Lisa Pennisi

Lisa Pennisi

  • Contact Information
  • My Story
  • Publications & Presentations
  • Background
  • Interests
  • Grants
  • Advising
  • Courses Taught
  • Outreach

Title Natural Resources Specialist
Address 519 South Hardin Hall
3310 Holdrege Street
Lincoln NE
Phone 402-472-5875
FAX 402-472-2946
Contact Preference

E-mail and open door

Office Hours


Hi, I'm Lisa Pennisi and I am a human dimensions specialist in the applied ecology faculty area of the School of Natural Resources. I use social science to research ways to reduce human impacts on natural resources, and to improve natural resource management. Whether through survey research, environmental education, communications, or nature-based tourism and recreation, I measure and explore how to influence conservation behavior through knowledge, attitudes, values, and connection to nature. My research has included developing a scale to measure people's connection to nature, the impact of wildlife watching, measuring attitudes toward bats, leadership issues, exploring visitors' connection to nature and using benefits-based management for outdoor recreation.

Lisa conducting a visitor survey at a  bat watching site.
Lisa conducting a visitor survey at a bat watching site.

My interest in environmentally responsible behavior lies in developing educational programs and communication messages that will successfully lead to desired behaviors. Encouraging desired behaviors such as water conservation, defensible space for fire management, and habitat management can be more effective when studying and applying successful communication and education techniques. I have also conducted visitor studies looking at visitor motivations, attitudes, connection to nature and the impact of visitor programs on learning. Non-compliant visitor behavior is a related area where research is used to encourage appropriate behavior, such as staying on designated trails and not littering.

Classes I teach and how I teach them

I teach Environmental Education; Environmental Communications; Natural Resources Recreation and Tourism; and Individual and Cultural Perspectives on the Environment. As an environmental educator, I use experiential and service learning to give students the opportunity to learn while doing. I am always looking for "real world" projects for students to work on, giving students the opportunity to creatively and critically think through the process.

"Tell me and I'll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I'll understand."- Chinese proverb


My appointment includes extension, applying research to benefit Nebraskans. Through extension, human dimensions work encourages people to understand, engage and make informed decisions about natural resource issues. I work to help outreach efforts for SNR at Nine-Mile Prairie, Prairie Pines and through the Nebraska Master Naturalist program. My outreach efforts also include helping others develop ecotourism and agritourism in Nebraska. This includes developing master plans, exhibits, programs and materials, and wildlife watching activities that encourage conservation and enhance visitor experiences. It also includes the development and assessment of natural resource educational and communications programs.

My Background

I received my doctorate from the University of Florida in natural resources recreation and tourism with minors in research/evaluation methodology and forest conservation. I have more than 10 years of experience as a naturalist and educator, including starting and managing the Daggerwing Nature Center for Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation, teaching high school science at the Cincinnati Zoo School, and working as a naturalist at the Cincinnati Nature Center and Long Branch Farm. I have also been involved in wildlife rehabilitation for 20 years, solely as an effective means of educating people about wildlife, especially misunderstood wildlife. Often when people are provided the opportunity to see an animal up close, such as a bat or snake, wonderful learning opportunities take place. Fear decreases, learning, appreciation and connection increase, and conservation behavior is inspired.

Favorite Quotes

"A human being is part of a whole, called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest - a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty." - Albert Einstein

"If we allow ourselves to put aside our arrogance long enough, perhaps we can read the lesson written in the eyes of lizards and deer deep in the land of stone time: this world and its creatures were not presented to us; we were joined to them in the exquisite saraband of life. The arrangement was never meant to be a conquest, and it is more deeply complex than a responsibility. It is a sharing." -T.H. Watkins, Stone Time

