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Human Dimensions of Wildlife

An International Journal

ISSN: 1087-1209 (Print) 1533-158X (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/uhdw20

Non-governmental Organizations and Government


Agencies Lead in Cultivating Positive Sea Turtle
Conservation Attitudes
Emily L. Cella, E. C. M. Parsons & Larry L. Rockwood
To cite this article: Emily L. Cella, E. C. M. Parsons & Larry L. Rockwood (2016): Nongovernmental Organizations and Government Agencies Lead in Cultivating Positive Sea Turtle
Conservation Attitudes, Human Dimensions of Wildlife, DOI: 10.1080/10871209.2016.1171933
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10871209.2016.1171933

Published online: 25 Apr 2016.

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Date: 28 April 2016, At: 13:37

HUMAN DIMENSIONS OF WILDLIFE


http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10871209.2016.1171933

Non-governmental Organizations and Government Agencies


Lead in Cultivating Positive Sea Turtle Conservation Attitudes
Emily L. Cellaa, E. C. M. Parsonsa, and Larry L. Rockwoodb
a

Department of Environmental Science and Policy, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, USA;
Department of Biology, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, USA

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ABSTRACT

KEYWORDS

Considerable research has been conducted analyzing how demographic characteristics inuence the publics attitudes toward wildlife;
however, less research of this type has been conducted in locations
having long-standing species conservation eorts. Questionnaires
were completed by residents living adjacent to such a location, the
Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge (ACNWR), to investigate which
demographics explained residents knowledge of, attitudes toward,
willingness to act for, and participation in sea turtle conservation.
Residents who had a non-governmental organization (NGO) or government agency as their sea turtle information source had stronger
positive attitudes toward sea turtles. Residents who possessed strong
positive attitudes were more willing to engage in prosea turtle
conservation behaviors. Overall, this research demonstrated that
ACNWR residents source of sea turtle information being an NGO or
government agency played a signicant role in increasing residents
knowledge of, attitudes toward, willingness to volunteer for, and
participation in sea turtle conservation.

NGO eectiveness;
participation; sea turtle
conservation; wildlife
attitudes; willingness to act

Introduction
Previous research has found that the general publics attitudes toward and knowledge
about wildlife in the United States have specic tendencies related to demographic
characteristics such as age, gender, and educational attainment (Kellert, Black, Rush, &
Bath, 1996). For instance, gender was found to be one of the most important demographic
factors in shaping attitudes about wildlife (Kellert & Berry, 1987). Previous research has
also shown that respondents with more formal education expressed greater appreciation,
scientic curiosity, and/or concern for more protection toward species than those with less
formal education (Kellert, 1993; Kellert & Berry, 1987; Luksenburg & Parsons, 2013).
Additionally, males and individuals with more formal education were more knowledgeable about wildlife than females and individuals with less formal education (Kellert, 1993;
Kellert & Berry, 1987). Understanding how these demographic characteristics inuence
human conservation knowledge and attitude can inform conservation strategies (Jacobson
& Marynowski, 1997; Rockwood, Stewart, & Dietz, 2008).
Wildlife knowledge can inuence attitudes toward wildlife (Barney, Mintzes, & Yen,
2005; Draheim, Rockwood, Guagnano, & Parsons, 2011; Kellert, 1996; Thompson &
CONTACT Emily L. Cella
emilyl.cella@gmail.com
Department of Environmental Science and Policy, George Mason
University, 4400 University Drive, MSN 5F2, Fairfax, VA 22030-4444, USA.
2016 Taylor & Francis

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E. L. CELLA ET AL.

