Dr. Melissa Weddell
Director & Research Faculty
Melissa values working with federal, state, and local organizations to develop management plans that educate the public and assist with the responsible development of rural recreation and tourism destinations that benefit users and boost local economic commerce. Through her research, she understands the unique local concerns in developing natural areas, encouraging recreation, and attracting tourism while working collaboratively to provide inclusive recreation that improves the quality of life. She holds a doctorate in Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management from Clemson University, an MBA from Southern Illinois University, and an undergraduate degree in Small Business Management & Entrepreneurship from Ball State University. Melissa enjoys mountain biking, paddling, and adventures in the backcountry in her downtime with her husband and furbabies.
Phone: (406) 243-2328
Assistant Director of Economic Analysis
At ITRR, Kara provides direction and technical expertise for the economic aspects of various travel and recreation projects, as well as participating in various ITRR projects as an analyst, writer, editor or data collector. Each year, Kara produces estimates of nonresident visitation and travel spending in Montana, along with annual estimates of the economic impact of nonresident travel to the state. Kara collaborates on managing the ITRR website, including ITRR’s interactive data reports and dashboards.
Phone: (406) 243-5107
Project Manager and Research Associate
Megan Schultz oversees daily operations for the on-going Nonresident and Resident survey projects: supervising data collectors, designing and building questionnaires, cleaning data, analysis, reporting writing, and presenting on ITRR data. She also administers ITRR’s Survey Kits utilized by communities across Montana. Additionally, Megan is responsible for compiling visitor data at Montana’s State Parks. Her personal research interests also include collaboration and collective decision-making regarding natural resources and public lands. In her free time, she can be found with her husband, son, daughter, and two dogs hiking, brewery-touring, river rafting, and enjoying all things Montana!
Phone: (406) 243-6454
Data Engineer and Research Associate
My work at ITRR centers on everything data. I’m involved in automating data pipelines and cleaning data for the nonresident and resident studies. I also design and develop the Tableau interactive data available on ITRR’s website. Additional research centers on survey methodology and assisting with analysis. With a background in statistics, I’m well equipped to do the heavier analytics as necessary. My free time is spent with my amazing wife and three kids. We love to spend time in the outdoors and cuddle our 4 cats. When not wrangling data, my wife and I double as professional photographers and videographers.
Phone: (406) 243-5635
Dr. Elena Bigart
Social Scientist and Research Associate
At ITRR, I am involved in several research projects focused on national park management and communication. In particular, I conduct background reviews, develop survey instruments, coordinate data collection, and analyze findings. My research efforts are aimed at helping park managers and tourism industry make informed decisions. I also teach classes in park management, outdoor recreation, interpretation, and human geography. In my free time, I am usually outdoors enjoying Montana’s beautiful nature.
Phone: (406) 243-6210
Social Scientist and Research Associate
My work at ITRR involves everything from research design to data collection, analysis, graphic design, and final reporting. I assist in ITRR’s research efforts across Montana, covering subjects like resident attitudes towards tourism, the outfitting and guiding industry, and gateway communities to national parks. My other work at ITRR focuses on visitor use management and socioeconomic monitoring research for the National Park Service, including work at Yellowstone National Park, Zion National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Isle Royale National Park, and Canyon de Chelly National Monument. When I’m not working, I enjoy spending time outdoors and being on the water with my wife and son.
Phone: (406) 243-2872
Program Assistant and Qualitative Specialist
At ITRR, I help examine any qualitative data that is gathered on various projects as well as assist with National Parks and State Parks projects which includes helping with data collection and analysis. When not working, I enjoy running and adventuring with my two energetic dogs and daughter, and exploring all that this beautiful state has to offer!
Phone: (406) 243-2425
At ITRR, I utilize various communication tools to share information about ITRR projects and research with the public. I also create engaging content for ITRR's website and social media. Beyond communication, I provide administrative support for data collection and analysis as needed. In my free time, you’ll find me cuddling with my cat, Moose, and getting out into the mountains as often as I can!
Dr. Norma Nickerson
Norma P. Nickerson, Ph.D., was a Research Professor and Director of ITRR for 25 years from 1995 to January 2021. She authored three books, Snapshots: an Introduction to Tourism 6th Ed. ( 2014),Quality Tourism Experiences (2006), and Foundations of Tourism (1995). Dr. Nickerson wrote hundreds of research reports and journal articles and speaks throughout Montana as well as nationally and internationally about tourism. She has served on the international board of the Travel and Tourism Research Association (TTRA) and is past president of the Greater Western Chapter of TTRA. She sat on the editorial board of the Journal of Travel Research and served on the Missoula Parks and Recreation Board appointed by the Mayor from 2010-2015. Dr. Nickerson served on the board of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank Board, Helena Branch, as a tourism and recreation expert for 4 years (2017-2020) and served as Chair of the Helena Branch Board of Directors for one year.