Category: Parks and Recreation

A dose of data for your springtime allergies

blooming-springtimeLike many people, I have “seasonal allergies.”  March and April bring sneezing fits and foggy brain days for me.  Often I get a sore throat and headaches.  One year I went through three strep throat tests and a course of antibiotics before my doctor decided my swollen throat was caused by allergies.

Knowing you’re allergic to “something” isn’t all that helpful.  Sure, you can keep antihistamines on hand and treat the symptoms as they arise, but you have no way to predict when symptoms will hit or minimize your exposure to the allergen.

A common first step in identifying the cause is to do a skin allergy test.  Typically, this involves getting pricked in the back with approximately 20 solutions containing the most common allergens.  The doctor marks off a grid pattern on your skin and each box gets pricked with one item and then you wait and see whether any of the pricked areas swell up or show other signs of allergic reaction.

I’ve had this done, but unfortunately (though not uncommonly) I didn’t react to any of the items tested.  Which, doesn’t mean you’re not allergic to something, just that you’re not allergic to one of the things tested.

Research on myself hadn’t provided any usable information, so recently I turned to external data instead.  Where I live, the city provides daily pollen counts for the highest pollen sources from about February through November.  They don’t provide aggregated data, however, so I had to build my own database of their daily postings.  In the part of town where I live, Ash, Juniper, and Mulberry are the most prevalent allergens during the time when my symptoms are greatest.

Last year, my worst day was April 1.  Even with my allergy pills, I sneezed the entire day.  Here’s what the pollen count showed for my area of town during that time:


Ash pollen counts peaked on April 1.  Juniper and Cottonwood were also relatively high, but Juniper had been fairly high for weeks without me having corresponding symptoms.

This year, my allergies were not so bad at all.  I was out of town for a week in mid-March and for two separate weeks in early and mid-April, which certainly helped, but I only had a few foggy-brain days in late March and mid-April.  The pollen counts for this year:

allergies 2014

Ash was lower overall compared to the previous year, and once again seemed to line up best with my symptoms.  This is a correlational analysis, so it doesn’t provide a definitive diagnosis, but because different allergens peak at different times, it offers some ability to rule out other things.  And it’s more efficient (and painless!) compared to the skin test.

Armed with this information, I did some additional research on the predominant types of Ash trees where I live (Modesto and Green Ash), and the geographic range for those species.  If I’m planning to travel to Ash-free zones, I can try to schedule those trips for the spring.  And otherwise, I can keep an eye on the pollen counts and try to stay inside with the windows closed when Ash counts are particularly high.

It’s not perfect data, but like most tough decisions, we have to do the best we can with limited data and our powers of educated inference.  Hopefully less sneezing awaits!


What seniors want from open space

Corona Insights recently helped sponsor the Colorado Open Space Alliance: 2013 Conference in the beautiful hamlet of Crested Butte, Colorado.  More land managers and natural resource professionals attended this year’s conference than any year prior, demonstrating both the success of the conference organizers and the growing field of open space, natural areas, and landscape conservation in Colorado.  This year’s conference was energetic, inspiring, and full of camaraderie, and Corona Insights was proud to help sponsor such an event.

We were also happy to share some insights and implications we uncovered while conducting research for a Front Range open space agency this summer.  We surveyed county senior citizens to understand their desire to recreate on open space, satisfaction of their recent visits, preferences for amenities and trail management, and what makes it difficult to access open space.  Understanding what this segment of the population thinks is important because the proportion of Coloradoans older than 64 is projected to increase by 7.8 percent over the next 15 years.

Some of our findings were expected (e.g., most seniors go hiking or walking when visiting open space) but other results were surprising.  For example, most seniors prefer hiking on trails made of dirt and rock, rather than gravel trails or paved trails.  Seniors are also most likely to prefer trails that are wide enough for two people to walk side-by-side and least likely to prefer trails that are wide enough for only one person at a time.  These results will inform resource and recreation planners, landscape architects, and other staff about what trail policies and amenities seniors prefer.

If your agency or department needs to know what your constituents prefer, need, want, or do, give us a call and see what Corona Insights can uncover for you.

What is the Hardest Science?

If biology, geology, and chemistry are hard sciences, then are other scientific disciplines soft or easy (or scrabbled)?  Social scientists, especially in the natural resource realm, have long advocated for the legitimacy of their research, and they have struggled to define their endeavors under the hard science paradigm.

However, the gap between social and natural sciences appears to be closing.  Biologists and foresters are beginning to understand that environmental conservation and natural resource production are inevitably tied to attitudes, values, and human behavior. With seven billion of us on the planet and counting, conservation decisions necessitate understanding and incorporating the social dimensions of environmental issues. Additionally, new social science research techniques such as GPS integration and online listening makes tracking human behavior more similar to wildlife biology than ever before.

