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Daniel R. Williams

Daniel R. Williams
Research Social Scientist
Human Dimensions
240 West Prospect Road
Fort Collins, CO 80526
United States
Current Research

(1) Enhancing adaptive capacity and improving climate resilience in resource-dependent communities using iterative public scenario building processes; (2) Developing a classification and assessment system which identifies the different needs and capacities of Wildland-Urban Interface communities to engage stakeholders in Community Wildfire Protection Planning (CWPP) to reduce and mitigate wildland fire risk; (3) Developing and applying collaborative processes to meet the needs of the new forest planning rule and improve the public understanding and application of science (particularly risks and stressors) in national forest planning; and (4) Applying the concepts of organizational learning to all aspects of the USDA Forest Service mission including fire management, forest planning, and leadership and training.

Past Research

1. Developed a widely used social survey instrument for measuring place attachment, which has been applied in a variety fields including natural resource management, tourism development, community health surveys, environmental education, and disaster preparedness.

2. Synthesized the state-of-knowledge on the impact of outdoor environments on quality of life for the World Leisure Association's Global Declaration on Leisure and Human Well-being.

3. Identified best practices for community wildfire protection planning, an important planning tool for mitigating wildfire risks in the wildland-urban interface.

Research Interest

The practice of public sector natural resource management increasingly seeks more adaptive, integrated, and spatially multi-scaled management strategies that emphasize collaborative multi-stakeholder social learning and governance. My research addresses several social science problems that arise out of this context:

(1) How to improve and assess emerging collaborative governance practices in natural resource planning and decision making;

(2) How to apply social-geographic analysis to assess place specific meanings and values embedded in natural resource decision making and understand how these are shaped by and, in turn, shape social actions and ecological changes across the landscape;

(3) How to adapt the advances in philosophy and methods of social science for application to natural resource contexts and assess their implications for the interface between science and decision making; and 

Cutting across all three of these topics is a focus on geographic places, global scale social processes, and a longstanding interest in (4) How people experience and value outdoor recreation and nature contact.

Why This Research Is Important

Solving natural resource challenges involves engaging people in building and implementing solutions. The key is to get people involved in the collaborative governance or decision making over their shared interests in specific places or landscapes. The essential ingredient of democracy is a willingness to listen and learn from each other. Even if people value different things about their surroundings they often share a commitment or attachment to what they see as special places. This can form the basis of a willingness to work together despite differences in values and interests. Successful natural resource management requires inclusive and sincere participatory decision making. My research is devoted to improving collaborative decision making process, a problem that becomes more urgent as we face larger scale natural resource problems.

  • University of Nevada, B.S., Natural Resources, 1978
  • Utah State, M.S., Outdoor Recreation, 1980
  • University of Minnesota, Ph.D., Forest Resources, 1984
Professional Experience
  • Associate Professor, Outdoor Recreation Management,  University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign,  1994 - 1998
  • Assistant Professor, Forestry and Outdoor Recreation,  Virginia Tech,  1988 - 1994
  • Assistant Professor, Outdoor Recreation Management,  University of Utah,  1983 - 1988
Awards & Recognition
  • Roosevelt Award for Excellence in Recreation and Park Research, National Recreation and Park Assoc, 2015
    Presented once a year to an individual whose research has significantly advanced the field and whose dedication parallels the same commitment towards parks, recreation and conservation as the presidents for whom the award is named
  • Distinguished Scientist Award, USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, 2014
    This award recognizes the creative efforts and contributions of a scientist through their sustained research productivity contributions of major impact on science or technology, scientific leadership, application and benefits of the research, and service
Featured Publications
Other Publications
Research Highlights

Making Communities Fire Resilient

Year: 2016
Social scientists identified characteristics of wildland-urban interface communities that influence their wildfire preparedness and planning processes.