Reserve site selection at a non-profit educational nature center

Theresa M. Mau-Crimmins, David S. Lemberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We investigated a complex planning problem often faced by managers of nature centers or non-profit organizations focused on conservation and public education: how to select sites on which to locate new habitat reserves. Mission statements of these organizations often indicate objectives of both habitat preservation and public education. Inherent in land preservation is limited access to reduce the impacts of human traffic through the area. In contrast, for visitors to fully experience an ecosystem, some access to the site is required, hence seemingly parallel objectives may actually be in conflict. In order to address this problem, we formulated the Educational Nature Reserve Model, combining optimization modeling and geographic information systems (GIS) for generating, visualizing, and evaluating alternative solutions. This model fits situations where conflicting goals of conservation and education must be considered when determining the best location for a new habitat. As a case study, the Kalamazoo Nature Center's main property in Kalamazoo County, Michigan, USA, was examined for the best location on which to reconstruct a native tallgrass prairie. The Educational Nature Reserve Model proved beneficial in the site selection process at the Kalamazoo Nature Center, quickly generating many alternative solutions and allowing trade-offs of objectives among decision makers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)34-45
Number of pages12
JournalGreat Lakes Geographer
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2003


  • GIS
  • Nature center
  • Optimization modeling
  • Prairie reconstruction
  • Reserve site selection
  • Tallgrass prairie

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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