Outdoor R&D is the University of Washington’s Outdoor Recreation and Data Lab. We do data-driven research on the benefits of outdoor recreation and nature-based tourism. Our studies meld methods from environmental science, social science, and computer science – combining visitor surveys and other on-site data with big volunteered data from citizen scientists, social media, and mobile applications. We develop open-source software and reproducible approaches that make big geographic data and models more accessible for decision-makers. The Outdoor R&D team looks for partnerships where novel and innovative methods and data can inform management and improve opportunities for outdoor recreation.



We use novel methods to generate information on the character of outdoor recreational use, in order to illuminate ways that well-managed, maintained, and accessible open spaces offer unique and critical places to recreate.

Fine-scale maps of recreational use

Innovating the use of crowd-sourced data and volunteered information from social media users and citizen scientists as instant and real-time data on recreation

Learning who is (and isn’t) recreating

Understanding who uses public lands in order to increase opportunities and equity of outdoor recreation

Enhancing the benefits of outdoor recreation

Identifying where gaps outdoor opportunities can be filled by better management, built infrastructure, and ecological restoration


We are committed to making our science accessible and relevant to a broad community, including researchers, practitioners, and outdoor enthusiasts.

Deploying Vic the Chatbot

Since 2018, the Outdoor R&D Team has been successfully deploying our friendly chatbot “Vic” to engage with community scientists on public lands across the US.

Visitors Count in Washington

Outdoor enthusiasts in Washington are encouraged to submit additional information about their experiences at recreation sites on Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.

Outdoor Recreation Data Network

A community of practice advancing data for recreation management

Recent Publications

Applying novel visitation models using diverse social media to understand recreation change after wildfire and site closure

Natural disturbances such as wildfires are increasing in severity and frequency. Although the ecological impacts of disturbance are …

Biodiversity and infrastructure interact to drive tourism to and within Costa Rica

Tourism accounts for roughly 10% of global gross domestic product, with nature-based tourism its fastest-growing sector in the past 10 …

The relationship between natural environments and subjective well-being as measured by sentiment expressed on Twitter

There is growing evidence that time spent in nature can affect well-being. Nonetheless, assessing this relationship can be difficult. …

An open-source image classifier for characterizing recreational activities across landscapes

Environmental management increasingly relies on information about ecosystem services for decision-making. Compared with regulating and …