Measuring the Effectiveness of Invasive Species Education Curricula on Student Knowledge of and Attitudes toward Invasive Species
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Invasive species cost the United States 120 billion dollars every year, without factoring in the loss of species biodiversity and the damage done to our ecosystems (Pimentel, Zuniga, & Morrison, 2005). Recognition of threats posed by invasive species has led to increasing pressure to control or eradicate them in order to mitigate their impacts (Mack et al., 2000). Understanding public opinion can help guide educational outreach to gain public support for eradication projects (Bertolino & Genovesi, 2003). The attitude of many people towards control of exotic pests depends on their perception of whether they believe a particular species is harmful or beneficial (National Invasive Species Council, 2008). Obstacles impeding invasive species management would likely be alleviated given a well-informed public (Bertolino & Genovesi, 2003). Since public opinions and attitudes can potentially affect continued introductions and management of exotics, it is imperative to understand the public’s level of knowledge and attitudes toward these pests. In a study conducted by Oxley, Waliczek, and Williamson (2016) about the San Marcos River in Hays Co., Texas, a survey was administered to gauge the public’s general knowledge, perceptions, and attitudes regarding non-native species and invasive species management. The San Marcos River is a highly invaded ecosystem with over 48 non-native species (Bowles & Bowles, 2001). The results indicated that participants who claimed they knew of invasive species in the river were more supportive of control measures being taken when compared to participants who claimed they did not know of any invasive species in the river. The study also found that young adults who had not received as much college education knew less about invasive species and were less likely to be involved in environmental organizations that could inform them about invasive species. These results indicate there is a need to determine and understand attitudes of college-aged youth about impacts of invasive species and their control (Oxley et al., 2016). This information will allow educators to design and implement appropriate educational programs to inform this segment of the public of the issues and challenges of exotic pest management.