Current Project Summaries


Connecting Young Children with Nature

This study examines the role that early childhood programs can play in connecting preschool-aged children with nature.  In summer 2014, a survey will be sent to child care programs across Ohio about opportunities to engage children with nature inside and outside of the classroom.  Past research has indicated a broad range of benefits for children, including increased physical activity, stress reduction, and environmental concern in later life.  Research questions will focus on indoor and outdoor learning opportunities, the value of outdoor play and learning, and features of outdoor play areas and neighborhoods in which centers are located. 

Estimated timeline: data collection is underway in summer 2014.   

Contact: Kristi Lekies,


Childhood Experiences in Nature: Impacts Across the Life Span

This ongoing study examines a range of free play, educational, and recreational activities in childhood and their impacts on environmental attitudes, behaviors, and perceptions of nature in young adulthood.  Of particular interest are direct, hands-on experiences with nature, collecting items from nature such as rocks, shells, berries, and insects, and current involvement in outdoor activities.  

Estimated timeline: additional data collection is planned for Autumn 2014.   

Contact: Kristi Lekies,


Hometown Community Sentiment: Exploring the Role of Youth Civic Engagement and Childhood Place Experiences

Outmigration of youth from rural communities has been a longstanding concern for rural communities.  This ongoing research focuses on two areas:  1) Hometown attachment among college students, including continued interest and involvement after leaving home; and 2) attachment to the state of Ohio.  This study will allow for comparisons of rural, urban, and suburban youth and help to identify individual and community characteristics, as well as place experiences, that contribute to feelings of attachment and interest in returning home or staying in Ohio after graduation.    

Estimated timeline: continuous   

Contact: Kristi Lekies,


Climate Change, Mitigation, and Adaptation in Corn-Based Cropping Systems – Evaluation of Educational Activities

This five-year multistate project focuses on climate adaptation and mitigation strategies in agricultural production and involves over 50 faculty from 9 states, as well as a large group of graduate students, postdoctoral associates, field specialists, and academic staff.   Research activities encompass soil quality, water quality, crop production, farmers’ perspectives on climate change, and training future scientists.  The evaluation component examines educational activities including a webinar series, climate camp for high school students and teachers, and a graduate level course on climate change.  The project involves interaction with scientists in a diverse array of fields including agronomy, hydrology, sociology, economics, climatology, and other fields. 

Estimated timeline: through February 2017  

Contact: Kristi Lekies,


Settlement Growth among the Amish in North America

The Amish population is doubling every 22 years, due to a. continuation of high rates of fertility/large family size; and b. increased rates of baptism or retention of daughters and sons from Amish families who decide to join the faith when they reach the age of decision as adults since 1950. This demographic engine of rapid population growth drives other changes in Amish society. The most immediate impact is the expansion of Amish communities (often called “settlements”) in states like Ohio where the Amish have historically lived, and into new areas, such Arkansas, Idaho, Maine, and Wyoming. In turn, the characteristics of the local ecology in which new Amish settlements are located potentially stimulates other changes, from diversification in their economic base to new adaptations of church beliefs and practices which may affect future divisions (i.e., schisms) among a larger and more complex Amish population. This study explores those possibilities by tracking the expansion of Amish communities and collecting information on how the Amish build up their economic, social, and religious infrastructures to sustain fellowship and community at these new places.

Estimated timeline: continuous

Contact: Joseph F. Donnermeyer ,


Rural Criminology

There was a time when scholarly discourse on crime in the rural context was sporadic and largely atheoretical. Over the past 20 years, rural crime work has blossomed into one of the fastest growing areas of scholarship in Criminology. In this new century, over 15 books (both monographs and edited works) and special issues in journals have been published, with special editions planned for Critical Criminology and the Journal of Rural Studies in the next year. Theoretical advances in rural criminology have accompanied its empirical development, with rural work now forming a primary critique of mainstream criminological theory, especially functionalist notions related to social disorganization theory and the concepts of collective efficacy and social capital. This project involves efforts to foster a sustained advancement of rural criminology through development of new models for a more critical and theoretical understanding of rural crime from a place-based perspective, and of the establishment of a new criminology of agriculture and food, viewing food producers as both the victims of crime and the perpetrators of crime through exploitation of farmworkers, violations of environmental regulations, and other forms of so-called “white-collar” crime.

Estimate timeline continuous

Contact: Joseph Donnermeyer,