David Cole - Research Geographer

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David Cole


  • Ph.D., Geography - University of Oregon, Eugene. 1977.
    Dissertation:  Man's impact on wilderness vegetation:  an example from Eagle Cap Wilderness, northeastern Oregon.
  • B.A., Geography - University of California, Berkeley. 1972.

Professional Background:

David was a Research Ecologist with the Forest Service's Wilderness Management Research Work Unit and Systems for Environmental Management from 1978 to 1988 and Project Leader of the Wilderness Management Research Work Unit from 1988 to 1993. He was transferred to the Leopold Institute in 1993, where he is a Geographer.



Research Interests:

David is interested in the entire range of wilderness management issues. He has conducted most of his empirical research in the field of recreation ecology. Recently David has also been involved in a number of studies of wilderness visitors, related particularly to visitor education and factors that influence the quality of visitors' experiences, as well as the exploration of threats to wilderness ecosystems, other than recreation use. David is most interested in the integrated application of social and biological science to wilderness management.

Current Research:

Click on project title for further details and resources:

  1. Beyond Naturalness: protected area goals in an era of rapid global change
  1. Visitor research in heavily-used wilderness
  1. Campsite restoration techniques
  1. Baseline data collection and monitoring: trends in recreation use and impacts
  1. Wilderness recreation management techniques: compiling and integrating scientific and experiential knowledge
  1. Recreation ecology: expanding, synthesizing and sharing knowledge
  1. Dilemmas of wilderness management: exploring conflicting values

Recently Completed Projects:

  1. Computer simulation modeling of recreation use: developing a practical management tool
  2. Trampling and camping impacts in varied high elevation vegetation types. Click here for project details and publications.
  3. Packstock grazing impacts on subalpine meadows. Click here for project details and publications


To access publications by David Cole, please click here.

Honorable Mention:

  • George Wright Society's Natural Resources Achievement Award
    The Society's most distinguished award recognizes David's 30+ years of pioneering practical and applied research in recreation ecology and wilderness management. It was presented at the George Wright Society 2011 conference in New Orleans.
  • 2002. National Park Service - Director's Award for Natural Resources Research, awarded to the "Researcher of the Year", selected from research scientists working nationwide in parks and wilderness areas.
    See " Outstanding in his field" - By MICHAEL JAMISON of the Missoulian
  • 1999. US Forest Service - Chief's Lifetime Achievement Award, special recognition for long-term research applications to wilderness management
  • 1997. National Recreation and Park Association - Theodore Franklin Roosevelt Award for Excellence in Recreation and Park Research, "presented annually to the individual whose contribution to recreation and park research has significantly advanced the cause of the recreation movement."

Contact Information:

Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute
790 E. Beckwith Ave.
Missoula, MT 59801
Phone: 406-542-4199
Fax: 406-542-4196
E-mail: dncole@fs.fed.us or dncole.work@gmail.com

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The Leopold Institute is administered by the Rocky Mountain Research Station of the U.S. Forest Service
and operates under an agreement with the U.S. Forest Service,
U.S. Geological Survey, Bureau of Land Management,
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service.

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