Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Natural Resources

First Advisor

Patricia A. Stokowski


This dissertation examines the language-based, discursive processes through which meanings and experiences are socially constituted in outdoor recreation and natural resource environments. Language use and discourse are seen as interactive, constructive processes, approached through the theoretical perspectives of argumentation, social constructionism, and performance.

Three qualitative studies, based in data collected at Acadia National Park and forest-related sites throughout Vermont, comprise this dissertation. The first study uses rhetorical analysis to examine the ways National Park Service managers and community leaders argue for the meanings and management of dark night skies in and around Acadia. The second study examines how national park visitors socially construct meanings of night sky experiences, focusing on the structure, functions and styles of language. The third study evaluates forest-oriented environmental interpretation materials produced by Vermont-based agencies through an analysis of performance. Each study analyzes a different type of discourse: semi-formal "expert" language solicited in interviews with managers and leaders (study 1), semi-formal "naive" language solicited in interviews with park visitors (study 2), and formal, written texts produced by agencies (study 3). Results show how language is used to forge agreement across competing ideals; construct meanings despite undeveloped vocabularies and intangible values; and direct visitors to perform forests in ways that develop the meanings of place.

These studies contribute to the understanding of how individuals and organizations use language within discourse practices to create the reality in which socially- and culturally-important natural resource environments are managed and experienced, forming a body of work that informs theory and practice.



Number of Pages

141 p.