Nicole Ardoin is an associate professor with a joint appointment in the Graduate School of Education and the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University. Professor Ardoin´s research focuses on environmental behavior as influenced by environmental learning and motivated by place-based connections. In particular, she is interested in considerations of geographic scale, which is an understudied yet crucial aspect of people-place relationships in a rapidly globalizing, urbanizing world. Professor Ardoin has current studies on the use of education, communications, and other social strategies in informal and community-based settings, including nature-based tourism programs, to engage individuals and communities in deliberate dialogue, environmental decision-making, and informed conservation behavior.

Professor Ardoin also researches the effectiveness of a range of environmental education and social science endeavors in achieving measurable and meaningful conservation results. To this end, she conducts evaluations with informal organizations including museums, zoos/aquariums, parks, and residential environmental education programs, with an emphasis on using innovative, non-traditional metrics and adaptive management approaches. She is also interested in philanthropic support of environmental education and emergent trends in the field of environmental education research.

Administrative Appointments

  • Exhibition Coordinator and Education Specialist, World Wildlife Fund (DC) (1998 - 2001)
  • Faculty Director (Acting), Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources, Stanford University (2018 - Present)
  • Museum Educator, Discovery Creek Children's Museum of Washington (DC) (1995 - 1996)
  • Interpretive Ranger, Student Conservation Association & Grand Canyon National Park (AZ) (1994 - Present)

Honors & Awards

  • Miriam Aaron Roland Volunteer Service Prize, Haas Center for Public Service, Stanford University (2018)
  • Outstanding Contributions to Research in Environmental Education, North American Association for Environmental Education (2016)
  • President's Award, North American Association for Environmental Education (2014)

Boards, Advisory Committees, Professional Organizations

  • Trustee, George B. Storer Foundation (2016 - Present)
  • Advisory Board, North American Association for Environmental Education (2015 - Present)
  • Education Advisory Council Member, Teton Science Schools (2015 - Present)
  • Faculty Steering Committee, Haas Center for Public Service (2015 - Present)
  • Programs Committee of the Board of Directors, Monterey Bay Aquarium (2013 - Present)
  • Advisory Committee, Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve (2012 - Present)
  • Education Advisory Council Chair, NatureBridge (2010 - Present)

Professional Education

  • Ph. D., Forestry & Environmental Studies (Social Ecology), Yale University
  • M.Phil., Forestry & Environmental Studies (Social Ecology), Yale University
  • M.S., Natural Resource Management (Environmental Education & Interpretation), University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point
  • B.B.A., International Business & French, James Madison University

Current Research and Scholarly Interests

Nicole Ardoin holds a joint appointment with the Graduate School of Education and the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University. A unifying theme across Professor Ardoin’s work is an interest in education as an opportunity to engage communities in productive, critical dialogue about sustainability to build resiliency and adaptability in light of changing environmental conditions. To this end, Dr. Ardoin’s current research includes studies on motivations for and barriers to environmental and stewardship behavior among a range of audiences and in varying settings; program evaluation and adaptive management in informal settings such as parks and museums; the use of social strategies by non-governmental organizations to engage individuals and communities in decision-making related to natural resource management; leadership and training programs in natural resources and conservation; and the impact of “green” buildings and the built environment on environmental attitudes, knowledge, and behaviors.


Environmental Learning in the San Francisco Bay Area: Networks, Place Connections, Stewardship, and Educational Outcomes (2012–2016; funded by the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation)

Nature-Based Tourism as a Motivator for Pro-Ocean Behaviors (2014–2016; funded by the Oceanic Society)

Community Conservation: Examining environmental behavior as motivated by participation in aquarium programs (2014–2016; funded by Monterey Bay Aquarium)

Evaluation of Environmental Literacy and Stewardship Outcomes in Field-Based Science Learning Programs: Tool and Instrument Development (2012–2013; funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation)

Improving the Next Generation of Grantmaking through Building the Capacity of Foundation Program Officers in Evaluation and Adaptive Management (2012–2013; in collaboration with C.R. Hibbs and the Stanford Center for Philanthropy and Civil Society; funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation)

The Value of Nature Centers to Communities, Stakeholders, and Conservation (2010–2015; In collaboration with Joe Heimlich, The Ohio State University; Marc Stern, Virginia Tech; the National Audubon Society; funded by the Institute for Museum and Library Sciences)

Designing Research to Strengthen Environmental Education in the Bay Area and Beyond (2011; funded by the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation)

