KIRK L. NICHOLS, PhM portrait
  • Associate Professor (Lecturer) of Outdoor Recreation Studies, Parks, Recreation & Tourism
  • Academic Liaison/Advisor and Faculty, National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), Parks, Recreation & Tourism
  • Associate Professor (Lecturer), Parks, Recreation & Tourism

Current Courses

Fall 2023

  • PRT 3050-001
    NR-Wildn Safety/Surviv
    Location: SAEC 2147 (SAEC 2147)
  • PRT 5410-001
    Land&Rsrce Rec Planng
    Location: SAEC 2151 (SAEC 2151)
  • PRT 5420-001
    Ecology & Mgt Wildland
    Location: SAEC 3155 (SAEC 3155)
  • PRT 5960-030
    Special Topics In PRT
  • PRT 5960-031
    Special Topics In PRT
  • PRT 6410-001
    Land&Rsrce Rec Planng
    Location: SAEC 2151 (SAEC 2151)

Professional Organizations

  • American Academy for the Advancement of Science. 12/01/2018 - present. Position : Member.
  • American Avalanche Association. 11/01/2015 - present. Position : Professional Member.

Practice History

  • Faculty/Teaching/Curriculum development/Advising for the National Outdoor Leadership School continuous since 1986. Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Colorado, Washington, Utah, Wyoming, Yukon Territory. 08/2013 - present .

Teaching Philosophy

I hope my students will go out and change the world where it needs to be changed and to recognize the time and place to leave things as they are. In land management policy I want to interest my students in the logical scientific, environmental, and social solutions to issues and I want to interest them in the historical reasons and limitations of policies and policy change. I invite my students to recognize that in no one person and at no one time are all the answers and solutions known. There will always be more to learn and wiser people to consult; however, since we live in the present and must act in the present, students must learn to act on the best information they can gather from as many sources as they can and then boldly act …and then evaluate the results.

Communications skills matter. Students must learn to connect to their colleagues and to the public, to both explain and to query, to teach and to listen carefully before acting. Students must take responsibility for their own learning, their own education and use teachers and schools as just one step along the way to being a great citizen of the world, their country, community, family, and friends. Citizenship requires action and responsibility.

For students, the transition from high school to college is the transition from being taught to teaching-thy-self. The learning responsibility shifts away from teachers teaching to students learning by accessing as many resources as are available, books, teachers, classrooms, on-line information, and particularly in our field, outdoor experiences. I hope to lead students into this adult world of both independent and shared life-long learning.

As students move through my series of classes, they will find each class is taught uniquely according to the combination of topic levels and student maturity within our field. Early classes, classes that are information heavy, will be more structured in both the classroom and in their examinations and homework. As students absorb the ideas and possibilities of our Outdoor Recreation Studies emphasis, the classrooms and field experiences become less structured and are open to flexibility matching student interests and experiences. These later courses evaluate students on their ability to synthesize experiences and apply their learning to projects and presentations rather than through examinations.

I ask the same of my self that I ask of my students — that is to go out and experience the world. To teach planning courses, I went out to the community and sought out and volunteered on planning boards that needed an outdoor planner. To teach recreation ecology, I worked summers as an ecologist for the Forest Service. To teach environmental and historical interpretation, I studied under the National Park Service at Timpanogos Cave National Monument. To teach outdoor leadership I taught for over 30 years for the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS).


