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

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 …

Conceptualizing ecosystem services using social-ecological networks

Social-ecological networks (SENs) represent the complex relationships between ecological and social systems and are a useful tool for …

Effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on park visitation measured by social media

The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic recession have negatively affected many people’s physical, social, and …