For this reason, we applaud the authors of this paper, published in Contemporary Social Science, for encouraging social scientists to engage proactively and strategically with natural scientists. Marrying the two realms is challenging, especially considering the epistemological differences.  Nevertheless, as we improve multi-disciplinary methodologies, we will unlock a tremendous world of new discoveries, and more importantly, new questions. Multi-disciplinary research that integrates natural and social science theory and data may be the hardest science of all.

Part 3: Actual behavior – What we do

Did sales increase after the campaign? Who donated the most money?  When did website traffic peak? We can answer these questions by measuring actual behavior, a practice that is not as common in market research as one might think. This may be due to age-old industry norms that insist measuring actual behavior is too difficult and cost prohibitive. While we acknowledge this inherent challenge, we believe carefully planned research and creative solutions can make the most of opportunities to measure behavior. When it does cost more, the extra investment may actually add value to the projects, considering up-front and direct costs required to initiate the survey.

Behavior is what people actually do, so the most accurate way to measure behavior involves observational techniques. Much of our internet and electronic activity is already observed and compiled. Website use, online shopping, and social media posts leave tracks of actual behavior. Some behaviors, such as whether or not someone voted in the most recent election, are available from local governments. However, when behaviors are not easily monitored, what alternatives exist?

We have noticed some creative solutions lately. For example, in Yosemite National Park, researchers are asking visitors to carry GPS devices as they travel through the park.  While this may sound to some like big-brother, the collected data provide a wealth of detailed information for analysis that was not available through self-reporting.

Collecting data electronically clearly has advantages in time efficiency and ease of analysis, but sometimes you need to hit the streets and physically observe what people are doing. Corona is excited to continue our partnership with a local transportation authority to better understand seatbelt use.  Our experience taught us that from-the-street observations of seatbelt use are much more accurate at measuring behavior than doing so on a survey; the value added is well worth the additional cost. We continually strive to develop creative ways of measuring actual behavior because that is often what our clients need to know.

We hope you have enjoyed this series about measuring previous behavior, behavioral intentions, and actual behavior.  Each approach provides an opportunity to gain valuable insight, but they all carry associated challenges. At Corona, we have the experience and ability needed to select and execute a research approach tailored to your needs.  Give us a call and let us help find the answers to your most important questions.

Other  blogs in this three part series:

Earth Day Turns 43

Sandwiched between signings of the Wilderness Act and the Clean Water Act, the first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970.  A lot has changed over four decades of the environmental movement, but one thing hasn’t changed—the need to track metrics and gauge progress.  Here at Corona, we thought it would be fun to dig into the numbers, and see what has happened around the world and around Denver since the first Earth Day.

  • 192 countries participating in Earth Day 2013.  Source: www.earthday.org
  • 76 miles of Colorado’s Cache la Poudre River that are designated at Wild and Scenic.  Source: www.rivers.gov/rivers/rivers/cache-la-poudre.php
  • 33 animal and plant species listed as threatened or endangered in Colorado by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service since 1973.  Source: www.fws.gov/endangered
  • 20,000 commuters who participated in Denver’s Bike to Work Day in 2012. Source: biketowork2013.org
  • 3 major revisions of the Clean Air Act since 1970.  Source: www.epa.gov/regulations/laws/caa.html
  • 153 feet to the top of the tallest Blue Spruce in Colorado, discovered in rural Mineral County.  Source: www.coloradotrees.org/programs.php#champion
  • 316,000 jobs supported by tourism and recreation at national parks, wildlife refuges, and other lands managed by the U.S. Department of the Interior. Source: www.doi.gov/news/pressreleases/2010_02_23_release.cfm
  • 4 climate change assessment reports published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change between 1990 and 2007.  Source: www.ipcc.ch
  • 10,362 pounds of carbon dioxide emitted per capita in 2009.  Source: data.worldbank.org/topic/environment
  • 143 years since the birth of Enos Mills, the father of Rocky Mountain National Park.  Source: EnosMills.com
  • 70 miles of salmon habitat restored when the National Park Service removed the Elwha Dam in 2011.  Source: www.nps.gov/olym/naturescience/elwha-ecosystem-restoration.htm
  • 6,973,738,000 people living on Earth who can help conserve our natural resources.

Corona continues to survey the running community

For over two years now, Corona Insights has been providing races around the country with a standardized way of surveying their athletes.  This process was developed by Corona as an innovative process for race directors to get feedback and see how their races compare to other races.  Since the survey’s inception in early 2010, over 17,000 athletes total (in 35 different states and in Canada) have taken the time to provide their feedback about the race they completed.

