Meet Ashley Lange

Year: Second year master’s student
Major: Conservation Social Sciences
College of Natural Resources
Hometown: Moscow, ID

It’s hard for children and adults to keep their hands to themselves while touring Lehman Caves in Great Basin National Park. The caves are an enticing natural wonder, tempting each participant to touch or photograph more than 300 rare formations.

Though she understands the power of temptation, Ashley Lange, Great Basin National Park researcher and conservation social sciences master’s student, must be on the lookout for those slightly straying hands, excited voices or more intrusive camera flashes which can disrupt the whole experience for other visitors.

Lange, a conservation social sciences graduate student, has spent most of May and June studying the type and frequency of disruptive behaviors during tours in Lehman Caves. The study is the first of its kind focusing on human behavior while on cave tours. Lange is challenged with meeting the study’s three main goals:

  • determining the relationship between the type and number of depreciative/disruptive behaviors and the visitor experience 
  • discovering visitor attitudes and preferences regarding tours and management policies 
  • evaluating the effect of cave tours on visitors’ understanding of key interpretive themes

“My undergraduate experience as a summer intern at Taylor Wilderness Research Station reinforced my love for wilderness areas,” says Lange. “It was the reason I have been a wilderness ranger for the last three years in the Eagle Cap Wilderness, a backpacking and stock-based job that I love!”

Lange’s results will improve cave-resource protection and help park management make informed decisions about policies that could reduce behaviors that detract from the cave tour experience.