Communication and Education

Does Lack of Knowledge Lead to Misperceptions? Disentangling the Factors Modulating Public Knowledge About and Perceptions Toward Sharks

Afonso AS, Roque P, Fidelis L, Veras L, Conde A, Maranhão P, Leandro S, Hazin FHV. Does Lack of Knowledge Lead to Misperceptions? Disentangling the Factors Modulating Public Knowledge About and Perceptions Toward Sharks. Frontiers in Marine Science [Internet]. 2020 ;7. Available from: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmars.2020.00663/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1406443_45_Marine_20200818_arts_A
Freely available?: 
Yes
Summary available?: 
No
Type: Journal Article

Identifying sources of variability in public perceptions and attitudes toward sharks can assist managers and conservationists with developing effective strategies to raise awareness and support for the conservation of threatened shark species. This study examined the effect of several demographic, economic and socioenvironmental factors on the quality of knowledge about and perceptions toward sharks in two contrasting scenarios from northeastern Brazil: a shark hazardous coastal region and a marine protected insular area. Ordered logistic regression models were built using Likert data collected with a self-administered questionnaire survey (N = 1094). A clear relationship between education, knowledge and perceptions was found, with low education level and knowledge of sharks resulting in more negative perceptions toward these species. Prejudice toward sharks stemmed as a potentially limiting factor because the positive effects of other variables such as affinity for nature and specific knowledge about sharks were superseded by the effects of negative prejudice. Other practical factors such as age, economic level, and gender, also influenced respondent’s knowledge and perceptions and could provide a guidance for optimizing socioenvironmental gains relative to public engagement efforts. Results also suggested that populations inhabiting regions with high shark bite incidence likely require distinct outreach methods because some factors underlying knowledge and perception dynamics exhibited structural differences in their effects when compared to the trends observed in a marine protected area. Altogether, public perceptions and attitudes toward sharks could be feasibly enhanced with educational development and nature experiencing strategies. Moreover, disseminating shark-specific knowledge across the society might catalyze support for the conservation of these species in a cost-effective way. This study provides a potentially useful socioenvironmental framework to deal with the human dimensions of shark management and to strengthen conservation policies aimed at promoting societal compliance with pro-environmental values, which is crucial to endow shark populations with effective protection from anthropogenic threats.

Evaluating conservation biology texts for bias in biodiversity representation

Stahl K, Lepczyk CA, Christoffel RA. Evaluating conservation biology texts for bias in biodiversity representation Jenkins CN. PLOS ONE [Internet]. 2020 ;15(7):e0234877. Available from: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0234877
Freely available?: 
Yes
Summary available?: 
No
Type: Journal Article

A critical component of textbooks is fair representation of the material they cover. Within conservation biology, fair coverage is particularly important given Earth’s breadth of species and diversity of ecosystems. However, research on species tends to be biased towards certain taxonomic groups and geographic areas and their associated ecosystems, so it is possible that textbooks may exhibit similar biases. Considering the possibility of bias, our goal was to evaluate contemporary conservation biology textbooks to determine if they are representative of Earth’s biodiversity. We found that textbooks did not accurately reflect Earth’s biodiversity. Species, ecosystems, and continents were unevenly represented, few examples mentioned genetic diversity, and examples of negative human influence on the environment outweighed positive examples. However, in terms of aquatic versus terrestrial representation, textbooks presented a representative sample. Our findings suggest that modern conservation biology textbooks are biased in their coverage, which could have important consequences for educating our next generation of scientists and practitioners.

A Scientist’s Guide for Engaging in Policy in the United States

Hetherington ED, Phillips AA. A Scientist’s Guide for Engaging in Policy in the United States. Frontiers in Marine Science [Internet]. 2020 ;7. Available from: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmars.2020.00409/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1348443_45_Marine_20200609_arts_A
Freely available?: 
Yes
Summary available?: 
No
Type: Journal Article

Scientific research and expertise play a critical role in informing legislative decisions and guiding effective policy. However, significant communication gaps persist between scientists and policymakers. While interest in science policy among researchers has substantially increased in recent decades, traditional academic and research careers rarely provide formal training or exposure to the inner workings of government, public policy, or communicating scientific findings to broad audiences. Here, we offer 10 practical steps for scientists who want to engage in science policy efforts, with a focus on state and federal policy in the United States. We first include a primer to government structure and tailoring science communication for a policymaker audience. We then provide action-oriented steps that focus on arranging and successfully navigating meetings with government officials. Finally, we suggest structural steps in academia that would provide resources and support for students, researchers, and faculty who are interested in policy. We offer our perspective, as early-career marine scientists who have participated in policy discussions at state and federal levels and through the American Geophysical Union’s “Voices for Science” program. This guide offers potential pathways for engagement in science policy, and provides researchers with tangible actions to effectively reach stakeholders. Lastly, we hope to activate further conversations on best practices for policy engagement, particularly for researchers interested in careers at the science policy interface.