As an incentive for people to take the survey, Corona offered the opportunity to enter into a $500 sweepstakes drawing.  We recently selected the winner at random, and we would like to officially congratulate Amy A. of Valencia, California.  Amy competed in the Santa Clarita Marathon on November 6th and had this to say about winning the prize:

  • “The 2011 Santa Clarita Marathon was my 5th… and most difficult.  It may be Southern California, but it was only 42 degrees with a steady rain!  Though I run for the personal satisfaction it gives me, this $500 makes that tough race even more worth it!”

Congratulations, again, to Amy for winning the prize, and we’d like to thank all of the race directors around the country who helped make this survey a success.  For more information about the Corona Insights Race Survey and Rating System, contact us.

Kevin is running across America

Sort of.

On Monday, the Denver Post featured Corona’s  founder and Principal, Kevin Raines,  and his cross-country run. No, Kevin hasn’t been on sabbatical hoofing it across America. He’s been tracking his daily mileage online.

Kevin’s virtual run from Virgina to Oregon is made possible through the National Runners Health Study. He calculates  his daily miles (including his 4 mile round-trip walk to and from Corona) with www.mapmyrun.com and logs the mileage at http://exercise.lbl.gov.  Since the article’s publication, about 120 Coloradans have signed up to start their own journey across the country.

Kevin began running in 2009 and recently completed his 20th half-marathon.  Kevin’s cross-country run combines two more of his passions: data and travel.

Corona also uses data to help fellow runners and race organizers answer their most important questions through our Runner Survey and Rating System services.  To date, we’ve conducted 100 post-race surveys and community benefit analyses in 34 states.

Racing for feedback

2010 marked the inaugural year of the Corona Insights Race Survey and Rating System.  Having several runners on staff, and noticing that many races do not gather feedback from race participants, we decided to create a standardized system that race directors can use to improve their services, and that marketing directors can use to promote their runs.  In 2010, races in 33 different states signed up and well over 6,000 runners nationwide participated in the survey.

As an incentive for runners to provide their feedback, we allowed them to enter their names into a $500 sweepstakes drawing at the conclusion of the survey.  We recently selected the winner at random, and we would like to officially congratulate Josefina C. of Los Angeles on winning the prize.  Josefina competed in the 10th Annual Say No To Drugs Race Holiday Classic on December 5th.

We would also like to thank all races and runners for their participation in 2010, and we look forward to continuing our efforts to help races around the country get feedback from their runners.

For more information on the Corona Insights Race Survey and Rating System, click here.

Corona Insights presents at NASPD

Kevin Raines, Principal here at Corona Insights, and Gary Thorson, Deputy Director of Colorado State Parks, co-presented today at the National Association of State Park Directors’ conference in Santa Fe, NM.

They presented a case study of Colorado State Parks’ recent market assessment conducted by Corona Insights. (Click here to see Colorado State Parks’ press release on the study.)

The study has been getting additional press lately, particularly in many of the communities directly impacted by the parks (Summit Voice, Aspen Times, Grand Junction Sentinel).

Pioneer Park – Questions Answered

Corona Insights recently finished conducting a park master plan survey for Pioneer Park in Billings, Montana. This survey was the first step in a larger Master Planning process the City is undertaking to help the Billings Parks and Recreation Department determine how to manage, maintain and strategically allocate park resources at Pioneer Park to best meet the future needs of Billings’ residents.

Additional background…

Corona Insights and the City of Billings Parks and Recreation Department custom created the survey to answer 4 major questions from the research:

  1. City of Billings residents’ perceived recreation needs regarding Pioneer Park;
  2. To assess the residents’ preferences for the strategic allocation of Pioneer Park resources;
  3. To examine priorities for current and future park maintenance levels; and
  4. To gauge current usage levels at Pioneer Park.

Resident attitudes towards disc golf were also examined throughout the survey.

Through the findings park officials were able to determine how a majority of residents preferred to proceed with regards to disc golf, dog regulations, and future maintenance needs within the park. Findings also indicated Billings residents had more favorable than unfavorable views towards disc golf and respondents most frequently felt disc golf should remain as an activity within the park, but should be redesigned in some fashion. Development of off-street parking was the most commonly perceived future need at the park among respondents and respondents most frequently indicated they preferred Pioneer Park to be an active, highly used park with little built-in equipment and lots of open space.

We thoroughly enjoyed working with the City of Billings on this project and were glad to assist them with this community input portion of the larger master plan project.

Corona has worked with many parks and rec departments answer their important questions regarding their parks and planning.  Contact Corona to learn how we can help you do the same.