Mintzes, 2002), and attitudes can inuence behavior toward wildlife (Barney et al., 2005;
Thompson & Mintzes, 2002). For instance, OBryhim and Parsons (2015) illustrated that
greater knowledge about sharks promotes greater pro-shark conservation behavior. In a
meta-analysis of 88 attitudebehavior studies, Kraus (1995) revealed that attitudes signicantly predicted future behavior. Considerable research has analyzed how demographic
characteristics inuence the publics attitudes toward wildlife. Limited wildlife attitude
behavior research, however, has been conducted in locations where long-standing conservation eorts and supporting non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have been
established. The Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge (ACNWR) represents such a
location where sea turtle habitat preservation has been established since 1991.
Our objective was to identify what demographic characteristics and other factors
explain residents knowledge of, attitudes toward, willingness to act for, and participation
in sea turtle conservation near the ACNWR. The ACNWR represents a unique opportunity to study a population that is subjected to dierent conservation-related external
variables than other U.S. populations. For example, ACNWR residents are surrounded
by sea turtle conservation eorts. A study conducted in Bangladesh by Khatun, Ahsan,
and Rskaft (2012) found that residents within their study areas that were subjected to
increased common langur conservation eorts had signicantly higher positive attitudes
toward the langur than did residents within areas having less conservation. Unlike other
populations, ACNWR residents have opportunities to obtain direct exposure to sea turtles
and to obtain sea turtle information from numerous NGOs and government agencies that
support the ACNWR. The presence of these unique external factors allowed us to examine
how residents source of information and number of sea turtle observations inuence our
dependent variables. We hypothesized that residents that obtained sea turtle information
through an NGO or government agency source and those whom have observed many sea
turtles would have greater knowledge of, positive attitudes toward, willingness to act for,
and participation in sea turtle conservation. We used these external variables along with
demographic variables (gender, age, educational attainment) to examine how these variables interact in our models. Given external factors, we hypothesized that the demographic
variables (e.g., gender, age, educational attainment) may not inuence our dependent
variables in the same manner as previously described studies.

Methods
Study area
This study included residents within the communities adjacent to the ACNWR (from the
northern terminus to the southern terminus). The ACNWR is located on a barrier island
on the Atlantic coast of central Florida, USA. It is a fragmented refuge consisting of
approximately 20.5 miles of coastline. The ACNWR stretches from Melbourne Beach
(Brevard County) southward to near Wabasso Beach (Indian River County) (U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service [USFWS], 2008). The human population directly adjacent to ACNWR
(including only the adjacent barrier island communities) is approximately 7,902 (U.S.
Census Bureau, 2010). The refuge serves as an important nesting beach for the loggerhead
turtle (Caretta caretta) and the green turtle (Chelonia mydas) (Chaloupka et al., 2008;
USFWS, 2008, 2014). A recent study revealed that ACNWR contains the highest

HUMAN DIMENSIONS OF WILDLIFE

loggerhead turtle nesting density in Florida, making it crucial habitat for this threatened
species (Ehrhart, Redfoot, Bagley, & Manseld, 2014).
Numerous NGOs and local, state, and federal government agencies are involved with
research, education, and outreach eorts supporting the ACNWR. The Archie Carr Working
Group was established to enhance coordination among the 27 or more groups interested in
the ACNWRs management needs. One main educational activity oered to the public at the
ACNWR includes nightly guided sea turtle tours, which are sponsored by NGOs and
government agencies during the nesting season. Brevard County and the Sea Turtle
Conservancy also conduct sea turtle educational programs at the Barrier Island Sanctuary
Management and Education Center, which is located in the ACNWR (USFWS, 2008).