Examining the Potential of Art-Science Collaborations in the Anthropocene: A Case Study of Catching a Wave

Paterson SK, Le Tissier M, Whyte H, Robinson LB, Thielking K, Ingram M, McCord J. Examining the Potential of Art-Science Collaborations in the Anthropocene: A Case Study of Catching a Wave. Frontiers in Marine Science [Internet]. 2020 ;7. Available from: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmars.2020.00340/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1348443_45_Marine_20200609_arts_A
Freely available?: 
Yes
Summary available?: 
No
Type: Journal Article

There is a disconnect between ambition and achievement of the UN Agenda 2030 and associated Sustainable Development Goals that is especially apparent when it comes to ocean and coastal health. While scientific knowledge is critical to confront and resolve contradictions that reproduce unsustainable practices at the coast and to spark global societal change toward sustainability, it is not enough in itself to catalyze large scale behavioral change. People learn, understand and generate knowledge in different ways according to their experiences, perspectives, and culture, amongst others, which shape responses and willingness to alter behavior. Historically, there has been a strong connection between art and science, both of which share a common goal to understand and describe the world around us as well as provide avenues for communication and enquiry. This connection provides a clear avenue for engaging multiple audiences at once, evoking emotion and intuition to trigger stronger motivations for change. There is an urgent need to rupture the engrained status quo of disciplinary divisions across academia and society to generate transdisciplinary approaches to global environmental challenges. This paper describes the evolution of an art-science collaboration (Catching a Wave) designed to galvanize change in the Anthropocene era by creating discourse drivers for transformations that are more centered on society rather than the more traditional science-policy-practice nexus.

Coloring and size influence preferences for imaginary animals, and can predict actual donations to species‐specific conservation charities

Curtin P, Papworth S. Coloring and size influence preferences for imaginary animals, and can predict actual donations to species‐specific conservation charities. Conservation Letters [Internet]. 2020 . Available from: https://conbio.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/conl.12723
Freely available?: 
Yes
Summary available?: 
No
Type: Journal Article

As conservation has limited funds, numerous studies have identified aesthetic characteristics of successful flagship species which generate donations and conservation. However, prior information about species can also impact human preferences, and may covary with animal appearance, leading to different conclusions about which species will be most effective. To separate these two factors, we use images of imaginary animals as a novel paradigm to investigate preferences for animal appearance in conservation donors. Using discrete choice experiments, we show that potential conservation donors prefer larger imaginary animals which are multicolored and cooler toned. We found no effect of eye position or fur, which we used as a proxy for mammalian species. Furthermore, we demonstrate that these preferences can predict the number of donations received by species‐specific conservation charities. These results suggest coloring, and particularly number of colors, is an overlooked aspect of animal appeal, and an important aesthetic characteristic for identifying future flagship species.

Delineating the global plastic marine litter challenge: clarifying the misconceptions

Hahladakis JN. Delineating the global plastic marine litter challenge: clarifying the misconceptions. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment [Internet]. 2020 ;192(5). Available from: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10661-020-8202-9
Freely available?: 
Yes
Summary available?: 
No
Type: Journal Article

Plastics, owing to their various beneficial properties (durability, flexibility and lightweight nature), are widely regarded as the workhorse material of our modern society. Being ubiquitously and increasingly present over the past 60 years, they provide various benefits to the global economy. However, inappropriate and/or uncontrolled disposal practices, poor waste management infrastructure, and application of insufficient recycling technologies, coupled with a lack of public awareness and incentives, have rendered plastic waste (PW) omnipresent, littering both the marine and the terrestrial environment with multifaceted impacts. The plastic marine litter issue has received much attention, especially in the past decade. There is a plethora of articles and reports released on an annual basis, as well as a lot of ongoing research, which render the issue either to be overexposured or misconstrued. In addition, there are several misinterpretations that surround the presence and environmental impact of plastics in the oceans and, consequently, human health, that require much more critical and scientific thinking. This short communication aims at unveiling any existing misconceptions and attempts to place this global challenge within its real magnitude, based either on scientific facts or nuances.

Virtual reality as a tool for environmental conservation and fundraising

Nelson KM, Anggraini E, Schlüter A. Virtual reality as a tool for environmental conservation and fundraising Triberti S. PLOS ONE [Internet]. 2020 ;15(4):e0223631. Available from: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0223631
Freely available?: 
Yes
Summary available?: 
No
Type: Journal Article

