In 2017, the Trump administration announced plans to reduce the size of the Bear's Ears National Monument (BENM) in Utah, greatly reducing the monument designated by the Obama administration and reducing protections on land viewed as sacred by multiple indigenous communities in the United States (Creadon & Bergren, 2019). In response to this Executive Order, a team of scientists and endurance athlete participants visited portions of the former BENM in May of 2019 to identify and map areas of cultural interest to help build a case for why and where the BENM’s original boundaries should be preserved. Through the lens of transformative learning theory (Mezirow, 2000, 2003), we sought to understand what and how learning occurred on this expedition to BENM. As there have been numerous calls to implement citizen science into higher education settings (Borrell et al., 2016; Rosenberger & Aukema, 2016) and to incorporate more outdoor education in the higher education classroom, these findings will provide insight into how content learning occurs through citizen science as outdoor education.


outdoors education, transformative learning theory, experiential learning

Author Bio(s)

Laura Parson (she/her/hers) is an Assistant Professor of Educational and Organizational Leadership at North Dakota State University. Her Ph.D. is in Teaching & Learning, Higher Education from the University of North Dakota. She has a M.Ed. in Adult Education from Westminster College with a certification in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESOL). She received the 2019 NASPA Ruth Strang award for research concerning women in higher education and was the first recipient of the Gloria Nathanson Research Fund for International Research. Please direct correspondence to laura.parson@ndsu.edu.

Simon Donato, Ph.D. (he/him/his) founded Adventure Science in 2008 and has led over 20 field expeditions since inception, including several flag expeditions for the Explorers Club, of which he is a Fellow International. Simon holds a PhD in sedimentology, a MSc in paleontology, and majored in anthropology for his BA. He also hosted the adventure sports television show Boundless.

Jessie Johns, M.Ed. (she/her/hers) is a higher education professional working at the University of South Carolina in Fraternity and Sorority Life. She graduated from Georgia Southern University in 2017 with her bachelors in English and graduated from Auburn University in 2021 with her Masters in Higher Education Administration. She is interested in assessment strategies within the field of Higher Education, the accessibility of student affairs for students, and providing equitable spaces for students across the institutional landscape.

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