Facilitating Environmental Behavior: Leveraging Nature-Based Tourism Experiences into Everyday Stewardship (2011–2013; in collaboration with William Durham, Anthropology; funded by the Woods Environmental Ventures Project Fund)

Translating Environmental Education Research into Practice (2011–2013; funded by NatureBridge)

TogetherGreen Research and Evaluation, National Audubon Society (2009–2013; in collaboration with Marc Stern, Virginia Tech; and Bob Powell, Clemson University; funded by Toyota North America)

Community-based Interventions for Enhancing Residential Energy Efficiency (2010–2012; in collaboration with Tom Robinson, Stanford University School of Medicine, the Precourt Energy Efficiency Center and H-STAR, funded by the ARPA-E program of the U.S. Dept. of Energy)


Community Involvement
Community/Youth Development and Organizations
Environmental Education
Qualitative Research Methods

2018-19 Courses

All Publications

  • Sustainable tourism and the management of nearshore coastal places: place attachment and disruption to surf-spots JOURNAL OF SUSTAINABLE TOURISM Reineman, D. R., Ardoin, N. M. 2018; 26 (2): 325–40
  • What difference do role models make? Investigating outcomes at a residential environmental education center ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION RESEARCH Stern, M. J., Frensley, B., Powell, R. B., Ardoin, N. M. 2018; 24 (6): 818–30
  • Factors that contribute to community members' support of local nature centers ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION RESEARCH Browning, M. M., Stern, M. J., Ardoin, N. M., Heimlich, J. E. 2018; 24 (3): 326–42
  • Environmental education and K-12 student outcomes: A review and analysis of research JOURNAL OF ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION Ardoin, N. M., Bowers, A. W., Roth, N., Holthuis, N. 2018; 49 (1): 1–17
  • Social learning within a community of practice: Investigating interactions about evaluation among zoo education professionals. Evaluation and program planning Khalil, K., Ardoin, N. M., Wojcik, D. 2017; 61: 45-54


    The accessibility and ubiquity of zoos and aquariums-which reach over 700 million people worldwide annually-make them critical sites for science and environmental learning. Through educational offerings, these sites can generate excitement and curiosity about nature and motivate stewardship behavior, but only if their programs are high quality and meet the needs of their audiences. Evaluation is, therefore, critical: knowing what works, for whom, and under what conditions must be central to these organizations. Yet, many zoo and aquarium educators find evaluation to be daunting, and they are challenged to implement evaluations and/or use the findings iteratively in program development and improvement. This article examines how zoo education professionals engage with one another in a learning community related to evaluation. We use a communities of practice lens and social network analysis to understand the structure of this networked learning community, considering changes over time. Our findings suggest that individuals' roles in a networked learning community are influenced by factors such as communicative convenience and one's perceptions of others' evaluation expertise, which also contribute to forming and sustaining professional relationships. This study illuminates how project-based professional networks can become communities of practice.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.evalprogplan.2016.12.001

    View details for PubMedID 27940342

  • Exploring the Effectiveness of Outreach Strategies in Conservation Projects: The Case of the Audubon Toyota TogetherGreen Program SOCIETY & NATURAL RESOURCES Stern, M. J., Ardoin, N. M., Powell, R. B. 2017; 30 (1): 95-111
  • The company you keep: Networks in a community of informal education evaluators STUDIES IN EDUCATIONAL EVALUATION Khalil, K. A., Ardoin, N. M., Wojcik, D. J. 2016; 51: 7-16
  • Farmer Typology in South Kona, Hawai'i: Who's Farming, How, and Why? FOOD CULTURE & SOCIETY Lincoln, N. K., Ardoin, N. 2016; 19 (3): 563-585
  • Environmental Behavior's Dirty Secret: The Prevalence of Waste Management in Discussions of Environmental Concern and Action ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT Gould, R. K., Ardoin, N. M., Biggar, M., Cravens, A. E., Wojcik, D. 2016; 58 (2): 268-282


