Elizabeth 'Bess' Perry

Elizabeth 'Bess' Perry

Contact Me

Assistant Professor
Department of Community Sustainability



Dr. Bess Perry (she/her/hers) is an Assistant Professor of Protected Areas and Natural Resources Recreation Management. She is an applied conservation social scientist who researches and teaches about parks and protected areas, outdoor recreation, and related tourism. Her work addresses vital issues for managers, visitors, and communities, such as relevance, sustainability, collaboration, inclusion, and scales of impact. She holds degrees in natural resources management and has an extensive work history in national and state parks.

Her work focuses primarily on enhancing park management, collaborations, and relevance. In particular, Bess examines how parks and outdoor recreation activities can build meaningful, sustainable stewardship connections with visitors, underrepresented groups, organizational partners, and local communities. Her research spans from parks to regions and often includes interdisciplinary and cross-scale contributions. She uses approaches sensitive to the questions at hand and is skilled at designing and implementing research that combines multiple methods.

Bess works with a variety of parks to help highlight their critical and unique contributions to sustainability. These include areas such as urban, cultural/heritage, marine, wildlife, partnership, and linear parks, as well as iconic and largely natural resource-based parks. This work also stretches into related recreation activities and community-focused programming. She typically works with conservation agencies, recreation organizations, and place and identity-based collaboratives on their pressing concerns. Bess draws from theoretical frameworks including those related to visitor use management, inclusion strategies, tourism and leisure, organizational behavior, and resilience.

Project and publication details are found on Dr. Perry’s CV. Current/recent highlights include:

  • Public values about recreation on and management of Michigan’s DNR-Wildlife lands
  • Visitor use measurements and monitoring on Indiana’s DNR-Fish and Wildlife lands
  • Visitor perceptions about conditions and potential management at Joshua Tree National Park
  • Collaborative potential for developing locally-relevant park-based nature tourism in Oman
  • Visitor use management and planning in the National Capital Region’s national parks
  • Partnership landscape typologies for efficient strategic planning in Rock Creek Park
  • Veterans’ stewarding of U.S. public lands through employment, volunteering, and recreation
  • National Park Service urban collaborations and contributions in Detroit, Tucson, and Boston
  • Relevance and contributions of Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park to regional character
  • Climate change adaptations of snowmobilers and state park visitors in Vermont
  • Managerially-useful network analyses to examine partnership opportunities and leverage points
  • Automated conservation and recreation social science big data analyses
  • Cell phone location and social media content data integration into visitor use management

Bess holds a Ph.D. in Natural Resources (2018) from the University of Vermont, M.S. in Forest Ecosystems and Society (2013) from Oregon State University, and B.S. in Natural Resource Ecology – Conservation Biology (2004) from the University of Idaho. Prior to joining MSU, she was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Clemson University. Bess also has significant work experience in national and state parks across the U.S., which assists in considering how to increase the applied utility of parks and recreation social science.

Dr. Perry also enjoys teaching courses, mentoring students, and enthusiastically discussing all-things-parks-and-recreation. She welcomes inquiries from prospective graduate students and potential collaborators interested in these topics.

Courses taught:

  • CSUS 276 – Sustaining our National Park and Recreation Lands
  • CSUS 310 – History of Environmental Thought and Sustainability
  • CSUS 474 – Nature-based Tourism