The Effect of Park Educational Programs on Public Values, Knowledge of, and Attitudes toward Noncharismatic Species
Current conservation practices are substantially biased towards large, charismatic animals and are influenced by public perceptions of different animals. Therefore, it is important to understand how these perceptions are formed and what factors influence them in order to promote equitable conservation for all species. This study examines the effect of attending a park education program on public values, knowledge of, and attitudes towards a noncharismatic species. Data was collected from May through October 2016 at the Usery Mountain Regional Park "All About Scorpions" program. A four page, onsite, self-administered pre- and post-program survey was given to program attendees. An identical survey was given to hiking park visitors who had never attended the program as the control sample. Survey statements addressed participant's demographics, value of bugs, knowledge about scorpions, and attitudes toward scorpions. Data analysis was completed using paired t-tests to analyze any statistically significant changes in values, knowledge, and attitudes between pre- and post-participants. Independent sample t-tests were used to analyze the same between the control and pre-participants. The results showed no difference in the value of bugs for any of the survey participants. However, the program attendees had more positive attitudes and greater knowledge of scorpions than general park visitors, and attending the program further increased positive attitudes and knowledge. Contributions of the study are twofold: First, the results provide Usery with information regarding the influence of their public programs, along with how these programs can be improved to make a greater impact. Second, findings serve to extend the literature on what alters public perceptions and how educational programs can be used to change the current conservation mindset.