Mr Patrick Norman1, Professor Catherine Pickering1
1Griffith University, Gold Coast, Australia
Globally, national parks are important for the protection of biodiversity and landscapes, though many suffer from a wide range of anthropogenic impacts. To better understand and manage these impacts researchers need to know who, when and why people visit national parks. This is often achieved by conducting surveys or using automated count data though both are time and monetarily expensive. There has been a drastic increase in the numbers of people sharing visitor data onto social media platforms including Twitter, though what is not known is how well Twitter data reflects the use of national parks globally. For this study, over 2.5 million Tweets that contained ‘national park’ were analysed to assess which parks are being discussed. Tweets were geo-located for both users and national parks. These were then spatially assessed and compared with on ground visitor data for eight different countries. It was found that for half of the nations assessed, Twitter counts were correlated to on ground visitor data, though a number showed little relationship. Utilising user generated data allows researchers and managers to rapidly assess visitor use and opinions in a cost-effective manner, however further research is critical in assessing the platforms strengths and limitations.
Patrick Norman is a current PhD candidate at Griffith University. He has completed a Bachelor of Science with honours and is currently studying the way people use and move through protected areas from social media and user generated content. His research interests include protected area management, volunteered geographic information and spatial ecology.