes, and a longstanding interest in (4) How people experience and value outdoor recreation and nature contact.

Past Research

1. Developed a widely used social survey instrument for measuring place attachment, which has been applied in a variety fields including natural resource management, tourism development, community health surveys and school redistricting.

2. Synthesized the state-of-knowledge on the impact of outdoor environments on quality of life for the World Leisure Association's Global Declaration on Leisure and Human Well-being.

3. Identified best practices for community wildfire protection planning, an important planning tool for mitigating wildfire risks in the wildland-urban interface.

Why This Research is Important

Solving natural resource challenges involves engaging people in building and implementing solutions and goes beyond trying to convince people to adopt or accept the best available science. The key is to get people involved in the collaborative governance or decision making over their shared interests in specific places or landscapes. The essential ingredient of democracy is a willingness to listen and learn from each other. Even if people value different things about their surroundings they often share a commitment or attachment to what they see as special places. This can form the basis of a willingness to work together despite differences in values and interests. Successful natural resource management requires inclusive and sincere participatory decision making. My research is devoted to improving collaborative decision making process, a problem that becomes more urgent as we face larger scale natural resource problems.


  • University of Nevada, BS Natural Resources, 1978
  • Utah State, MS Outdoor Recreation, 1980
  • University of Minnesota, Ph.D. Forest Resources, 1984

Professional Experience

  • Associate Professor, Outdoor Recreation Management, University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign
    1994 - 1998
  • Assistant Professor, Forestry and Outdoor Recreation, Virginia Tech
    1988 - 1994
  • Assistant Professor, Outdoor Recreation Management, University of Utah
    1983 - 1988

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Last updated on : 03/05/2015