    Humankind and the planet face many thorny environmentally related challenges that require a range of responses, including changing behaviors related to transportation, eating habits, purchasing, and myriad other aspects of life. Using data from a 1201-person survey and 14 Community Listening Sessions (CLSs), we explore people's perceptions of and actions taken to protect the environment. Our data indicate a striking prevalence of waste management-related actions. Survey respondents described actions and concerns related to trash, recycling, and composting as the most common environmental behaviors; similarly, participants in CLSs discussed waste-related topics, for which we did not prompt, as frequently as those topics for which we specifically prompted. Explanations for this prevalence emerging from the data include (1) the nature of waste-related behaviors (concrete, supported by infrastructure, simple, compatible with lifestyle); (2) norms and social dynamics (family interactions, feelings of belonging/participation, government policy); and (3) internal psychological processes (internalized norms and environmental concern). We also found that many waste-related discussions were relatively superficial, focusing on immediate waste-related issues (e.g., litter or recycling) rather than larger issues such as consumption. Our results may provide insight into future efforts to encourage pro-environmental behavior. Given that most pro-environmental behavior involves tasks more complex and lifestyle-changing than those related to simple aspects of waste management, we suggest focusing on the latter two intertwined categories that our data suggest are important: encouraging social dynamics and related development of norms concerning environmental behavior (category 2), and fostering internalized norms and environmental concern (category 3).

    View details for DOI 10.1007/s00267-016-0710-6

    View details for Web of Science ID 000379159200007

    View details for PubMedID 27234803

  • Effects of a behaviour change intervention for Girl Scouts on child and parent energy-saving behaviours NATURE ENERGY Boudet, H., Ardoin, N. M., Flora, J., Armel, K. C., Desai, M., Robinson, T. N. 2016; 1
  • Cultivating values: environmental values and sense of place as correlates of sustainable agricultural practices AGRICULTURE AND HUMAN VALUES Lincoln, N. K., Ardoin, N. M. 2016; 33 (2): 389-401
  • Using online narratives to explore participant experiences in a residential environmental education program CHILDRENS GEOGRAPHIES Ardoin, N. M., DiGiano, M., O'Connor, K., Holthuis, N. 2016; 14 (3): 263-281
  • "I know, therefore I adapt?" Complexities of individual adaptation to climate-induced forest dieback in Alaska ECOLOGY AND SOCIETY Oakes, L. E., Ardoin, N. M., Lambin, E. F. 2016; 21 (2)
  • Negotiating credibility and legitimacy in the shadow of an authoritative data source ECOLOGY AND SOCIETY Cravens, A. E., Ardoin, N. M. 2016; 21 (4)
  • Beyond formal groups: neighboring acts and watershed protection in Appalachia INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF THE COMMONS Lukacs, H., Ardoin, N. M., Grubert, E. 2016; 10 (2): 878-901

    View details for DOI 10.18352/ijc.578

    View details for Web of Science ID 000388648200020

  • Motivating residents to combat invasive species on private lands: social norms and community reciprocity ECOLOGY AND SOCIETY Niemiec, R. M., Ardoin, N. M., Wharton, C. B., Asner, G. P. 2016; 21 (2)
  • Using web and mobile technology to motivate pro-environmental action after a nature-based tourism experience JOURNAL OF SUSTAINABLE TOURISM Wheaton, M., Ardoin, N. M., Hunt, C., Schuh, J. S., Kresse, M., Menke, C., Durham, W. 2016; 24 (4): 594-615
  • Conservation in a social-ecological system experiencing climate-induced tree mortality BIOLOGICAL CONSERVATION Oakes, L. E., Hennon, P. E., Ardoin, N. M., D'Amore, D. V., Ferguson, A. J., Steel, E. A., Wittwer, D. T., Lambin, E. F. 2015; 192: 276-285
  • Nature-based tourism's impact on environmental knowledge, attitudes, and behavior: a review and analysis of the literature and potential future research JOURNAL OF SUSTAINABLE TOURISM Ardoin, N. M., Wheaton, M., Bowers, A. W., Hunt, C. A., Durham, W. H. 2015; 23 (6): 838-858
  • Collaborative and Transformational Leadership in the Environmental Realm JOURNAL OF ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY & PLANNING Ardoin, N. M., Gould, R. K., Kelsey, E., Fielding-Singh, P. 2015; 17 (3): 360-380
  • A Protocol for eliciting nonmaterial values through a cultural ecosystem services frame CONSERVATION BIOLOGY Gould, R. K., Klain, S. C., Ardoin, N. M., Satterfield, T., Woodside, U., Hannahs, N., Daily, G. C., Chan, K. M. 2015; 29 (2): 575-586