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Survey methods
To conduct quantitative analyses, we administered face-to-face paper questionnaires. To
inform our research hypotheses and the questionnaire, we rst conducted semi-structured
interviews with local experts (n = 4) and residents (n = 11) near the ACNWR. Expert
interview participants were identied through literature reviews, online research, and
informal discussions with local individuals. Resident interview participants were sought
opportunistically at various times and places within and adjacent to the ACNWR. Interview
participants were asked a set of open-ended questions about the culture and economy near
the ACNWR; sea turtle conservation issues; local sea turtlerelated activities; their sources
of information on sea turtles; and demographics. All interviews were audio-recorded,
transcribed, and analyzed for themes. Interview results, along with researcher observations
during site visits, were incorporated into the models, hypotheses, and questionnaire.
We developed the 44-item questionnaire using techniques and guidelines suggested by
Dillman, Smyth, and Christian (2009). Demographic items were asked at the end of the
questionnaire. Most questions were closed-ended (yes/no, true/false, multiple choice, and 5point scales with neutral centers). The questionnaire was pretested on randomly selected
individuals (n = 15) near Washington, D.C. to obtain feedback on clarity and organization.
The questionnaire asked participants about their sea turtlerelated knowledge, attitude
toward sea turtles, willingness to take action to help sea turtle conservation, participation in
sea turtlerelated activities, opportunity to participate, direct observations of sea turtles, and
primary source of information on sea turtles. We also collected data on participants
educational attainment, which consisted of six intervals ranging from (1) some high school,
no diploma to (6) university graduate, professional degree, or higher. We collected data on
participants number of years and months per year that they reside within the research site.
Data on participants satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the local economy were collected
and coded on a 5-point scale ranging from (1) very dissatised to (5) very satised. We
also asked about participants agreement or disagreement with the statement that sea turtle
tourism is economically benecial to them or their family, which consisted of ve response
categories ranging from (1) strongly disagree to (5) strongly agree. Data on the number
of sea turtles that participants had encountered were also collected.
We used the tailored design method to design the survey procedure for administering
the questionnaire (Dillman et al., 2009). To understand our samples characteristics, we
used public observations and interviews. A nonprobability convenience sampling
approach was employed to recruit participants (Huck, 2012). In April 2014, the

E. L. CELLA ET AL.

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questionnaire was administered during a 1-week period. Participants were sought by


visiting various venues 7 days a week from 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. to reduce sampling
and coverage error. Sampling was conducted within and adjacent to the entire span of the
ACNWR. Participants were sought at households, residential neighborhoods, beach areas,
parks, retail and commercial businesses, and recreational facilities. To reduce nonresponse
and measurement error, participants were recruited face-to-face. When requested by the
participant, the researcher administered the questionnaire verbally. Although demographic data were not available for the specic research site, we estimated demographic
characteristics of the ACNWR research site by extrapolating digital map data from the
U.S. Census Bureau (2010).
The researcher used a script to ensure all resident participants were recruited in the
same manner. These participants conrmed their residency within the research site
boundary. Interviewed experts were not required to live within the research site boundary.
The researcher conrmed that all study participants were at least 18 years of age.

Statistical methods
Each correct answer to a sea turtlerelated knowledge question was coded as 1; incorrect
answers were coded 0. Each response to a 5-point scale was assigned scores (15) with 5
representing the most positive response. Age, educational attainment, years of residency,
satisfaction with the local economy, and economic benet of tourism were treated as
continuous variables. Months of residency per year was treated as a continuous variable in
the multiple regression analysis. For logistic regression, a binary version of months of
residency per year provided a better t to the models: (a) part-time (< 12 months/year)
residents (n = 23) and (b) full-time (12 months/year) residents (n = 106). It was
hypothesized that the number of sea turtle observations may have a positive relationship
with some dependent variables but may develop into a negative relationship after observing an above average number of sea turtles. To test this hypothesis, data were transformed into a two-category variable: (a) respondents who had encountered a below
average number of sea turtles 99 and (b) respondents who had encountered an above
average number of sea turtles 100.
We conducted a multiple regression analysis using a knowledge index, which consisted
of 13 sea turtlerelated knowledge questions from the questionnaire. The knowledge index
included a combination of local-, global-, and biology-related knowledge items about sea
turtles and sea turtle conservation. We investigated outliers by visual inspection of addedvariable plots and leverage-versus-squared-residual plots. Normality of residuals was
visually examined through univariate kernel density estimation graphs and normal probability plots. To examine linearity, augmented component-plus-residual plots were examined for each variable. We inspected residuals on residual-versus-tted plots in order to
examine homoscedasticity. We conrmed acceptable variance ination factors (VIFs)
(VIFs < 10.0 and mean VIF 1.0) for the independent variables.
Logistic regression was used for all other research hypotheses. Variables that did not
meet required expected frequencies were transformed when feasible (Huck, 2012). A
forward stepwise selection procedure was used for all logistic regression analyses. If a
variable improved the resulting models goodness-of-t, the variable was retained for the

HUMAN DIMENSIONS OF WILDLIFE

next regression. The overall goodness-of-t for all nal models was conrmed using the
Hosmer and Lemeshows chi-square goodness-of-t test.

