Ryan Howard - PhD in Applied Health Sciences (Social and Cultural Health Sciences)

Faculty of Applied Health Sciences

Ryan Howard - PhD in Applied Health Sciences (Social and Cultural Health Sciences)

Supervisor: Drs. Tim O’Connell and Mary Breunig

Research Topic: Sense of Place in Outdoor Recreation

My research focuses on defining how the recreational environment adds value to experiences people have while recreating in the outdoors. The existing research on sense of place attachment has extensive coverage of niches that focus on urban communities, cities, neighborhoods; there is less pertinent research that focuses on sense of place from an outdoor recreation and environmental connection standpoint.

I became interested in the person-place connection in nature because many of my scholarly and recreational interests and experiences take place within the natural environment. My experience guiding outdoor trips, canoeing, climbing, rafting, kayaking, mixed with my background in geography has demonstrated to me that there is lots to learn about how the relationship between people and nature occurs.

Reflecting on my research helps me to connect my students when teaching outdoor field courses, it furthers my understanding of how I can have a greater impact on my students and how we exist with nature.

My research is conducted through mixed methods, I find that there is a lot of value in qualitative interviews, but we can further our understanding through interaction with participants while they are in the natural environment.

At Brock, a number of opportunities have been presented to me along the way. I have gained experience as a teaching assistant and sessional instructor, this has provided me with the encouragement to continue with my future goals in teaching. Looking ahead, I would like to teach at the University level and continue studying outdoor and environmental education.

Helping my decision to attend Brock was my previous experience with Drs Tim O’Connell and Mary Breunig (now professors at Brock) in my undergraduate degree at Lakehead University. Knowing the quality of education they provided and the intersection of our research made this an easy decision to take both my master’s and doctoral studies at Brock. Sharing my research with a number of Brock faculty that are interested in my area of research is what makes the time and effort that is put into research worth more than anything.

My advice to prospective students would be to make sure they are doing something they are interested in, that will positively affect the community locally, regionally and globally. With so many opportunities at Brock, I would also encourage students to get involved both within their community and recreationally in Niagara’s stunning natural backdrop.