Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Wrapping things up: results of the CAPS participant experience

By asking you, the participants in the Chicago Area Pollinator Study (CAPS), to take surveys before and after CAPS, we learned a great deal about the citizen scientist experience.

As you might remember, we asked all adult participants to complete an online survey both before and after CAPS. By studying those answers and comparing responses pre- and post-CAPS, we hoped to determine if participation in CAPS would: improve knowledge about bees, ecosystem services, specimen collections, and urban wildlife habitat; positively shift attitudes about bees, urban habitats, and science; and promote wildlife-friendly behavior changes. We found changes - some statistically significant, some not - in all three categories.

CAPS participant knowledge did improve as a result of the program. CAPS participants learned that the mission of Lincoln Park Zoo - through the Urban Wildlife Institute - includes studying urban ecology and that not all bees live in family groups called colonies. There was also a positive change in the number of bee types that participants were able to identify post-CAPS. Bravo!

While many of the attitudinal changes we found were not statistically significant, they were interesting nonetheless. We were thrilled, for instance, to discover that CAPS may have prompted participants to become somewhat less fearful of bees and to adopt a more favorable perception of bees in urban landscapes, considering bees less dangerous than you did prior to CAPS. We were somewhat less thrilled to discover that CAPS may have led to participants thinking that it is *less* important that non-scientists get more involved in scientific research after participating in CAPS and to feel that scientists are *less* interested in involving non-scientists in scientific research than they thought prior to CAPS. Clearly, we need to do a better job, in the future, of involving you in our ongoing research and thanking you for all of your hard work!

We also discovered an interesting shift on the behavior front. There was a slight - though not significant - increase in the number of CAPS participants indicating that they would kill a bee if it were disrupting their time outdoors post-CAPS. We are not sure if the change in reported behavior is real or not; it was our hope that people would be less fearful (and less likely to kill bees) after learning more about them through CAPS, but this is perhaps ironic since we asked you to kill a small number of bees for the project.

In addition to these specific learning outcomes, we learned a great deal from your feedback about the program. Thank you for all the time and thought you put into offering us suggestions for improvement! We have already passed these suggestions along to the Education Department at Lincoln Park Zoo so that they can incorporate them into future citizen science projects. If anyone would like to see a copy of our full report to Lincoln Park Zoo, please email us and we'll be happy to send you a copy.

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