Jo Tynon, Assistant Professor of Recreation Resource Management (FES), began college as an undergraduate in organic chemistry. Although many students find this subject difficult, for Tynon, “Chemistry’ was ‘just like cooking’—if you correctly follow the instructions, you will get the desired result.”
Tynon gained chemistry work experience in the research and development arm of a multinational company in Princeton, NJ. Initially, she was very interested in the idea of being a professional chemist, but later discovered that the part of this career she liked best, the hands-on experimental work at the ‘bench,’ would become someone else’s responsibility as she advanced in that field. “Eventually, a successful chemist will have technicians to carry out the experiments. As someone who really enjoys that part of the job, I couldn’t see a future for myself in that particular career.”
Fortunately, at this time one of her friends moved to Idaho to pursue a degree in recreation management, and the field caught Tynon’s interest. “I had a lot of experience in science and math, and thought that it would be a good change of pace to study recreation or, perhaps, wildlife,” she says. Tynon remembers that after arriving at the University of Idaho, she talked to a professor from the Wildland Recreation Management department. “My first thought was ‘Wow! You can get a degree in this?’”, she laughs. “It’s true that many people aren’t aware of resource recreation management programs.”
One of Tynon’s first observations about recreation management was how it differed from chemistry. “In chemistry, things are very black and white, but when dealing with people—the social science—it gets hazy,” she says. “People may tell you one thing and do something entirely different, which to me is fascinating. I’ve been in social science ever since.”
Currently, much of Tynon’s research explores the attitudes that people have about recreation on public lands and where these attitudes originate. She notes that leisure research has shown that not all Americans are participating in outdoor recreation to the same degree. “One thing that we’ve discovered is that our national parks and national forests are not doing as great a job serving the needs of racial and ethnic groups in the United States,” Tynon notes. “And along those same lines, the current generation of youth, with their unprecedented access to different forms of entertainment, may not be as interested in using or preserving these national resources as were the generations before them. What this will mean for the future of our national parks and forests, we don’t yet know.”
Another area of Tynon’s research concerns the issue of crime committed on public lands, especially in national forests. She is working with Michael Wing (Associate Professor of GIS and spatial analysis, FERM) on a project to examine crime hot spots and their link to landscape features. Tynon and Wing want to find out the potential of spatially based crime databases to assist in mitigating crime impacts on public recreation lands.
Tynon still enjoys asking the big questions, in addition to taking care of specific research. “I want to know what kind of state our public lands will be in, in 50 years. Whether they will be preserved, or how they will be used,” she says. “All of these decisions will be made by our future generations. Social science helps us answer some of these big questions.”
Bio of Jo Tynon written by Bryan Bernart, Editorial Assistant, Forestry Communications Group, College of Forestry