From Human Dimensions to Education and Outreach and Back Again: Integrating the Conservation Story

Symposium
ROOM: HCCC, Room 25A
SESSION NUMBER: 69
 
Everyone knows human dimensions is not the same thing as conservation education and outreach, right? In the Human Dimensions and Conservation Education and Outreach working groups, we have observed these broad areas of applied work are often lumped into umbrella categories such as “social aspects,” “people management,” and even simply “human dimensions,” by wildlifers, non-wildlifers, and other conservation professionals. The purpose of this symposium is to showcase examples of research and application in human dimensions, education, and outreach to explain how these broad areas of applied study are related but distinct. Speakers will cover similarities, differences and key connections between these fields. Presentations will alternate between speakers representing each working group, and the symposium will conclude with a panel discussion by audience members, speakers, and symposium organizers. Attendees should gain an understanding of how human dimensions, education, and outreach can be used together to deliver wildlife conservation and management on the ground. This symposium will also contribute to discussions on future areas of collaboration between the two working groups.

12:50PM Applying a Systems Approach to Understanding Human Behavior to Improve Wildlife Management.
  Alia Dietsch
Social science research has increasingly played an important role in wildlife management. Such research has primarily focused on specific issues (e.g., endangered species or habitat protection) or social science domains (e.g., values, attitudes, behaviors) without necessarily considering the myriad interrelationships between humans and natural systems. This talk will illustrate five pathways through which humans and their behavior can impact and be impacted by natural systems. First, the availability of wildlife within a natural system can have a direct effect on the behavior of people who use those resources for livelihoods or recreation. For example, the presence of bird species in a particular area can draw bird-watching enthusiasts from great distances, while other species (e.g., deer, elk) may be hunted as a food source. Second, governance, such as laws, policies, and institutional structure, affects how wildlife are managed (e.g., through habitat alternation or enhancement). This talk specifically focuses on decision-making that subsequently impacts the amount (abundance) of resources available for use by humans via the first pathway, although certainly the stochastic nature of natural systems (e.g., spread of disease, drought, harsh winters) can affect amounts as well. Third, the social or group-level human conditions impact people independent of the natural system by regulating human behavior through various means, such as norms, social identity, cultural values, and power differentials between social groups. Fourth, wildlife governance directly influences people through various mechanisms, including permitting for wildlife take and access to public lands; this particular pathway focuses on regulations that directly affect human behavior. Finally, groups within the social system can directly impact governance through various mechanisms, including ballot initiatives, court cases, and political backlash. This talk will discuss how understanding each of these pathways and their dynamics can help improve wildlife management activities.
1:10PM Shifting the Paradigm: New Wave of Wildlifers Embrace Public Engagement
  Joanne Crawford; William F. Porter
Attitudes towards wildlife management have shifted in recent decades as the public moves away from hunting and embraces non-consumptive forms of outdoor recreation. Such cultural shifts have direct impacts on current and future funding streams for conservation and management and, consequently, there has been a strong push to engage the public in wildlife science through education (i.e., environmental education) and research (i.e., citizen science). The effectiveness of these efforts is an active area of research and typically focuses on outcomes to the public. However, the degree to which wildlife professionals are interested in and prepared for public outreach experiences is less known and rarely the focus of research. To that end, we surveyed members of the Illinois State Chapter of The Wildlife Society to learn about their experience with and interest in public engagement, both as students and professionals. A majority of respondents (71%, n = 67) indicated that, as a child, they knew a hunter, trapper, or angler; however, only 15% recalled wildlife professionals or conservation groups visiting their schools as youth. Most respondents (83%) reported that they enjoyed participating in public outreach, but responses regarding the effectiveness of their efforts varied, with 24% of respondents expressing doubt that their activities had an impact on participants. More respondents in younger age classes (18-45 years old; 56%) reported being encouraged by professors to participate in wildlife outreach (56%) compared to respondents in older age classes (21%). Only 38% of respondents reported having had some form of training in public engagement, but 52% of agency personnel believed that outreach experience was an important criterion for applicants at wildlife agencies. We discuss additional challenges to effective public engagement and provide recommendations for integrating such activities into research and management.
1:30PM Bridging Gaps between Managers and Scientists: Using the Delphi Technique to Create Better Management Practices
  Lara Mengak; Ashley A. Dayer
