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.

Visitors Count!

A community science program that asks visitors to contribute information about their recreation experiences on public lands

Outdoor Recreation Data Network

A community of practice advancing data for recreation management

Recent Publications

Advancing sustainable development and protected area management with social media-based tourism data

Sustainable tourism involves increasingly attracting visitors while preserving the natural capital of a destination for future …

An ecosystem service perspective on urban nature, physical activity, and health

Nature underpins human well-being in critical ways, especially in health. Nature provides pollination of nutritious crops, purification …

No walk in the park: the viability and fairness of social media analysis for parks and recreational policy making

Recent years have seen an increase in the use of social media for various decision-making purposes in the context of urban computing …

Uses and limitations of social media to inform visitor use management in parks and protected areas: a systematic review

Social media are being increasingly used to inform visitor use management in parks and protected areas. We review the state of the …