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Facilitating Pro-Environmental Behavior: Leveraging Nature-based Experiences into Everyday Stewardship

Funding Year: 
2011
Region(s): 
South America
Research Areas: 
Natural Capital

The goal of this project is to transform the typical nature-based tourism experience into a platform for motivating and sustaining pro-environmental behaviors among the world's more than 70 million ecotourists.

Motivating and sustaining pro-environmental behavior, especially in high-consumption societies like our own, is a critical challenge for conservation science. Nature-based tourism provides an almost ideal context for informal science learning. Intensive, place-based experiences inspire and nurture an interest in biology, ecology, and natural history through direct observation of plant and animal species in their natural environments. They can stir a sense of responsibility and self-efficacy through hands-on experiences and stewardship activities. And they can spark a desire for taking action not only for the tourism site but also on behalf of visitors home environments.

Capitalizing on the untapped post-trip spike in motivation shown by visitors to both sites, this project will develop and test technology-based platforms to translate stimulated interest in environment, ecology, and natural history into specific environmental behaviors related to personal, community, and national/international action.

This EVP begins with a small-scale pilot intervention in partnership with Californias Ao Nuevo State Park, known for its marine mammal experience, followed by a larger-scale intervention in the Galapagos Islands, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and quintessential ecotourism destination. We will use a quasi-experimental design to assess visitors before, immediately after, and three months following the trip and examine for differential impacts related to the post-trip follow-up intervention given to each of the groups.

The project will ask: What mechanisms are most effective for extending the learning and motivation that occur during the immersive experience of a nature-based tour and for transforming short-term gains in environmental knowledge, attitudes, and awareness into informed stewardship in the long-term? The project will develop a suite of pre- and post-visit interventions that link visitors with meaningful and relevant environmental opportunities back home. This studys findings will help to transform the typical nature-based tourism experience into a platform for motivating and sustaining pro-environmental behaviors among the more than 70 million ecotourists annually. There is potential for expanding these effective interventions to other highly motivating tourist sites such as Costa Rica and Hawaii.