Student researches tourism in Iceland

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Carly Mathews

Jason Fox, a student in the Joint Undergraduate-Master’s Program, has recently returned from Iceland after completing research studying environmental sustainability within the country’s whale watching tourism industry.

The aim of Fox’s research during his three-week-long research trip in August was to determine sustainable practices in tourism management, specifically in the whale watching industry, and how best to share them throughout the industry.

“Tourism is Iceland’s number one economic sector, and it’s because of things such as the glaciers and whale watching,” Fox said of the importance of sustainability in Iceland. “These are things that could potentially not be around due to climate change, and could have a major impact on the economy there.”

This trip to Iceland marked Fox’s third to the country, following two separate study abroad trips and an internship. During one of his previous trips, Fox created a musical composition about climate change to combine his majors and interests, music and geography and environmental studies. The piece will be performed by the WKU Chorale this spring.

Fox is a student in the Mahurin Honors College and will complete his last year of undergrad and his first year of graduate school this year.

Fox conducted interviews with various whale watching operations managers on company policies and protocols relating to environmental impact, tourist education and communication with other companies throughout Iceland. The interviews were conducted in Reykjavik, Akureyri and Húsavik.

The project was developed due to the WKU geography and geology department’s long-standing relationship with the U.S. Embassy in Reykjavik, Iceland. A WKU FUSE Grant and a WKU Office of Scholar Development Lifetime Experience Grant provided funding for Fox’s trip.

“I’ve always felt very supported by WKU,” Fox said. “Without them and all their help, none of my research would have been possible.”

Leslie North, Fox’s adviser, pushed him to apply for the grants, and said he was the student that “made sense” to complete this project.

“Jason has always been interested in the Arctic and in tourism, so he was the obvious choice when we were approached with the project by the Embassy,” North said.

The research findings will be turned into a presentation and published paper, most likely to be presented at the Arctic Circle Meeting next fall. This meeting brings in participants from all over the world to share research and findings in reference to the future of the Arctic. Fox’s composition will also be performed at this meeting.

According to North, Fox’s future is bright, as he was “made for academics.”

“He’s always been very on top of everything that he does,” North said, when asked about her personal experience with Fox. “He’s a silent go-getter, and does things the way that they should be done always.”

For Fox, the next step after publishing his findings will be completing graduate school and potentially pursuing a Ph.D. He hopes to continue traveling throughout the Arctic and continuing his research on climate change and tourism.

“I would really like to expand to study places like Alaska and Newfoundland,” Fox said. “I love Iceland and it’s a beautiful place, but I’m ready to move past studying it and am ready to experience new places.”

Reporter Carly Mathews can be reached at 270-745-6011 and carl[email protected].