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

Funding Year: 
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.

Principal Investigators:

Nicole Ardoin Director, E-IPER, Associate Professor of Education and Senior Fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment

Bill Durham Bing Professor in Human Biology, Emeritus

Albert Bandura David Starr Jordan Professor, Emeritus

Ewart Thomas Professor of Psychology, Emeritus

Laura Driscoll Postdoctotal Research Fellow, Electrical Engineering

John Falk

Brian Fogg Social Science Research Scholar

Brett Thompson