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Source: Ryan Bergstrom, rbergstr@k-state.edu
News release prepared by: Beth Bohn, 785-532-6415, bbohn@k-state.edu

Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2009

K-STATE DOCTORAL STUDENT WINS BEST STUDENT PAPER AWARD AT NATIONAL GEOGRAPHY CONFERENCE

MANHATTAN -- A paper by Ryan Bergstrom, a doctoral student in geography at Kansas State University, is the first-place winner in the student paper competition at the 32nd Applied Geography Conference, Oct. 28-31, in Baton Rouge, La.

Bergstrom, Bozeman, Mont., received the award for "Perceptions of Sustainable Community Development and Natural Resource Management: A Case Study of Two Montana Amenity Towns."

It is the second year in a row that Bergstrom has received a best paper award at a geography conference. He earned first place for top paper by a doctoral student at the 2008 meeting of the Great Plains-Rocky Mountain Division of the Association of American Geographers for "The Geographic and Economic Importance of Hunting in Southwestern Montana, USA."

Bergstrom has been researching his latest award-winning paper since spring 2009.

"This research came about after collaborating with my dissertation adviser Dr. Lisa Harrington, professor of geography at K-State, on some of her recent research and interests," Bergstrom said. "Dr. Harrington studies sustainability in rural communities, and as I wanted to study mountain environments in the American West, we thought this was a perfect fit."

Bergstrom said the mountains and valleys surrounding Yellowstone National Park, often referred to as the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, have been known to researchers as an ideal location to study the interactions and interdependencies of economic growth and environmental protection due to the region's complex mosaic of private and public lands, competing natural resource uses, and rapid population growth. Bergstrom's research involved the Montana communities of West Yellowstone and Big Sky.

"The area's abundant public lands were at one time seen as 'storehouses' of natural resources available for exploitation, but today are used to a large extent for multiple recreational activities and second or amenity-based homes," he said. "The shift from reliance on exploitive consumption to recreational use is significant because the loss of local economic inputs from extractive industries has been replaced with activities which place new, and oftentimes more complex, pressures on the environment and decision makers."

It has been suggested that the region's natural amenities have been the catalyst for its growing population and economy, and that the challenge for decision makers is the sustainability of these amenities, Bergstrom said.

"To facilitate decision-maker objectives toward sustaining the natural environment, it is imperative to have a clear understanding of the perceptions, priorities and experiences of local communities," he said. "Thus, the objective of this study was to determine how residents of two communities within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem perceive, prioritize and act upon issues of sustainability as well as which factors contribute to those perceptions. A mixed-methods approach, combining archival research and newspaper content analysis, was implemented to meet these objectives."

Bergstrom is the son of Dennis and Jennifer Bergstrom, Dellwood, Minn. He plans to complete his doctorate in spring 2011 and would like to work in academia, specifically at the university level. He also has earned a bachelor's in geography and a master's in earth sciences, both from Montana State University.