Selected Publications

Gilmore, T.E, Korus, J., Pennisi, L., Martin, D., Pekarek, K. (2019). Needs Assessment: Watershed Science for Water-Resources Directors submitted to the Journal of Extension, 57(4), Article 4RIB7. Online
Lackey, N.Q & Pennisi, L. (2019) Ecotour guide training program methods and characteristics: a case study from the African bush, Journal of Ecotourism, 18 (4) DOI: 10.1080/14724049.2019.1686005 Online
Pennisi, L. and Lackey, N.Q. (2018). A Multi-year Evaluation of the NaturePalooza Science Festival. Journal of Extension, 56(7). Online
Pennisi, L., Brandle, J. R., Lackey, N. Q., Meendering, K. (2018). Resident Perceptions of a Proposed Environmental Education Center and Demonstration Farm. Journal of Extension, 56(7). Online
Pennisi, L., Lackey, N.Q., and Holland, S.M. (2017). Can an immersion exhibit inspire connection to nature and environmentally responsible behavior? Journal of Interpretation Research. 22, 2, Online
Chan, J., Pennisi, L., Francis, C. 2016. Social-Ecological Refuges: Reconnecting In Community Gardens In Lincoln, Nebraska. Journal of Ethnobiology, 36(4):841-860. Online
Hoffman Babbit, C., Burbach, M., Pennisi, L. (2015). A mixed methods approach to assessing success in transitioning water management institutions: A case study of the Platte River Basin, Nebraska. Ecology & Society, 20(1), 54.
Pennisi, L., Burbach, M., Kil, N., Kahn, M.I., and Tyre, A. 2015. Nebraska's Public Access Hunting Program: Hunter Preferences and Usage Final Report Online
Vantassal, S., Hygnstrom, S., Ferraro, D. & Pennisi, L. (2013). Dealing with Skunks. NebGuide, Cooperative Extension, University of Nebraska. Online
Burbach, M., Pennisi, L., West, C. D., Ziegler-Chong, S. (2012). The impact of personal interpretation in developing a connection to nature in park visitors. LARNet: The Cyber Journal of Applied Leisure and Recreation Research, 15, 13-30. Online
Ferraro, D., Pennisi, L., Hygnstrom, S., & Vantassal, S. (2012). Bats in and around Structures. NebGuide, Cooperative Extension, University of Nebraska. Online
Pennisi, L. (2012). Experiencing the impact of organizational structure on planning and visioning tasks. Schole: A Journal of Leisure Studies & Recreation Education, 27, 46-55
Pennisi, L. and Vantassel, S. (2012). Selective Bird Feeding: Deterring Nuisance Wildlife from Bird Feeders. Extension Circular, Cooperative Extension, University of Nebraska. Online
Pennisi, L., Gunawan, Y., Major, A.L. & Winder, A. (2011). How to Create An Effective Brochure. NebGuide, Cooperative Extension, University of Nebraska. Online
Pennisi, L., Major, A.L. & Winder, A. (2011). Effective Graphic Design. NebGuide, Cooperative Extension, University of Nebraska. Online
Barbuto, J. E., Bryant, S. & Pennisi, L. (2010). Testing the intergenerational differences in mental boundaries. Psychological Reports, 106, 2, 1.5. Online
Barbuto, J. E., Finch-Weltmer, D. & Pennisi, L. (2010). Locus of control, sources of motivation, and mental boundaries as antecedents of leader-member exchange quality. Psychological Reports, 106, 1, 175-188. Online
Pennisi, L. & Niemeyer, S.M. (2010). E-Cycling: A Green Guide to Electronics Recycling, Purchasing and Donation. NebGuide, Cooperative Extension, University of Nebraska. Online
Pennisi, L. (2010). Greening the Hospitality Industry. NebGuide, Cooperative Extension, University of Nebraska. Online
Monroe, M.C., Pennisi, L., McCaffrey, S. and Mileti, D. (2005). Social science to improve fuels management: A synthesis of research relevant to communicating with homeowners about fuels management. GTR NC-267. St Paul, MN: USDA, Forest Service, North Central Research Station. Online
Pennisi, L.A., Holland, S.M. and Stein, T.V. (2004). Achieving Bat Conservation Through Tourism. The Journal of Ecotourism. 3,3, 195-207. Online
T. V. Stein, C. B. Denny and L. A. Pennisi (2004). Using Visitors Motivations to Provide Learning Opportunities at Water-Based Recreation Areas. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 11 (5) 404-425. Online


Selected Presentations

Techniques for Inspiring Behavior Change.
  • Presentation Type: Oral Presentation
  • Date: 11/12/2019
  • Abstract:
  • Full Citation: Pennisi, L. 2019. Techniques for Inspiring Behavior Change. Nebraska Environmental Health Association Region iV Conference. September 25, 2019.

