Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Department of Geography

Committee Chair

Dr. David Shively

Commitee Members

Dr. Sarah Halvorson, Dr. Keith Bosak


nature-based tourism, performance, space, whale-watching, Alaska


University of Montana


Nature-based tourism activities provide special contexts for human-wildlife interaction. In Juneau, Alaska, summertime tourists seek encounters with humpback whales, hundreds of which feed seasonally in Southeast Alaska’s coastal waterways. Tourists support a thriving whale-watching industry in the region. Voices in nature-based tourism studies, departing from prior rigid conceptualizations of tourism, have identified the need to investigate activities using innovative frameworks to address the tourism experience as an ongoing and fluidly constructed phenomenon. The purpose of this study is to construct a new understanding of nature-based tourism using a performance metaphor. The flexibility provided in a metaphorical approach allows for a return to the geographical basis of space in both tangible and intangible forms. A set of in-depth interviews with Juneau whale-watching customers and industry professionals reveal how space is portrayed, navigated, and experienced during whale-watching. Here these elements appear as performative components of script, stage, and action. The whale-watching performance involves a lively and often awe-inspiring stage upon which human and non-human actors interact. Results uncover how such a production in wild spaces may produce an immersive wildlife experience.



© Copyright 2017 Chelsea Karthauser