Results

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Participant demographics
We obtained 131 completed surveys (response rate = 74%). The sample was comprised of
39% females and 61% males. The mean age of participants was 54.67 years (range:
1886 years). The median age of the sample (57 years) was comparable to the median
age for the estimated ACNWR research site (includes under 18 years of age) (58.30 years)
based on U.S. Census 2010 data (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010). The mean educational
attainment of participants (N = 130) was approximately equivalent to a university associates degree. Participants years of residency had a mean of 18.09 years (range: 158 years).
The mean number of months per year that participants resided within the research site
was 10.83. Participants satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the local economy had a mean
of 3.17. The mean response regarding agreement or disagreement with the statement that
sea turtle tourism is economically benecial was 3.43, which represents an overall neutral
agreement. Most participants (95%) had encountered at least one sea turtle; the mean
number of sea turtles encountered was 101.
About a third (31%) of respondents obtained their sea turtle information from local people
or friends and almost as many (28%) obtained their sea turtle information through direct
observation. Twenty-two percent reported an NGO as their main information source. Specic
NGOs cited by respondents included the Sea Turtle Conservancy, Sea Turtle Preservation
Society, and Friends of Sebastian Inlet State Park. Eleven percent obtained their sea turtle
information from other sources such as books, internet, news/television, newspaper, radio,
and school. Only 5% reported the government (county, state, federal agencies) as their main
information source. Three percent stated tourism guides as their main information source.

Sea turtle knowledge


Multiple regression analysis was used to examine relationships between the knowledge
index (M = .61, SD = .16) and eight independent variables (Table 1). The model
signicantly explained the knowledge index (F [8, 111] = 5.91, p < .001, R2 = .30) with
positive relationships for years of residency (p < .01), age (p < .05), main information
source (NGO or government) (p < .05), and number of sea turtle observations (p < .01).

Attitude toward sea turtles


ACNWR respondents possessed an overall positive attitude toward sea turtles (Table 2).
Most respondents (75%) answered all four attitude questions with the most positive response
option available (i.e., very important or strongly like) (Cronbachs alpha = .70). A
dichotomous variable was created for analysis because of low frequency observations in the
neutral and negative response categories. Group one (n = 33) consisted of respondents who
did not answer very important/strongly like to every question. Group two (n = 98)

E. L. CELLA ET AL.

Table 1. Multiple regression results explaining the knowledge index (N = 120).


Dependent variable
(the knowledge index)
Independent variable
Gender
Years of residency
Months of residency per year
Age
Educational attainment
Main information source (self)a
Main information source (NGO or
government)b
Number of sea turtle observationsc

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Standardized regression coecients ()


.097
.248
.008
.174
.024
.171
.216

t-value
1.16
2.72
.10
2.08
.29
1.90
2.41

p-value
.250
.008
.922
.040
.776
.060
.017

.239

2.72

.008

Dummy variable consisting of two categories: (1) main information source was not the respondent, through direct
observation; and (2) main information source was the respondent, through direct observation. bDummy variable
consisting of two categories: (1) main source of sea turtle information was not an NGO or government agency; and
(2) main source of sea turtle information was an NGO or government agency. cDummy variable consisting of two
categories: (1) respondents who had encountered a below average number of sea turtles (099); and (2) respondents
who had encountered an above average number of sea turtles ( 100).

