Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Natural Resources

First Advisor

Patricia A. Stokowski


National parks are important ecological and cultural resources worldwide, and in the United States, many have begun to use social media to guide visitors’ experiences and to communicate about special qualities of place. But, how exactly are social media messages crafted, and how do they attempt to structure viewers’ ideas about national parks? To answer these questions, this study used rhetorical discourse analysis to examine a one-year sample of texts and images from Facebook posts drawn from three large U.S. national parks. Results of this study showed that parks use different stylistic devices and methods of persuasion to make claims about place and about visitor experiences. Park messages often referenced significant life moments, and they used specific cultural symbols to craft discourses about each park as a special cultural and personal place. Facebook postings also described and encouraged certain kinds of appropriate visitor behaviors, while sometimes also using social media as an information source for park news, rules, and events. This study offers a better understanding of the messages national parks are posting to social media, how they work to create and sustain ideas about national parks as meaningful places, and how they view their online audiences. As a newer form of communication used by agencies, social media present opportunities for park managers to enlarge and expand meaningful messages about national parks – though this rhetorical analysis suggests that social media may not be reaching their full potential in elaborating important social messages about people and place in national parks.



Number of Pages

104 p.