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Pierskalla, Chad

Professor of Recreation, Parks and Tourism Resources

Dr. Chad D. Pierskalla grew up on a family-owned dairy farm in central Minnesota, with swine and poultry as secondary and tertiary enterprises on the farm. His interest in natural resource management and agricultural entrepreneurship started when he was active in the FFA. He operated his own sheep enterprise and participated in regional and state forestry, poultry, and dairy judging competitions.

He became interested in recreation resource management after 3 seasons with the Stearns County Parks Department (MN). As an undergraduate in 1990, he developed an interest in research while working at the Northern Research Station (US Forest Service, Grand Rapids, MN). At the University of Minnesota, he worked closely with his academic advisor and other mentors on research projects and technical reports that supported planning at 6 different MN state parks (i.e., Interstate, Itasca, Tettegouche, Forestville/Mystery Cave, St. Croix, and George H. Crosby Manitou State parks) using the Benefit-Based Management (BBM) framework. He received a B.S. in Recreation Resource Management with honors at the University of Minnesota in 1994. His most memorable undergraduate experience include attending forestry camp at Itasca State Park and the Cloquet Forestry Center, becoming a Truman Scholarship finalist, and serving as the summer coordinator for the American Indian High School Research Apprenticeship program. He also had the honor to attend the initiation of Norman Borlaug (Nobel Peace Prize winner and U of MN forestry alumnus) as a brother in Alpha Gamma Rho (AGR) fraternity.

He received his M.S. in Forestry (Forest Recreation) at Northern Arizona University in 1996 and Ph.D. in Forest Resources (Forest Recreation) at the University of Minnesota in 2000. As a graduate student, he was fortunate to have conducted research at some of the most stunning parks and forests in the US including the Sedona Ranger District (AZ), Zion National Park (UT), Isle Royale National Park (MI), and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (AZ).

Dr. Pierskalla was a tourism planner in south central Colorado in 2000. Later during the same year, he joined the WVU faculty as an Assistant Professor in the Division of Forestry (now the Division of Forestry and Natural Resources). He was promoted in 2006 (Associate Professor) and in 2014 (full Professor). As a tenured fully-promoted professor, he was awarded Continued Academic Achievement in 2019. He twice served as the RPTR program coordinator where he led accreditation and transformation of the undergraduate degree. His applied research program included supporting forest and park management planning, trail impact and accessibility assessment, use of farm-raised fish in recreation and tourism, urban forest aesthetics, management of Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) and mountain bike trail use, visitor use monitoring, social assessments, county and city park needs assessments, and (most recently) the health benefits of Christmas trees. He has had the opportunity to conduct research throughout WV and the US including on our National Forests (e.g., Monongahela, Chequamegon-Nicolet, Chippewa, Wayne, Mark Twain, White Mountain, George Washington and Jefferson, and Siuslaw National Forests). Select examples of his (and his graduate students’*) applied research follows (e.g., publications 1 to 15).

In addition to the practical nature of his research program, Dr. Pierskalla also contributes to the body of knowledge by publishing scientific papers to better understand how people use, perceive and benefit from outdoor recreation areas (using Gibson’s theory of direct perception as the main construct). Selected examples from one line of research follows (e.g., publications 16 to 23).

Dr. Pierskalla also held several leadership positions including the Science and Technology Board member (Society of American Foresters), Recreation and Wilderness Working Group Chair (Society of American Foresters), Gamma Sigma Delta President, Recreation Resource Advisory Committee Chair (Eastern Region of the Forest Service), West Virginia Land Trust Board member, WVU Faculty Senator, WVU advisor for the WVU Professional Recreation and Park Society, and President of the Morgantown Green Space Coalition.


