Graduation Date

Summer 2020

Document Type



Master of Arts degree with a major in Social Science, Environment and Community

Committee Chair Name

Erin Kelly

Committee Chair Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Second Committee Member Name

Nick Perdue

Second Committee Member Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Third Committee Member Name

Sarah Ray

Third Committee Member Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Subject Categories

Environment and Community


This study contributes to the existing, yet small, cadre of research using photo elicitation to investigate the place meanings of people living in a natural-amenity-rich area. Ten current and former residents of Del Norte County, California took pictures of and discussed in an interview the people, places, and attributes they found valuable or meaningful about that place. The primary focus of the photos and interviews was how these natural amenities, in particular Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, impacted or influenced residents’ place meanings. Three major themes of place meaning were identified from the interviews: Environment-Landscape, Human-Social, and Recreation-Exploration. Each contained multiple sub-themes that describe why participants value different places in Del Norte.

Two important conclusions were drawn from this research. First, place meanings are multidimensional constructs, most often arising from a combination of social interactions with other people and experiences with the physical environment. Second, place meanings are mutable, and may shift over the time spent in a place or due to natural- or human-caused landscape change. Many participants described Del Norte as being on the cusp of significant positive and negative changes. They saw these changes as stemming from previously quantified increases in tourism to the county, as well as perceived future increases in permanent residents. While increasing tourism is critical to support Del Norte’s tourist economy, participants were concerned that increases in visitors and long-term populations could negatively impact the meanings they hold for Del Norte. By better understanding the place meanings of Del Norte residents’, the community and its decision-makers will be able to more effectively discuss and adapt to future changes.

Citation Style



Thesis/Project Location