Courses I Teach

  • PRT 2006 - River Safety and Rescue
    A course geared to the professional and amateur river runner and the equipment they can carry. Considered are: River classification, hazards and risk management, safety priorities, self-rescue, assisted rescues, land based rescues; and rope work including knots, lowers, anchors, forces, vectors, and multiplication of forces.
  • PRT 2007 - Backcountry Avalanche Safety
    A course which includes winter storm meteorology, crystal metamorphism, avalanche path recognition and avoidance, snowpack structure, tensile and shear strength of snow, route finding, group dynamics, and search and rescue.
  • PRT 3040 / 6050 - Environmental Ethics, Leave No Trace, Leadership
    This course is designed to develop leadership in the ethical use of the land.
  • PRT 3041 / 6051 - Group Leadership Techniques
    Theory and practice in outdoor leadership
  • PRT 3042 / 6052 - Wilderness Skills Practicum and Leadership
    For developing leadership in outdoor skills and care of students.
  • PRT 3043 / 6043 - Risk Assessment, Management, Decision-making
    A course in analysis, management, communication of risk on extended outdoor expeditions.
  • PRT 3044 / 6054 - Outdoor Educator
    Focus is on teaching skills and theory for outdoor educators
  • PRT 3045 - Expedition Planning
    Devolpment of management and business skills for outdoor recreation providers.
  • PRT 3050 - Wilderness Safety and Survival
    A course for outdoor professionals and for anyone who recreates in the outdoors. Topics include: hazard assessment and risk management, meteorology, avalanche safety, winter shelters, map and compass, desert travel, stream crossings, bear encounters, clothing, heat and cold injuries, altitude sickness, river and coastal (ocean)safety, outdoor gear and equipment, navigation, leadership, judgement/decision making, steep terrain, wilderness ethics, group cooperation, conflict resolution, expedition planning, and more.
  • PRT 3500 - Foundations of Outdoor Recreation Studies
    A course to introduce students to the social/psych research and agencies involved in outdoor recreation management. Students view the field from the perspectives of users, providers (including educators), managers, and researchers.
  • PRT 4430 - Environmental Interpretation
    A course to train future environmental interpreters the principles and tools of environmental interpretation. This class focuses on communication within the specialized teaching environment of outdoor recreation and parks. Students learn and practice in many media.
  • PRT 5410 - Land and Resource Recreation Planning
    A course to train future planners and directors of federal and state land managing agencies in the laws, economics, tools, and history of planning and planning documents. Emphasis is on forest Plans, general management plans, resource management plans, site plans, and NEPA.
  • PRT 5420 / 6420 - Ecology & Management: Wildland Recreation Settings
    We explore the confluence of management practices, ecological systems, & the physical & social aspects of recreation in wildland recreation settings. Specifically, we examine physical impacts (soil erosion, water contamination, vegetation trampling) & experiential/social impacts (crowding, light pollution, conflicts, soundscapes) resulting from recreation activities.
  • PRT 5740 - Adventure and Outdoor Programs III
    A capstone course for students in the experiential education emphasis area. This two week intensive course is taught in the field mainly by the students themselves, showing what they have learned and prepared in their student career in this field.
  • PRT 5960-sec. #70 - Special Topics: Wilderness Risk Management
    Designed for profession outdoor leaders, special topics selected annually
  • PRT 5960-sec. #71 - Special Topics: Leadership in Wildland Ethics
    Course for outdoor professionals to develop action plans for outdoor schools and organizations
  • PRT 5965 - Onsite Policy
    Senior PRT students develop a mock management plan based on all of their previous course work and experience within their ORS emphasis area.

Teaching Projects

  • Course Videos: PRT 3050 . Project Lead: Kirk Nichols. 03/01/2020 - present.
  • Course Videos: PRT 3500 . Project Lead: Kirk Nichols. 03/01/2020 - present.
  • Course Videos: PRT4430: . Project Lead: Kirk Nichols. 03/01/2020 - present.
  • Course Videos: PRT5410 . Project Lead: Kirk Nichols. 03/01/2020 - present.
  • Course Videos: PRT5420 . Project Lead: Kirk Nichols. 03/01/2020 - present.
  • ORS Emphasis Area Videos: . Project Lead: Kirk Nichols . 03/01/2020 - present.

Small Group Teaching

  • Outdoor Recreation Studies students Navigation skills demonstration, City Creek.  01/11/2021  -  present
  • Outdoor Recreation Studies students evaluate Red Butte Canyon for field classes.  04/02/2018  -  present
  • Students in the Outdoor Recreation Studies emphasis continue to build field trips to Capitol Reef National Park as part of their curriculum.   03/19/2018  -  present
  • Outdoor Recreation Studies students study with Alta for a field classes.  03/05/2018  -  present
  • Outdoor Recreation Studies students engage with Antelope Island State Park staff for field classes.  02/05/2018  -  present
  • Outdoor Recreation Studies students explore Mill Creek Canyon for Outdoor Leadership and Environmental Interpretation field classes.  01/29/2018  -  present
  • Outdoor Recreation Studies student assess the Jordan River Parkway in field sessions.  01/08/2018  -  present
  • Outdoor Recreation Studies (5410) students evaluate City Creek Canyon Nature Preserve for a field classes.  09/05/2015  -  present