Lisa Pennisi

Lisa Pennisi

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

Contact Information

TitleConservation Social Science & Environmental Education
Faculty RankProfessor of Practice
Address519 South Hardin Hall
3310 Holdrege Street
Lincoln NE
  • office: 402-413-0915
  • fax: 402-472-4915


Contact Preference

E-mail and open door

My Story

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

Nichols, B. H., Caplow, S., Franzen, R. L., McClain, L. R., Pennisi, L., Tarlton, J. L. (2021). Pandemic shift: Meeting the challenges of moving post-secondary environmental education. Environmental Education Research, 28(1).
Lackey, N. Q., Pennisi, L.(2020). Ecotour Guide Training Program Characteristics and Methods: A Case Study from the African Bush. 19(3), 217-232.
Pennisi, L., Nadal, J., Ponz, C., Margalida, A. (2020). Ecological markers to monitor migratory bird populations: integrating citizen science and transboundary management for conservation purposes. Journal of Environmental Management. Vol.25.
Gilmore, T., Korus, J., Pennisi, L., Martin, D. L., Pekarek, K. 2019. Needs Assessment: Watershed Science for Water Resources Directors. Journal of Extension. 57(4).Online
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: 10.1080/14724049.2019.1686005Online
Pennisi, L., Gilmore, T., Gilmore, T. E., Korus, J., Pennisi, L., Martin, D., Pekarek, K. 2019. Needs Assessment: Watershed Science for Water-Resources Directors. Journal of Extension. 57(4).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. http://larnet.orOnline
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 CenOnline
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



DegreeMajorInstitutionYear Awarded
Doctorate of PhilosophyNatural Resources Recreation and Tourism: Human DimensionsUniversity of Florida2007
Master of ScienceEnvironmental ScienceMiami University (Ohio)1991
Bachelor of ArtsSocial PsychologyUniversity of Central Florida1986





TitleAwarded byYear Awarded
Parent’s Recognition AwardUniversity of Nebraska-Lincoln Teaching Council and Parents Association 2020
Senior Faculty Award for Teaching ExcellenceHolling Family Award Program2018
Spirit of Service AwardCenter for Civic Engagement2017
Parent’s Recognition AwardUniversity of Nebraska-Lincoln Teaching Council and Parents Association2012




SNR Program Areas

  • Applied Ecology
  • Environmental Science

Areas of Interest/Expertise

  • 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 TitleCan knowledge-based research incentives promote the health and safety of Nebraskans
Starting Date01/01/2024


Ending Date12/31/2024
Funding Level$19,750.00
Funding AgencyInternal - Research Council


Grant TitleWatershed Science Education Collaboration
Starting Date05/24/2019


Ending Date06/30/2022
Funding Level$225,204.00
Funding AgencyNebraska Environmental Trust


Grant TitleNaturePalooza
Starting Date06/01/2013


Ending Date06/01/2014
Funding Level$2,725.00
Funding AgencyNebraska Academy of Sciences


Grant Title2012 Assessment of Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program
Starting Date12/10/2012


Ending Date06/30/2013
Funding Level$9,547.00
Funding AgencyNebraska Game and Parks Commission


Grant TitleHunter Study on OFW Effectiveness in Nebraska
Starting Date08/10/2012


Ending Date07/31/2015
Funding Level$59,662.00
Funding AgencyNebraska Game and Parks Commission



Graduate Programs

Master of Applied Science

Master of Science in Natural Resource Sciences
including specializations in

  • Applied Ecology
  • Human Dimensions

Doctorate of Philosophy in Natural Resource Sciences
including specializations in

  • Human Dimensions

Courses Taught

Course NumberCourse TitleFall Even YearsFall Odd YearsSpring Even YearsSpring Odd YearsSummer SessionCross Listing
NRES 125 Introduction to Zoo and Aquarium ScienceXX
NRES 301Environmental Communication SkillsXX
NRES 322Environmental Education CurriculaX
NRES 434/834Environmental Education and InterpretationXENVR 434
NRES 804Program Planning and EvaluationXX
NRES 805Conservation BehaviorX