Educational Background

  • PhD - University of Florida, Natural Resources Recreation and Tourism: Human Dimensions (2007)
  • MS - Miami University, Ohio, Environmental Science (1991)
  • BA - University of Central Florida, Social Psychology (1986)


SNR Program Area(s)

  • Applied Ecology
  • Environmental Science

Affiliations (index)

Notable Websites

Areas of Interest

  • Encouraging environmentally responsible behavior change
  • Communicating science
  • Connection to nature
  • Human dimensions of wildlife management
  • Bridging the gap between physical and social sciences
  • Outdoor recreation
  • Environmental education and interpretation
  • Nonformal STEM education
  • Agritourism and Ecotourism
  • Environmental Education and Interpretation
  • Diversity Issues
  • Hunting

Currently this page only displays grants that were awarded on 1/1/2009 to the present. If a grant was awarded prior to 1/1/2009 and is still active, it will not be displayed on this page.

Grant Title Watershed Science Education Collaboration
Starting Date 5/24/2019
Principal Investigators
Troy Gilmore
Ingram. Erin
Jesse Korus
Kathryn (Katie) Pekarek
Lisa Pennisi
Taylor, Megan
Ending Date 6/30/2022
Funding Level $225,204.00
Funding Source Nebraska Environmental Trust

Grant Title NaturePalooza
Starting Date 6/1/2013
Principal Investigators
Lisa Pennisi
Ken Dewey
Ending Date 6/1/2014
Funding Level $2,725.00
Funding Source Nebraska Academy of Sciences

Grant Title 2012 Assessment of Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program
Starting Date 12/10/2012
Principal Investigators
Lisa Pennisi
Mark Burbach
Ending Date 6/30/2013
Funding Level $9,547.00
Funding Source Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

Grant Title Hunter Study on OFW Effectiveness in Nebraska
Starting Date 8/10/2012
Principal Investigators
Lisa Pennisi
Mark Burbach
Ending Date 7/31/2015
Funding Level $59,662.00
Funding Source Nebraska Game and Parks Commission


Undergraduate Majors Bachelor of Science in
  • Fisheries & Wildlife
Graduate Program(s)

Master of Science in Natural Resource Sciences

including specializations in
  • Applied Ecology
  • Human Dimensions

Courses Taught
Course Number Course Title Fall Even Years Fall Odd Years Spring Even Years Spring Odd Years Summer Session Cross Listing
ENVR 434 Environmental Education and Interpretation X ENVR/NRES 434/834
NRES 301 Environmental Communication Skills X X None
NRES 322 Environmental Education Curricula None
NRES 434 Environmental Education and Interpretation X X ENVR/NRES 434/834
NRES 441 Zoo Keeping and Management X X None
NRES 834 Environmental Education and Interpretation X X ENVR/NRES 434/834

SNR Speakers Bureau

What I can speak about:

When I am most available to speak:


What target audiences I am most comfortable speaking to:

  • General Public



Outreach Events


When: early Fall
Where: Hardin Hall

What is this event about:

Activities and games will help visitors better understand Nebraska's rich natural resources and ways to help protect them through discovery and hands-on activities at stations staffed by the school's faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students.

Who sponsors this event:

SNR Outreach Committee

What target audiences is this event most geared towards:

  • Pre-K/Elementary School
  • Middle/High School
  • College
  • OLLI - lifelong learning for adults 50 years and older
  • General Public
  • Families