Table 2. Responses to the four questions related to attitude toward sea turtles.
Response
Question
(N = 131)
Please complete the following
three sentences:
I feel that the future survival of
sea turtle species is. . .
I feel that the preservation of
sea turtle nesting beaches
is. . .
I feel that sea turtle protection
laws and policies are. . .
Question
(N = 130)
How much do you like or
dislike sea turtles?
a

. . .neither
important nor
. . .very
. . .somewhat unimportant: Im
important. important.
neutral.
89%
9%
2%
(n = 116) (n = 12)
(n = 3)
91%
8%
1%
(n = 120) (n = 10)
(n = 1)

. . .somewhat
not
important.
0%
(n = 0)
0%
(n = 0)

. . .not at all
important. Meana
0%
4.86
(n = 0)
0%
4.89
(n = 0)

89%
(n = 117)
Strongly
like
81%
(n = 106)

2%
(n = 2)
Somewhat
dislike
0%
(n = 0)

0%
(n = 0)
Strongly
dislike
0%
(n = 0)

8%
(n = 10)
Somewhat
like
15%
(n = 19)

2%
(n = 2)
Neutral: Neither
like nor dislike
4%
(n = 5)

4.85
Mean
4.78

Responses were assigned a score of 5 for very important/strongly like, 4 for somewhat important/somewhat like, 3 for
neutral, 2 for somewhat not important/somewhat dislike, and 1 for not at all important/strongly dislike.

consisted of respondents who answered very important/strongly like to all four questions.
This binary variable is referred to the attitude toward sea turtles variable.
Logistic regression analysis was used to examine the relationships between attitude
toward sea turtles and the independent variables. The model was signicant (2 [3,
N = 127] = 17.87, p < .001, Nagelkerkes R2 = .19) and demonstrated that attitude toward
sea turtles had signicant relationships with educational attainment (Odds Ratio
[OR] = 1.34, p .05) and main information source (NGO or government) (OR = 6.59,
p < .05) (Table 3).
Willingness to act
Our results to the four questions related to participants willingness to take action to help sea
turtle conservation (willingness to act) indicated an overall neutral to somewhat positive

HUMAN DIMENSIONS OF WILDLIFE

Table 3. Binary logistic regression results for the model explaining attitudes toward sea turtles
(N = 127).
Dependent variable
(attitude toward sea turtles)
Independent variable

Standardized regression
coecient ()

Observed Wald 2
value (2)

p-value

Odds ratio

.140
.274
.470

1.10
3.80
5.91

.293
.051
.015

1.670
1.343
6.593

Gender
Educational attainment
Main information source (NGO
or government)a

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Binary variable consisting of two categories: (1) main source of sea turtle information was not an NGO or government
agency; and (2) main source of sea turtle information was an NGO or government agency.

response (Table 4). Logistic regression was used to examine relationships between the willingness to donate money variable (Table 4, Question 1) and the independent variables. The model was signicant (2 [5, N = 124] = 34.67, p < .001, Nagelkerkes
R2 = .26) and revealed that willingness to donate money had signicant relationships
with gender (OR = 2.24, p < .05), main information source (self) (OR = 2.43, p < .05),
and attitude toward sea turtles (OR = 5.27, p < .001) (Table 5). These results demonstrated that residents willingness to donate a little money to help sea turtle conservation was mostly inuenced by their gender (being female); by the information obtained
through their direct observation (of sea turtles, signs, etc.); and by their strong positive
attitude toward sea turtles.
Logistic regression was used to examine the relationships between the willingness to pay
taxes variable (Table 4, Question 2) and the independent variables. The model was signicant
(2 [5, N = 127] = 30.22, p < .001, Nagelkerkes R2 = .23). The signicant predictors were main

Table 4. Responses to the four questions related to willingness to act for sea turtle conservation
(N = 131).
Response

Question
1. How willing or not willing
would you be to donating
a little money to help sea turtle
conservation?
2. How willing or not willing
would you be to paying slightly higher
taxes to help sea turtle conservation?
3. How willing or not willing
would you be to donating
a little of your time to help
sea turtle conservation?
Question
4. How much would you
favor or oppose the
preservation of additional sea turtle
nesting habitat?
a

Very
willing
35%
(n = 46)

Neutral: Neither
Somewhat
willing nor
willing
unwilling
31%
21%
(n = 40)
(n = 28)

