Part of the Citizen Science Association Conference, March 13-17, 2019. 3:35pm RCC 302A Impacts of the Candid Critters Project on Volunteers’ Wildlife related Beliefs, Attitudes, and Behaviors » Charmaine Pedrozo, Lincoln Larson, Caren Cooper, Stephanie Schuttler, Roland Kays, Ann May
A plethora of research studies show that citizen science projects have successfully advanced scientific knowledge from local to global scales. However, despite these scientific contributions, there is not much research studying the outcomes of participation for volunteers. What do volunteers get out of participating in citizen science projects? Does participation in a project impact the volunteers’ beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors, perhaps leading to positive conservation outcomes? To answer these questions, we studied volunteers in the Candid Critters citizen science project.
The North Carolina Candid Critters (CC) is a project sponsored by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission and conducted by a team at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences. It is a sub-project of eMammal, which uses camera trapping as a tool to generate scientific data on mammal habitat use and movement patterns while engaging the public in wildlife research. Volunteers are trained how to set up a camera trap and share the photos in the eMammal online database that researchers and other volunteers can view. Although eMammal is a global project, CC is specifically designed to focus on mammals in the state of North Carolina.
We created a survey instrument focused on outcome variables that might be impacted by CC participation: wildlife-related beliefs (e.g., wildlife value orientations), affective factors (e.g., emotions towards wildlife, connection to nature), and wildlife-related behaviors (e.g., wildlife conservation behaviors). First, we surveyed newly registered participants from November 2017 to May 2018 (Cohort 1). After registering for the project, the volunteers were given the opportunity to complete the pre-project survey. Then, they moved on to complete the CC training and proceed with camera deployment. A few months later in August and September 2018, individuals in Cohort 1 were asked to complete a post-project survey. Volunteers who deployed a camera as part of CC were assigned to the treatment group (n=89); on the other hand, individuals who registered but never deployed a camera was assigned to the control group (n=77). As CC is still ongoing, we will also conduct a second round of pre and post surveys with volunteers who register from June to December 2018 (Cohort 2). This presentation will highlight key findings from both cohorts, illustrating the ways in which different levels and type of engagement with CC influenced the volunteers’ wildlife-related beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. Result should help illuminate the capacity of citizen science to generate positive outcomes for volunteers themselves, not just scientists and managers.