Jeff Marion, Ph.D.


Jeff Marion grew up exploring the woods, streams, and caves of Kentucky, developing strong interests in nature study and high adventure outdoor activities. One of four Eagle Scouts in his family, he served for five summers at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico, teaching backpacking and climbing skills. Coursework in biology, ecology, and geology at Wittenberg University led to a B.S. in Biology (1979), and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Recreation Resources Management from the University of Minnesota (1982/84). Graduate studies focused on recreation ecology research, combining strong personal interests in the ecological sciences with his continuing passion for outdoor recreational pursuits, particularly backpacking, climbing, caving, and canoeing. His doctoral research measured camping-associated environmental impacts in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness to investigate relationships between biophysical impacts, amount ofuse, and plant community, soil, and ecological classifications.

Following a year teaching park management at the University of Wisconsin, River Falls campus (1984-85), Dr. Marion was employed as a Research Biologist with the National Park Service, Mid-Atlantic Region, duty-stationed at Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. Initial studies focused on visitor impact and carrying capacity research for rivers within three of the Region’s parks. In 1989, his duty station moved to Blacksburg, Virginia, where he established a Cooperative Park Studies Unit in the College of Natural Resources, Virginia Tech. Initial research focused on studies of campsite impacts and monitoring protocols at Shenandoah, Great Smoky Mountains, and Big Bend National Parks. In 1994, he was moved to the National Biological Survey and in 1997, to the U.S. Geological Survey, though he remained at Virginia Tech as Unit Leader of a Patuxent Wildlife Research Center Field Station.

At Virginia Tech, he is an Adjunct Professor in the Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation Department, where he works with graduate students in conducting his program of recreation ecology research. Studies have expanded to include a current focus on formal and informal trails, visitor impacts to cliffs, and the efficacy of management actions designed to avoid or minimize visitor impacts. Most studies are funded by the National Park Service but studies have also been conducted on National Forests, Fish and Wildlife Refuges, and in Central and South American protected natural areas that serve as ecotourism destinations.

A founding member of the Board of Directors of Leave No Trace and Chair of the LNT Educational Review Committee for ten years, he helped develop Leave No Trace principles, practices, educational materials, and courses. He is the author of the national Leave No Trace program's offical book: "Leave No Trace in the Outdoors," endorsed by the federal land management agencies  His active involvement with this work continues and was extended to the Boy Scouts of America in 2001 with participation on a BSA Task Group to incorporate Leave No Trace practices throughout their Fieldbook and Handbook, and in 2006 as a founding member of their Leave No Trace Task Force, which assists the BSA in incorporating LNT practices into their publications, outdoor practices, and training courses. He also served as a member of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Stewardship Council (2005-11), serving as Chair of the Trail and Camping Committee.


  • B.A. Biology,  9/75-6/79, Wittenberg University
  • Environmental Science, 9/79-6/80, Duke University - School of the Environment (transferred)
  • M.S. Recreation Resources Management, 9/80-3/82, Univ. of Minnesota - Forest Resources
  • Ph.D. Recreation Resources Management, 3/82-7/84, Univ. of Minnesota - Forest Resources

Professional Experience:

  • 8/97-2001 - DOI, U.S. Geological Survey, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center Title: Research Biologist Duties: Unit Leader for the PWRC Virginia Tech Field Station. Conducted recreation ecology research to evaluate visitor impacts to protected natural areas.
  • 11/94-7/97 - DOI, National Biological Survey, Div. of Cooperative Research, Blacksburg, VA Title: Research Biologist Duties: Unit Leader, Cooperative Park Studies Unit. Conducted recreation ecology research.
  • 6/85-10/94 - DOI, National Park Service, Mid-Atlantic Region Title: Research Biologist Duty Stations: 1) Virginia Tech; Blacksburg, VA and 2) Delaware Water Gap NRA; Milford, PA Dates: 1) 10/89-10/94 2) 6/85-9/89 Duties: Unit Leader, Cooperative Park Studies Unit (when at VT). Conducted recreation ecology research.
  • 12/84-5/85 - University of Wisconsin, Park, Recreation & Resource Management program, River Falls, WI Title: Assistant Professor 


  • Virginia Tech College of Natural Resources and Environment, Department of Forest Resources & Environmental Conservation, Recreation Resource Management Program,  Full Professor (Adjunct). E-mail:

Non-Research Affiliations:  

  • Founding member of the Leave No Trace (LNT) Board of Directors and Educational Review Committee (former Chair).  Active in developing and directing the peer review of LNT educational practices, courses, and educational messaging.  
  • Member of the Appalachian Trail Conference Stewardship Council and active in research and visitor impact management consulting with the Appalachian Trail community.  
  • Former member, Board of Directors, American Hiking Society.  Former Scoutmaster (5 yrs) and current leader of a co-educational Venture Crew (13 yrs).