Not
Somewhat willing
not willing
at all
6%
7%
(n = 8)
(n = 9)

19%
(n = 25)

38%
(n = 50)

21%
(n = 27)

1%
(n = 2)

21%
(n = 27)

3.34

40%
(n = 53)

28%
(n = 37)

20%
(n = 26)

5%
(n = 6)

7%
(n = 9)

3.91

Strongly
favor
65%
(n = 85)

Somewhat
favor
24%
(n = 32)

Neutral: Neither
favor nor oppose
7%
(n = 9)

Somewhat
oppose
2%
(n = 3)

Strongly
oppose
2%
(n = 2)

Mean

Meana
3.81

4.49

Responses were assigned a score of 5 for very willing/strongly favor, 4 for somewhat willing/somewhat favor, 3 for
neutral, 2 for somewhat not willing/somewhat oppose, and 1 for not willing at all/strongly oppose.

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E. L. CELLA ET AL.

information source (self) (OR = 2.25, p < .05), number of sea turtle observations (OR = .46,
p < .05), and attitude toward sea turtles (OR = 4.61, p < .001) (Table 5). These results imply
that willingness to pay slightly higher taxes to help sea turtle conservation was inuenced by
their strong positive attitude toward sea turtles; by the information obtained through their
direct observation (of sea turtles, signs, etc.); and negatively by the number of sea turtles that
they have observed.
A third logistic regression examined the relationships between the willingness to
donate time variable (Table 4, Question 3) and the independent variables. The model
was signicant (2 [4, N = 122] = 38.16, p < .001, Nagelkerkes R2 = .29). Willingness to
donate time was negatively inuenced by age (OR = .97, p < .01) and positively inuenced
by main information source (NGO or government) (OR = 3.55, p < .01) and attitude
toward sea turtles (OR = 6.45, p < .001) (Table 5).
The fourth logistic regression examined the relationships between the support of
preservation variable (Table 4, Question 4) and the independent variables. The model
was signicant (2 [5, N = 125] = 24.48, p < .001, Nagelkerkes R2 = .22). The only
signicant predictor was attitude toward sea turtles (OR = 4.58, p < .001) (Table 5).
Participation in sea turtlerelated activities
Less than half of respondents (44%) participated in one or more sea turtlerelated
activities. Reported sea turtlerelated activities included guided sea turtle tours (n = 18),
educational activities (n = 34), monitoring (n = 10), and other activities (n = 25). Logistic
regression was used to examine relationships between participation in a sea turtlerelated
Table 5. Regression analyses summary for the eects of the independent variables on the willingness to
act for sea turtle conservation items.
Dependent variable
Independent variable

Years of residency
Gender
Age
Number of sea turtle
observationsb
Main information
source (self)c
Main information source
(NGO or government)d
Attitude toward sea
turtlese
Satisfaction with the
local economy
Economic benet
of tourism
a

Willingness to
donate money

Willingness to
pay taxes

Willingness to
donate time

Support of additional
preserved habitat

n.s.
F > M*
n.s.
n.s.

n.s.
n.s.
n.s
(1) > (2)*

n.s.
n.s.
(-)**
n.s.

n.s.
n.s.
n.s.
n.s.

(2) > (1)*

(2) > (1)*

n.s.

n.s.

n.s.

n.s.

(2) > (1)**

n.s.

(2) > (1)***

(2) > (1)***

(2) > (1)***

(2) > (1)***

n.s.

n.s.

n.s.

n.s.

n.s.

n.s.

n.s.

n.s.

n.s. = not signicant at the alpha .05 level but was included in the nal model; n.s. = not signicant at the alpha .05 level
and not included in the model/not a good t; *p .05; **p .01; ***p .001; F = female, M = male; (-) = negative
regression coecient. b(1) = respondents who had encountered a below average number of sea turtles 99;
(2) = respondents who had encountered an above average number of sea turtles 100. c(1) = main information source
was not the respondent, through direct observation; (2) = main information source was the respondent, through direct
observation. d(1) = main source of sea turtle information was not an NGO or government agency; (2) = main source of
sea turtle information was an NGO or government agency. e(1) = respondents who did not answer very important/
strongly like to all four attitude toward sea turtle questions; (2) = respondents who answered very important/strongly
like to all four attitude questions.

