Mike Naber, Ph.D.

Mike Naber, Ph.D.
Undergraduate Coordinator, Environmental Science
Associate Teaching Professor of Geosciences, Environmental Science and Science and Geoscience programs
25 Hammermill

Mailing Address:
ERIE PA 16563

Michael David Naber was born in Grand Island, Nebraska, in 1973 to David and Lorraine Naber. He spent his elementary years in Grand Island. His teen years were spent in Omaha, Nebraska. He went into the United States Marine Corps immediately after high school in 1991. After his discharge, Michael attended college at Concordia University in Seward, Nebraska, where he graduated with a B.A. in Biology and Geography under the guidance of Dr. John Kinworthy in May 2000. He continued his studies at Akron University, Ohio. While at Akron University, Michael worked closely with Anthony Gareau at Cuyahoga Valley National Park and with Debbie King from the Department of Geography. After graduating with an M.S. in 2002, he joined the department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management at North Carolina State University as a doctoral student under Dr. Hugh Devine, and then Dr. Yu-Fai Leung and Dr. Aram Attarian. After graduating from North Carolina State University in 2008 with his Ph.D. in Natural Resource Management, Michael took a position as Lecturer of Geosciences, for Behrend College of Penn State University, Erie, Pennsylvania, under Dr. Tony Foyle.


Teaching Specialties

  • Geology
  • Geography
  • Geographic Information Science
  • Global Positioning Systems

Teaching Statement

Teaching is the primary reason that I have decided on a career in academia. I believe that every teacher should strive to increase the knowledge and understanding of his or her students, but additionally a good teacher learns from each class that sits in front of them.
I believe that learning at the collegiate level is built upon four building blocks. Critical thinking is the first and is essential to the development of each student. When an individual is capable of forming independent thoughts and ideas in the effort to achieve a goal or solve a problem, it will not only serve them in the classroom but also in the outside world. The ability to work and interact as part of a group is equally important in the learning process, thus I routinely incorporate group projects into my courses. The ability to convey ideas, corroborate them with ideas of others, and work in a team environment are vital to developing both socially and mentally. Development and refinement of problem solving skills is essential for college students, and a good teacher should be able to advise and direct students in the proper direction in order for them to reach the correct conclusion, but in such a manner that they do not directly provide all of the answers. Lastly, the ability to stress the utilization of learned ideas in new situations is indispensable. This transfer of ideas is the true litmus test of learning.

All good teachers serve a number of functions, the primary function being that of guide. A teacher must be able to direct students to the correct bearing they should follow in order to find the solutions and answers needed by providing them with the critical information they need to do so. Another important function teachers serve is that of advisor, especially in the college or university setting. Students entering this level of education need vital input and assistance in deciding when and what courses to take to achieve their academic goals and eventually career goals in the most direct manner possible. Students interact differently some are comfortable in group situations and some better one-on-one, a good instructor should make it quite evident that they are approachable both inside and outside of class. Exemplary instructors serve other roles as well, such as mentors to those students climbing the ladder of higher education, as a source of encouragement when students become overwhelmed, and as professional contacts when students are finishing their education and moving into their career tracks. As teachers act in these roles, they will make their students education more complete and enjoyable than one in which the student only sees the instructor behind the podium.

As an instructor, I believe students learn from more than just lectures and books. An integral part of any educational experience is experiencing the subject at hand, whether it is field trips, practical application, research, or having guest speakers I believe students learn best by engaging and being engaged by the subject. In my classroom, I try to engage through all their senses, as no two students’ learning styles are identical.

I believe that students learn in an environment where the professor is the “model” of behavior that he wishes to promote in their students. As the instructor I try to display the behavior I wish to see in my students, whether it is through respect, constructive criticism, affirmation, or love of the subject at hand. Because I enjoy the subjects that I teach and show this through a passion for learning and teaching, I find that most of my pupils see me as enthusiastic. I believe this enthusiasm is transmittable and have had undergraduate students go on to take more courses in related subjects, become professionals in the field, as well as graduate and research assistants in the department.


Research Interests

Integrating the use of Social Science Data and Environmental Quality Data in the Managment and Preservation of Natural Resources

Research Statement 

My research and teaching interests lie at the nexus of natural resource management, geography, and geographic information science (GIS). I am interested in all three of these areas separately, but topics that incorporate two or three are especially interesting. A prime example is the role of GIS in the planning, use, management, and maintenance of natural resources (e.g., parks, open space, and greenways), which may involve stakeholder meetings, focus groups, and suitability analysis in the best use of these resources. My primary focus is advancing the fields of recreation geography and recreation ecology. The methods that I've developed are geographic in nature and social in application, they rely on integrating techniques in recreation ecology research, GIS, and social science.

My research and interests here at Penn State Erie, involve natural resource management, geography, and geographic information science (GIS). My dissertation research involved all three of these areas separately, and strove to incorporate the three together.

My research is in the use of GIS in the planning, use, management, and maintenance of natural resources (e.g., parks, open space, and greenways), and suitability analysis in the best use of these resources. My primary focus is in advancing the fields of natural resource management, recreation geography and recreation ecology. The methods that I endeavor to develop are geographic in nature and social in application, and they rely on integrating techniques in recreation ecology research, GIS, and social science.

Currently my research continues to be in natural resource management, as Ann Quinn and I have collaborated to create a Master Plan of The Behrend College, in hopes of creating sustainable trails throughout The Behrend College Campus. I have continued to aid my colleague, Tony Foyle, in his applied coastal geology research. My hope is in the future to open up research opportunities and collaboration with PA Sea Grant and DEP in using LIDAR data (Light Detection and Ranging, an optical remote sensing technology that measures properties of scattered light to find range and/or other information of a distant target, in our case elevation data), Geographic Information Science, and Global Positioning Systems in the identification of the Lake Erie coastline in order to understand the dynamics of the lake itself and potential erosion issues.

Recently, undergraduate students and I have undertaken re-mapping the campus arboretum and other facilities for the Office of the Physical Plant and Maintenance and Operations. Through these research efforts improvements have been made on campus. In addition throughout the community, mapping of other areas have been done, such as the mapping of the Frontier Arboretum.

A two-pronged approach to evaluating the environmental sustainability of disc golf as emerging recreation in urban natural areas., Managing Leisure - 2013
Collaborators: Y. Leung; C. Walden-Schreiner; C. Matisoff; J. Robinson

Decade-scale Coastal Bluff Retreat from LiDar data: Lake Erie Coast of NW Pennsylvania, USA, Journal of Environmental Earth Sciences - 2011
Collaborator: Anthony Foyle, Primary Author

The Influence of Site Design and Resource Conditions on Outdoor Recreation Demand: A Mountain Biking Case Study, Journal of Leisure Research - 2010
Collaborators: C. Siderelis, Co-Author; Y-F. Leung, Co-Author

Technology Lends a Helping Hand: Recreation Managers are Learning the Benefits of Using Geospatial Technologies in Resource Management, Parks and Recreation Magazine - 2006

Ph D, Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management, North Carolina State University

CERT, Graduate Certificate, Geographic Information Systems, North Carolina State University

MS, Geography, The University of Akron

BA, Biology/Geography, Concordia University