Paul Gobster

Photo of Paul Gobster Senior Research Landscape Architect
Forest Service and USDA
1033 University Pl
Ste 360
Evanston, Illinois 60201
Phone: 224-999-1993

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Research Disciplines: Research Interests:

landscape perception, natural areas management, forest therapy, urban parks, use, human health and wellbeing, equity, nature experience

View Paul's CV

Biographical Sketch

Paul Gobster is Research Landscape Architect with the US Forest Service’s Northern Research Station. For more than three decades his work in Chicago and other cities has helped to understand how we can better connect people with nature in urban settings. At a broader level, his work aims to connect practitioners with social science research, to build capacity for addressing important questions related to the planning, design, and management of parks and other urban green spaces. Working with local groups and agencies and forming collaborative teams with university researchers, Paul’s research provides information and guidelines related to park use and active living; use patterns and preferences of different user groups, older adults and children, and racial and ethnic minority individuals; perceptions of urban natural areas and the acceptability of management practices; and green space access and equity among other issues. His work covers a range of scales from small parks to metropolitan wide networks, and addresses green spaces in public, private, and semi-public domains.


  • Ph.D.          Land Resources Program, Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1987
  • M.S.           Landscape Architecture, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1983
  • B.S.            Regional Analysis (Leisure Sciences minor), University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, 1978

Ongoing and Recent CESU Projects

  • 2019-present ‘Developing guidelines for the design and management of forest therapy trails’ (Northern Research Station Research Joint Venture Agreement with Park Rx America)
  • 2017-present ‘Stakeholder Perceptions of Northern Dry Forest and Barrens Restoration Treatments’ (Northern Research Station Research Joint Venture Agreement with University of Minnesota, BOKU University, and University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point)
  • 2016-present ‘Landowner survey, Buckthorn Eradication Project: Landscape Scale Restoration and Enhancement Within and Surrounding Middlefork Savanna’ (for Lake Co., IL Forest Preserve District)
  • 2016-present ‘Pilot study, Use Monitoring of Chicago’s 606 Trail’ (for The Trust for Public Lands, in cooperation with Chicago Park District, Chicago Department of Transportation, Alliance for Active Transportation, and University of Minnesota)
  • 2015-present ‘Building rural community resilience in context of protected grasslands’ (USDA-NIFA grant with University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
  • 2015-present ‘Assessing the Benefits of Chicago’s Large Lot Program’ (Northern Research Station Research Joint Venture Agreement with University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, in partnership with City of Chicago Department of Planning and Development)
  • 2015-present ‘Landowner and Visitor Response to Forest Landscape Restoration: The Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest Northeast Sands Project’ (Northern Research Station Research Joint Venture Agreement with University of Wisconsin-Steven Point)
  • 2014-present ‘Assessing the relative importance of emerald ash borer infestation on recreation choices via stated choice modelling’ (Northern Research Station Research Joint Venture Agreement with University of Minnesota)
  • 2009-2014 ‘Collaborative Research: Coupled Natural Human Systems in the Chicago Wilderness: Evaluating the Biodiversity and Social Outcomes of Different Models of Restoration Planning’ (NSF Coupled Human and Natural Systems)


Other Research

My research broadly addresses the question: How can we design, plan for, and manage landscapes to sustain mutually beneficial relationships between people and ecological systems? The context for much of my work has been park and forest landscapes in urban and wildland settings. I am focusing on three interrelated topic areas: Perception and experience of landscapes: how people perceive and experience parks and forests, including issues of aesthetics, psychological restoration, and physical activity. Meanings of nature: how nature is understood and valued by different individuals and stakeholder groups and how these values can be incorporated into landscape restoration and management. Access and equity issues: how knowledge of the cultural dimensions of landscape to provide better and more equitable access to nature, leisure, and open space opportunities for diverse populations.

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