  1. Pierskalla, C., Arbogast, D., Casseday, D.*, Deng, J., Eades, D., Haas, V., Smaldone, D., Twilley, D., Weddell, M., Williamson, A. (in press). Measuring and describing a spectrum of mountain bike specialists in the US: A statistical abstract. Technical report presented to American Trails. pp. 70. [Featured in Mountaineer E-News].
  2. Pierskalla, C., Deng, J., McGill, D., and Jiang, S. (in press). Christmas tree shopping environments, mental fatigue recovery, and shopping preferences: A nationwide marketing study. Technical report presented to the Real Christmas Tree Board. pp. 30.
  3. Pierskalla, C.D., Akers, C.B.*, Deng, J., and Smaldone, D.A. (2021). Examining changes in recreation participation on the Monongahela National Forest over five years following the global financial crisis: An Activity-based segmentation approach. Heliyon 7(6):e07266. [This article was selected and linked to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, “helping to tackle some of the world’s greatest challenges”].
  4. Zhong, L., Zhang, X., Deng, J., and Pierskalla, C. (2020). Recreation ecology research in China's protected areas: Progress and prospect. Ecosystem Health and Sustainability, 6(1):1-12.
  5. Pierskalla, C.D., Fish, T., Schuett, M., and Stein, T. (2016). Recreation and Wilderness: In the Woods for Rest and Adventure. The Forestry Source, 21(11): 22.
  6. Balcarczk, K.L., Smaldone, D., Selin, S., Douglas, J., Maumbe, K., and Pierskalla, C. (2016). Barriers and Supports to Pursuing a Natural Resource Degree. Natural Sciences Education, 5:1-8.
  7. Riley, C. J.*, Pierskalla, C. D., Burns, R. C., Maumbe, K. C., Graefe, A. R., Smaldone, D. A., and Williams, S. (2015). Examining Off Highway Vehicle user displacement at the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area and Sand Lake: A 10-year trend study. Journal of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism, 9:44-52.
  8. Dhami, I., Deng, J. Burns, R. C., and Pierskalla, C. (2014). Identifying and Mapping Forest-Based Ecotourism Areas in West Virginia Incorporating Visitors' Preferences. Tourism Management, 42:165-176.
  9. Pierskalla, C.D., Schuett, M.A., and Thompson, K.A.*, (2011). Management perceptions of off-highway vehicle use on national forest system lands in Appalachia. Northern Journal of Applied Forestry, 28(4):208-213.
  10. Deng, J., Pierskalla, C., and Mayhew, D. (2009). A new method to estimate the number of attendees to a festival with open gates. Event Management, 13:41-43.
  11. McGill, D.W., Campbell, L.G., and Pierskalla, C. (2007). The role of the West Virginia Extension Service in forestry education and technical assistance. Journal of Extension, 45(6):6RIB6
  12. Schuett, M.A., and Pierskalla C.D. (2007). Managing for desired experiences and site preferences: The case of fee-fishing anglers. Environmental Management, 39(2):164-177.
  13. Selin, S., Pierskalla, C., and Smaldone, D. 2007. The 2006 Monongahela National Forest Trails Workshop: A Summary Report. Technical report presented to the Monongahela National Forest. pp.122.
  14. McGill, D.W., Pierskalla, C.D., Grushecky, S.T., Jennings, B.M. and Lilly, D. (2006). Landowner satisfaction with timber harvesting on West Virginia Forest Stewardship Program properties. North J. Appl. For. 23(1):6-10.
  15. Siniscalchi, J.M*. and Pierskalla, C.D. (2005). Disc golf can bring personal and community benefits to rural America. Parks and Recreation, 40(1): 42-47.
  16. Pierskalla, C.D., Deng, J., McGill, D.W., and Jiang, S. (2024). Effect of biophilic shopping environments featuring Christmas trees on perceived attentional and mental fatigue: A national study. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 95.
  17. Pierskalla, C.D. (2019). Hiking the woodland edge: A Gibsonian approach to the perception and experience of liminality. Poster presented at the National Environment and Recreation Research Symposium. Annapolis, MD.
  18. Pierskalla, C.D., Deng, J., and Siniscalchi, J.M. (2016). Examining the product and process of scenic beauty evaluations using moment-to-moment data and GIS: The case of Savannah, GA. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 19:212-222.
  19. Pierskalla, C., Ramthun, R., Collins, A., and Semmens, K. (2013). The Discriminant Validity of Event Quality and Quantity: An Evaluation of Fishing Experiences . Human Dimensions of Wildlife, 18:234-235.
  20. Pierskalla, C.D., Siniscalchi, J.M., Selin, S.W., and Fosbender, J. (2007). Using events as a mapping concept that complement existing ROS methods. Leisure Sciences, 29:71-89.
  21. Siniscalchi, J.M.*, Pierskalla, C.D., Selin, S.W., Palmer, D. (2006). Weather maps and social change: A visualization method used in the Monongahela National Forest. Society and Natural Resources, 19(1):71-78.
  22. Pierskalla, C.D., Lee, M. E., Stein, T.V., Anderson, D.H., and Nickerson, R. (2004). Understanding relationships among recreation opportunities: A Meta-Analysis of nine studies. Leisure Sciences. 26:163-180.
  23. Pierskalla, C.D. and Lee, M.E. (1998). An Ecological Perception Model of Leisure Affordances. Leisure Sciences, 20(1):67-79.