    Stakeholders' nonmaterial desires, needs, and values often critically influence the success of conservation projects. These considerations are challenging to articulate and characterize, resulting in their limited uptake in management and policy. We devised an interview protocol designed to enhance understanding of cultural ecosystem services (CES). The protocol begins with discussion of ecosystem-related activities (e.g., recreation, hunting) and management and then addresses CES, prompting for values encompassing concepts identified in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005) and explored in other CES research. We piloted the protocol in Hawaii and British Columbia. In each location, we interviewed 30 individuals from diverse backgrounds. We analyzed results from the 2 locations to determine the effectiveness of the interview protocol in elucidating nonmaterial values. The qualitative and spatial components of the protocol helped characterize cultural, social, and ethical values associated with ecosystems in multiple ways. Maps and situational, or vignette-like, questions helped respondents articulate difficult-to-discuss values. Open-ended prompts allowed respondents to express a diversity of ecosystem-related values and proved sufficiently flexible for interviewees to communicate values for which the protocol did not explicitly probe. Finally, the results suggest that certain values, those mentioned frequently throughout the interview, are particularly salient for particular populations. The protocol can provide efficient, contextual, and place-based data on the importance of particular ecosystem attributes for human well-being. Qualitative data are complementary to quantitative and spatial assessments in the comprehensive representation of people's values pertaining to ecosystems, and this protocol may assist in incorporating values frequently overlooked in decision making processes.

    View details for DOI 10.1111/cobi.12407

    View details for Web of Science ID 000351353400028

    View details for PubMedID 25354730

  • Energy behaviours of northern California Girl Scouts and their families ENERGY POLICY Boudet, H., Ardoin, N. M., Flora, J., Armel, K. C., Desai, M., Robinson, T. N. 2014; 73: 439-449
  • Exploring Sense of Place and Environmental Behavior at an Ecoregional Scale in Three Sites HUMAN ECOLOGY Ardoin, N. M. 2014; 42 (3): 425-441
  • Using digital photography and journaling in evaluation of field-based environmental education programs STUDIES IN EDUCATIONAL EVALUATION Ardoin, N. M., DiGiano, M., Bundy, J., Chang, S., Holthuis, N., O'Connor, K. 2014; 41: 68-76
  • The implications of differing tourist/resident perceptions for community-based resource management: a Hawaiian coastal resource area study JOURNAL OF SUSTAINABLE TOURISM Vaughan, M. B., Ardoin, N. M. 2014; 22 (1): 50-68
  • Youth-community-university partnerships and sense of place: two case studies of youth participatory action research CHILDRENS GEOGRAPHIES Ardoin, N. M., Castrechini, S., Hofstedt, M. K. 2014; 12 (4): 479-496
  • The forest has a story: cultural ecosystem services in Kona, Hawai'i ECOLOGY AND SOCIETY Gould, R. K., Ardoin, N. M., Woodside, U., Satterfield, T., Hannahs, N., Daily, G. C. 2014; 19 (3)
  • The Relationship of Place Re-Making and Watershed Group Participation in Appalachia SOCIETY & NATURAL RESOURCES Lukacs, H. A., Ardoin, N. M. 2014; 27 (1): 55-69
  • An exploration of future trends in environmental education research ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION RESEARCH Ardoin, N. M., Clark, C., Kelsey, E. 2013; 19 (4): 499-520
  • Views From the Field: Conservation Educators' and Practitioners' Perceptions of Education as a Strategy for Achieving Conservation Outcomes JOURNAL OF ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION Ardoin, N. M., Heimlich, J. E. 2013; 44 (2): 97-115
  • Exploring the dimensions of place: a confirmatory factor analysis of data from three ecoregional sites ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION RESEARCH Ardoin, N. M., Schuh, J. S., Gould, R. K. 2012; 18 (5): 583-607
  • Trends in Philanthropic Support: Foundation Giving in Environmental Education JOURNAL OF ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION Ardoin, N. M., Bowers, A. W. 2012; 43 (4): 259-273
  • Evaluating a Constructivist and Culturally Responsive Approach to Environmental Education for Diverse Audiences JOURNAL OF ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION Stern, M. J., Powell, R. B., Ardoin, N. M. 2011; 42 (2): 109-122
  • Development and validation of scales to measure environmental responsibility, character development, and attitudes toward school ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION RESEARCH Powell, R. B., Stern, M. J., Krohn, B. D., Ardoin, N. 2011; 17 (1): 91-111
  • What Difference Does It Make? Assessing Outcomes From Participation in a Residential Environmental Education Program JOURNAL OF ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION Stern, M. J., Powell, R. B., Ardoin, N. M. 2008; 39 (4): 31-43
  • Understanding behavior to understand behavior change: a literature review ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION RESEARCH Heimlich, J. E., Ardoin, N. M. 2008; 14 (3): 215-237