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HUMAN DIMENSIONS OF WILDLIFE

activity and the independent variables. Participation consisted of two categories: (a)
respondents that had not participated in any sea turtlerelated activities (n = 74) and
(b) respondents that had participated in at least one sea turtlerelated activity (n = 57).
Educational attainment, attitude toward sea turtles, and main information source (NGO
or government) were a good t with the model. This model was signicant (2 [3,
N = 127] = 36.00, p < .001, Nagelkerkes R2 = .33). Respondents that used an NGO or
government agency as their main information source were 9.75 times more likely to
participate in a sea turtlerelated activity, as compared to respondents not having this
main information source; this was the only signicant predictor (p < .001).
Another participation-related question asked respondents if they have ever helped a sea
turtle that was in danger or was injured. This variable, helping sea turtles in danger, consisted
of two categories: (a) respondents that had never helped a sea turtle in danger (n = 63) and (b)
respondents that had helped a sea turtle in danger (n = 59). Interviewed residents expressed
having participated in behaviors such as waving away sea gulls from preying upon sea turtle
hatchlings. Logistic regression examined the factors that explained residents participation in
helping sea turtles in danger. Number of sea turtle observations and main information source
(NGO or government) were a good t with the model. The model was signicant (2 [2,
N = 119] = 8.71, p .01, Nagelkerkes R2 = .09). Helping sea turtles in danger only had a
signicant relationship with main information source (NGO or government) (p < .05).

Discussion
Our research including residents near the ACNWR represented a unique opportunity to study
a population that is subjected to dierent conservation-related external variables than many
other U.S. populations. Sea turtle habitat preservation has been established at the ACNWR
since 1991, and numerous NGOs and government agencies are involved with research,
education, and outreach eorts supporting the ACNWR (USFWS, 2008). Possibly one of
the most distinguishing factors of the ACNWR is that it contains one of the most crucial
habitats for loggerhead turtles in the Western Hemisphere (Ehrhart et al., 2014). ACNWR
residents have the opportunity to directly observe sea turtles. Nine-ve percent of participants
had personally encountered at least one sea turtle (M = 101). Unlike other populations, the
existence of NGOs and government agencies supporting the ACNWR, along with residents
opportunities to gain direct exposure to sea turtles, allowed us to use these unique variables to
analyze how residents source of information and number of sea turtle observations inuences
our dependent variables. The external variables were combined with common demographic
variables (gender, age, educational attainment) in our models.
As residents years of residency near the ACNWR, age, and number of sea turtle
observations (encounters above average) increased, their overall knowledge about sea
turtles and sea turtle conservation increased. Residents who used an NGO or government
agency as their main source of sea turtle information also had greater overall knowledge
about sea turtles than did residents that had any of the other information sources. The
non-signicance of gender and educational attainment in explaining knowledge about sea
turtles was contrary to the results of previous research (Kellert, 1993; Kellert & Berry,
1987). The previous research (Kellert, 1993; Kellert & Berry, 1987), however, was based on
data from a general audience in which the years of residency, number of species observations, and main information source were not applicable. Such variables, when applicable,