Anecdotal evidence from philanthropic fundraisers shows that virtual reality (VR) technology increases empathy and can influence people toward pro-environmental behavior. Non-profit organizations are increasingly marketing their causes using virtual reality and they report increased donations when VR technology is employed. In VR, users are immersed in situations intended to feel more like the real world through technology, such as 360° video viewed through 3D headsets that block out visual and auditory distractions. The framing of the message as either positive or negative has long shown to have an effect on behavior, although consensus on the impact of framing has not been reached in relation to encouraging contributions to public goods. This paper focuses on field experiments used to investigate the effects of varying degrees of visual immersion and positive versus negative message framing on respondents’ contributions to a conservation charity. Participants were exposed to a five-minute underwater film about coral reefs and the importance of protecting them. We employed a 2x2 experimental design using 3D head-mounted displays comparing 360° film footage vs. unidirectional film and a positive message vs. a negative message. After watching the film, each participant completed a short questionnaire and had the opportunity to donate to a marine conservation charity. In addition, we tested a control treatment where no video was observed. The video was filmed in Indonesia which is host to some of the world’s most biodiverse reefs that are under great threat from human activity. We also conducted the study in Indonesia, sampling a total of 1006 participants from the Bogor city area and tourists on the island of Gili Trawangan—which is popular for scuba diving and snorkeling. We find significant differences in observed behavior and reported emotions between all treatments compared to the control condition. Among the tourist sample, we find significant differences between the 360° film with a negative message which garnered significantly larger average donation amounts compared to the unidirectional film with both positive and negative framing. Overall, we can infer from these studies that virtual reality is an effective way to raise awareness of environmental threats and encourage behavioral action, especially when tailored to target groups. New technology, such as the VR head-mounted display, is highly effective at attracting interest which is an important point to encourage organizations to invest in new technologies.

Enhancing Millennial Awareness Towards Marine Litter Through Environmental Education

Kusumawati I, Setyowati M, Syakti ADharma, Fahrudin A. Enhancing Millennial Awareness Towards Marine Litter Through Environmental Education. E3S Web of Conferences [Internet]. 2020 ;147:02019. Available from: https://www.e3s-conferences.org/articles/e3sconf/abs/2020/07/e3sconf_ismfr20_02019/e3sconf_ismfr20_02019.html
Freely available?: 
Yes
Summary available?: 
No
Type: Journal Article

One of the influencing factors is the community behavior which reflected public practices in littering. Children are social capital for the community and the essential agents of social change. However, they have issues in recognizing the foundation and the explanation of the environmental problem. The research objectives; to examine millennial perception towards marine litter and the influence of environmental education towards youth perceptions in West Aceh. This study employed a survey approach by distributing questionnaires to 150 respondents from several senior high schools. The data is collected by a questionnaire survey (self-administrative or face-to-face) from January 2019 to June 2019. The researcher distributed questionnaires to students to assess the level of awareness of marine litter. The questionnaire was distributed in two sessions, namely: the first session was before environmental education is given to students; the second session was distributed when students completed environmental education It was found that respondents show low awareness of marine litter according to statistical data but the marine litter short workshop significantly has a positive impact. It concludes that increasing youth awareness through education can be an opening step in combating marine litter to then integrate with approaches to achieve a clean sea.

Effectiveness of a marine conservation education program in Okayama, Japan

Sakurai R, Uehara T. Effectiveness of a marine conservation education program in Okayama, Japan. Conservation Science and Practice [Internet]. 2020 . Available from: https://conbio.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/csp2.167
Freely available?: 
Yes
Summary available?: 
No
Type: Journal Article

Sustainable management of coastal areas including their natural resources cannot be effectively implemented without the continued involvement of residents who are knowledgeable about the value of conservation. Carrying out long‐term conservation education programs and monitoring the impacts of such program in terms of changing people's awareness and behaviors are critical for conservation to be meaningful and sustainable. This research focused on a marine conservation education program (MCEP) offered at a junior high school in Japan that included collaboration with local fishermen. We aimed to reveal how such continuous and collaborative education program including field experience may change students' awareness and behaviors after several years. We conducted interviews with student participants, comparing their perceptions of when they were first‐graders and third‐graders, and with recent program graduates to understand their perception of the program and knowledge about the local environment. We also conducted surveys with parents and teachers at the junior high school to understand the impacts of the program. A series of studies revealed that the MCEP not only changed students' awareness and behaviors but also affected their parents and teachers.

Scientists’ opinions and attitudes towards citizens’ understanding of science and their role in public engagement activities

Llorente C, Revuelta G, Carrió M, Porta M. Scientists’ opinions and attitudes towards citizens’ understanding of science and their role in public engagement activities I. Olsson AS. PLOS ONE [Internet]. 2019 ;14(11):e0224262. Available from: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0224262
Freely available?: 
Yes
Summary available?: 
No
Type: Journal Article

The increasing perception that public communication in science and technology is an important tool to create a knowledge society is encouraging numerous public engagement activities. However, too little is known about scientists’ opinions of and attitudes towards the public with whom they interact during these activities, especially in southern European countries such as Spain. If we want to establish an effective dialogue between science and society, we need to be aware of the opinions and perceptions that both parties have of each other. In this study, we address this issue by focusing on 1022 responses to a survey conducted among scientists in Spain to discover their views of the public, and we then compare these responses with data from other national surveys on the public’s understanding of science. The results show that approximately 75% of Spanish scientists think that the general public has a serious lack of knowledge and understanding of scientific reasoning, although scientists do recognize that science interests the public (73%). Scientists believe that the public values the scientific profession to a lesser extent than suggested by public surveys: on a scale of 1–5, survey respondents rate their valuation of the scientific profession at 4.22, whereas scientists rate the public's valuation of the profession at 3.12, on average. Significant differences were detected between scientists’ perceptions of how citizens are informed about science and what citizens report in surveys. The challenge for the future is to narrow this gap in order to help scientists gain a better understanding of the public and their interests and to make public engagement activities more effective.

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