Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Preferred Name

Carley Rice

ORCID

https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6646-8325

Date of Award

Spring 2018

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Department of Integrated Science and Technology

Advisor(s)

Maria Papadakis

Mark Mifsud

Timothy Thomas

Holli Eskelinen

Abstract

Zoos, aquariums, and similar institutions have been transitioning for many years from venues of entertainment to institutions of informal environmental education. This transition has led to these institutions claiming missions of conservation and education. The conservation education impacts of zoos and aquariums are not well understood. The literature is limited and at times inconclusive. Claims of conservation and education should be formally evaluated through survey research projects to determine validity. These types of studies will shed light on these institutions and aid in improving educational programs to best benefit conservation of wildlife, habitats and the environment. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the impacts of interactive, educational programs at Dolphins Plus on visitor knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors regarding conservation. An online survey project was designed and implemented to evaluate the impacts of the Dolphins Plus experience. A repeated-measures design was implemented. Visitors were surveyed prior to and shortly after visiting Dolphins Plus. The survey findings determined that visitor conservation knowledge increased post-visit. Changes in conservation attitudes were also seen. Visitors have a more positive view of viewing animals in captivity post-visit. It was also found that visitor self-efficacy regarding individual impacts on the environment decreased post-visit. Recommendations for future study include streamlining the timing of online survey invitations, automating the survey invitation process and omitting major design differences between the pre and post surveys. These methodological changes will address many limitations to this project. It is also recommended that Dolphins Plus implement a third, follow-up survey to gauge long-term impacts and behavioral changes.

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