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10

E. L. CELLA ET AL.

can inuence local resident knowledge. Our results illustrate the positive impact on
human knowledge about species caused by increased direct exposure to the species over
a long period of time, along with exposure to species information from an NGO or
government source, on a broader demographic group.
Residents near the ACNWR possessed an overall strong positive attitude toward sea
turtles. As residents educational attainment increased, their positive attitude toward sea
turtles also increased. The signicance of education is similar to the results of previous
research with respect to attitudes toward wildlife (Kellert, 1993; Kellert & Berry, 1987;
Luksenburg & Parsons, 2013). Residents that had an NGO or government agency as their
main source of sea turtle information were approximately seven times more likely to have a
stronger positive attitude toward sea turtles, as compared to residents having any of the
other information sources. This illustrates the eectiveness of local NGOs and government
agencies in cultivating positive attitudes toward sea turtles among ACNWR residents. We
acknowledge that respondents with strong positive attitudes toward sea turtles may proactively seek out information from an NGO or government agency. However, this is likely an
exception rather than the rule since one primary role of the local NGOs and government
agencies is to outreach to the public about sea turtle conservation (USFWS, 2008). For
instance, the USFWS (2008) stated in their comprehensive conservation plan that one
strategy is to, work with partners . . . to develop an outreach program to promote awareness
of the refuge and its conservation issues among local residents. In addition, there are likely
other factors, not included in this study, that are inuencing attitudes toward sea turtles.
The strong positive attitude toward sea turtles translated into a stronger willingness
to act to help sea turtle conservation. Residents willingness to act for sea turtle
conservation was explained the most by respondents general positive attitude toward
sea turtles and, to a lesser extent, by their main information source. For example,
residents that obtained their sea turtle information through direct observation were
more willing to donate money and pay taxes to help sea turtle conservation than
residents who obtain their information through other sources. However, residents that
obtained their sea turtle information through an NGO or government agency were
more willing to donate their time to help sea turtle conservation. The pure convenience of having an NGO or government source, along with having awareness of
potential volunteer activities, likely inuences active participation in species conservation volunteer activities. There are likely other factors (i.e., political leaning, income,
held values toward sea turtles) that inuence willingness to act, which were not
included in this study. In part, our nding is consistent with other previous studies,
which have illustrated that human attitudes inuence behavior (Barney et al., 2005;
Kraus, 1995; Thompson & Mintzes, 2002).
Residents who obtained their sea turtle information from an NGO or government
agency participated almost 10 times more in sea turtlerelated activities. Although
this signicance is likely reective of the fact that local NGOs and government
agencies are the entities sponsoring sea turtlerelated activities, it also likely reects
the successful outreach of these entities with transmitting such participation information to residents. In general, these results also support the importance of releasing
species information to the public in promoting participation in species conservation.
We also found that residents having an NGO or government source of sea turtle
information were more than twice as likely to help sea turtles in danger. This likely

HUMAN DIMENSIONS OF WILDLIFE

11

reects the fact that residents informed by NGOs or government agencies may be
more equipped to handle such situations where sea turtles are in danger.

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Conclusion
Although this research showed that multiple factors inuenced ACNWR residents knowledge of, attitudes toward, willingness to act for, and participation in sea turtle conservation,
one dominant theme surfacedresidents main source of sea turtle information played a
signicant and consistent role in most of our research models. Residents that had an NGO
or government agency as their sea turtle information source had greater knowledge about
sea turtles and stronger positive attitudes toward sea turtles. ACNWR residents who
possessed strong positive attitudes were more willing to engage in a wide variety of proconservation behaviors for sea turtles. Previous research addressing how ones main source
of information inuences attitudes toward wildlife has been limited to how membership in a
wildlife conservation organization inuences wildlife concern (Reading & Kellert, 1993) and
how wildlife knowledge is inuenced by where respondents receive their wildlife information (i.e., TV, documentaries) (OBryhim & Parsons, 2015). Contrary to other previous
studies, we focused on evaluating who was the residents sources of sea turtle information
and how does having a particular source inuence our dependent variables. Overall, our
research demonstrated that residents source of sea turtle information being an NGO or
government agency played a signicant role in increasing residents knowledge of, attitudes
toward, willingness to volunteer for, and participation in sea turtle conservation near the
ACNWR. We quantitatively illustrated that locally based NGOs and government agencies
can play a vital role with educating the local public about species conservation and
cultivating pro-conservation attitudes and behaviors.

Acknowledgments
We thank Dr. Lee Talbot and Dr. Gregory Guagnano for their expertise. We thank Chris Cella for
assisting with the research site visits. We are grateful to the survey participants for their contribution to this research.

Funding
This research was partially funded by George Mason Universitys Department of Environmental
Science and Policy.

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