Human disturbance has been identified by shorebird researchers and land managers alike as one of the most serious threats facing shorebirds. While disturbance is widely recognized as a threat, standardized guidelines for understanding disturbance are lacking. To address this issue, we employed the Delphi technique to bring scientists and managers together to develop a consensus definition of human disturbance and a list of priority disturbance types that affect migratory shorebirds. The Delphi technique is an iterative consensus-building method used for achieving convergence of opinion on a topic. This interactive technique allows participants from varying geographic locations and types of expertise to learn from each other while working together to produce a shared understanding. Managers and scientists with extensive knowledge on human disturbance to shorebirds were solicited to participate. Forty-four participants responded to the first round (response rate = 82%). Respondents self-identified as managers (n=15), scientists (n=16), or both manager and scientist (n=13). Respondents reported an average of 18 years of experience managing or researching human disturbance. We identified 13 themes in response to a request for an open-ended definition of human disturbance to shorebirds. These themes were ranked throughout subsequent rounds of surveys, and the top 9 themes were used to draft the final definition. In sum, respondents provided 94 unique disturbance activity types. These types were sorted into 23 disturbance type categories, based on their similarity of impact or management. Respondents narrowed the list down to 12 priority disturbance categories. The outputs of the Delphi technique will inform a Best Management Practices document for shorebird management in the Northeastern U.S. Having a shared definition and set of categories for describing types of disturbance will be useful for communications efforts among researchers and scientists and as a basis for communications with the public.
1:50PM Ecological Conscience: the Science of Education Research
  April A. Conkey
Whether in a youth camp, a stakeholder training workshop, or a university classroom, wildlife education programs aim to increase the audience’s knowledge about wildlife and motivate them to care about ecosystem integrity, often in an attempt to influence their behavior choices to support best practices in wildlife management and conservation. Agencies, foundations, and schools that implement and support education programs increasingly require quantitative results to verify program success and justify continued funding. Yet, wildlife professionals are rarely trained in pedagogy, learning theories, or educational research. I will present three case studies that apply educational theory in the development and evaluation of program activities with the aim of producing high quality wildlife curricula. By incorporating research into the design and implementation of our education programs, we will enhance our understanding and provide evidence of knowledge retention, application of skills, and attitude and behavior shifts. Thus, we can identify techniques that are more likely to influence change towards a more ecologically conscious profession and public.
2:10PM Utilizing Social Science to Improve Conservation Delivery
  Ashley R. Gramza; Mary Sketch; Ashley A. Dayer
Insights from social science research regarding private landowners’ conservation behavior and participation in voluntary incentive programs are often unknown by conservation practitioners who work to deliver these programs. We use the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) in the Western Great Plains as a case study to illustrate how social science insights can improve conservation delivery on private lands. The Conservation Reserve Program is a conservation program that pays agricultural producers remove land from crop production and restore grasslands for 10 or 15 year contracts periods. These grasslands are extremely important for humans, wildlife, and ecosystem health, but little is known about what happens after CRP contracts expire. Therefore, we conducted a mixed methods social science study to examine the social factors that form the basis for CRP participation and intended management behavior persistence after contracts end. The quantitative component of our research included mail surveys of 1) current participants and 2) past participants who have left the program within the last 2-5 years. The surveys were informed by three focus groups with CRP participants (n = 27) in the region. Qualitative data from focus groups revealed that a wide range of factors such as financial considerations, soil erodibility, landscape features, regional climatic variables, and concerns about the ability to re-enroll were important to producer enrollment and post-CRP land management decisions. The surveys yielded additional insights into intrinsic and extrinsic factors that influence how producers make management decisions during and after the program. These data also help us understand the overall durability of the CRP. By involving local conservation organizations at all stages of this research, we are working to ensure that these results will help conservation delivery practitioners identify ways to better engage landowners in program enrollment and continued stewardship practices to improve ecosystem function after CRP contracts end.
2:30PM Refreshment Break
3:20PM Designing Effective Wildlife Education Programs: Evidence-Based Insights From Jekyll Island, Georgia
  Lincoln Larson; Gregory Skupien; Katie Mascovich; Kimberly Andrews
