Integrating information on wildlife values and barriers to participation in natural-based programs to improve agency efforts for connecting families to nature
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This thesis presents two manuscripts that explored how information on barriers to participation in nature-based programs and wildlife value orientations could be used to enhance the reach and effectiveness of agencies in connecting children to nature. The overall study focused on connecting children to nature in recognition of the multiple health benefits acquired by spending time in nature, as well as the relationship between time spent in nature as a child and future commitment to natural resource stewardship. The study also addressed the stake agencies have in helping connect children to nature, including maintaining and/or increasing support for future conservation initiatives and securing future funding sources. The primary purpose of the first paper was to explore how information on wildlife value orientations and barriers to participation in nature-based programs might be integrated to improve agencies’ educational initiatives. Data were collected via a mail survey administered to residents in Raleigh, North Carolina. Results indicated that there was not much of a relationship between barriers and wildlife-related interests of the respondents, suggesting that these considerations may need to be evaluated separately in thinking about ways to develop more targeted nature-based opportunities in the future. However, given that our sample was relatively homogeneous with respect to its lack of major barriers to participation in program offerings, results also point to the need for additional research to determine if findings can be applied to other populations and geographic locations. The second paper used past research and theory to develop a qualitative methodology to measure wildlife value orientations in a focus group setting. The focus of this paper was on developing a technique to assess wildlife value orientations among diverse populations of various cultures and ethnicities. In this technique, which was administered to Latino and Chinese-American audiences in New York City, New York, focus group participants were shown a number of photographs depicting human-wildlife interactions and were then encouraged to discuss their thoughts and reactions to each photograph. Results revealed that the focus group methodology was effective in eliciting wildlife value orientations. Four wildlife value orientation types recognized from previous literature were identified across the groups based on participants’ comments. Finally, suggestions were made on how to improve the methodology for future use and how to adapt it for applications in other settings.