Conflicts between humans and wildlife are exacerbated when people’s wildlife-related beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors do not support management goals. When problems arise, managers often seek “cognitive fixes” through conservation education programs. But do these programs actually generate cognitive, affective, or behavioral change, and are certain program structures more effective than others? To answer these questions, our team worked from 2013-2017 to evaluate a variety of outcomes associated with species-specific conservation education programs at Jekyll Island, Georgia. First, we compared two different programs that contained similar content focused on alligators. One was classroom-based, and the other was a field excursion. Compared to individuals in a separate control group, participants in both programs reported more positive beliefs and attitudes toward alligators. We did not observe significant differences between programs. Control group respondents also perceived higher risk from alligators, suggesting that both types of programs positively influenced wildlife acceptance capacity. Second, we compared two different programs that contained similar content focused on sea turtles. Both were held in field settings, but one program involved a larger audience and lower levels of interaction with instructors/turtles; the other was more intimate and featured higher levels of interaction. We again found significant effects – both types of programs increased participants’ knowledge of sea turtles and willingness to participate in sea turtle-friendly behaviors – but inter-program differences were minimal. Collective results suggest that similar learning outcomes can be obtained through many different conservation education program delivery methods. Managers and educators should therefore consider other contextual factors when designing programs for specific audiences (e.g., baseline attributes of participants, risk of injury to humans/wildlife, cost and revenue generation, staffing constraints). Similar evaluations can help organizations decide how to best allocate limited programming resources to achieve education and conservation goals that impact humans and wildlife.
3:40PM Florida Residents’ Tolerance for the Florida Panther and Their Preferences for Panther Conservation Programs
  Elizabeth F. Pienaar; Phillip D. Rodgers; Melissa M. Kreye
Human tolerance for negative interactions with the Florida panther (Puma concolor coryi) is an important component of panther conservation efforts. This presentation will provide an overview of two studies that were conducted in Florida to ascertain people’s tolerance for the panther, and their opinions about panther conservation. The first study was conducted in Golden Gate Estates, an exurban community and the site of the highest number of documented human-panther interactions in Florida. Based on regression analysis of mail-based survey data, we found that individuals with ecocentric value orientations, individuals who were aware of panthers’ presence in Florida prior to moving to Golden Gate Estates, and individuals who believe that proper animal care protects domestic animals from panthers were more tolerant of the panther. Conversely, age, livestock ownership, panther depredation of domestic animals, and risk concern were correlated with lower tolerance for the panther. The second study focused on the Florida cattlemen community, and the willingness of these individuals to conserve and manage panther habitat on their lands. Cattlemen expressed different levels of tolerance for the panther. We determined that cattlemen who were less tolerant of the panther were not solely focused on livestock depredation. Their concerns extended to societal conflicts related to panther conservation, and lack of trust in government agencies. Both studies provide insights into the heterogeneity of tolerance for the panther within stakeholder groups. There were common reasons for supporting or opposing panther conservation across these two stakeholder groups. Finally, both studies provide insights on which government agencies or organizations people are willing to collaborate with to conserve the panther. Our results have implications for management strategies, and outreach and education programs.
4:00PM They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? the Evolution of a Rhinestone Wildlifer
  Terry Messmer
“They Shoot Horses, Don’t They,” – was the title of a 1969 American depression-era melodrama film based on Horace McCoy’s 1935 novel about a disparate group of characters desperate to win a Depression-era dance marathon. The movie and book ended with the assisted suicide of one of the main characters. The perpetrator when questioned by the police as to why he did it recounted a memory from his youth when he saw a horse with a broken leg shot to end its misery. As his defense he stated,” They shoot horses, don’t they.” Historically, the management wildlife, centered largely on managing game animals for the human desires. It was a much simpler time when management, much like in the case of euthanizing an injured horse, was direct, unquestioned, and centered on providing for the needs of wildlife by managing individuals. Contemporary public values, perceptions, and attitudes regarding wildlife and their management are now more diverse than ever. In many cases, the emotional attachment to single issues, often fueled by well-organized advocacy groups, is unprecedented in the annuals of the modern wildlife management. Wildlife managers can no longer ignore the emotions surrounding wildlife management. However, managers must be prepared, willing, and have the capacity to manage the species they have been given the responsibility for management. To do build this capacity, managers must expand their emphasis of sustaining/increasing populations to include mitigating human-wildlife conflicts. This strategy will provide new forum to engage a wider range of stakeholders in improving human-wildlife interactions. To make this transition, better information will be needed about how and why human-wildlife conflicts occur, the magnitude and type of conflicts occurring, techniques to manage the challenges of overabundant or rare local wildlife populations, and more importantly the communication strategies and messages to effectively engage a dynamic society.
4:20PM Panel Discussion
 

 
Organizers: Erin Harper, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL; Jeffrey Brooks, USDOI Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Anchorage, AK; Lara Mengak, Virgina Tech, Blacksburg, VA; Kristina Slagle, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH; Lauren Hildreth, Missouri Department of Conservation, Jefferson City, MO
 
Supported by: Human Dimensions Working Group; Conservation Education and Outreach Working Group

Symposium
Location: Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland Date: October 10, 2018 Time: 12:50 pm - 5:00 pm