A study of the relationship between conservation education and scuba diver behavior in the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary
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Scuba diver impacts on coral reefs are causing many threats to reefs. One solution is to change divers’ behaviors through on-site environmental education. The Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary developed an education program in an effort to achieve this goal. The purpose of this study was to describe the education program, understand how it affected divers’ knowledge of and value orientation toward coral reefs, and examine two teaching approaches conducted in a recreation/tourism setting. Two theories were tested in this study. Orams’ model was used to develop the “Naturalist Onboard” program and describe how the model played out in a diver education situation. The work Bransford’s team did was tested to see how their teaching approach works in a recreation/tourism setting. Evaluating this program was achieved through pre- and post-questionnaires, participant observation and semi-structured interviews. They were used in the first article to provide a description of how Orams’ model played out in the real world. In the second article they were used to determine: 1) the value orientation of the divers, 2) how much knowledge divers gained via participation in this program, 3) the relationship between value orientation and knowledge gained, and 4) the degree their value orientations affect knowledge acquisition. In the final article they were used to see how two teaching approaches affected divers’ knowledge and value orientations about coral reefs, and how the divers responded to the two approaches. The program aroused divers’ curiosity, engaged their emotions, and motivated them to minimize their impacts while visiting the coral reef. However, suggestions for making changes in their behavior at home were not received well. Most divers had a “biocentric” value orientation and gained a significant amount of knowledge. These divers were also more open to learning and changing their behaviors. There was no significant difference between the two approaches regarding the divers’ knowledge and value orientation. This may be due to validity threats. Due to time constraints and divers’ lack of interest in actively acquiring knowledge, the constructivist teaching approach did not work well in this setting.
Belknap, Julia (2008). A study of the relationship between conservation education and scuba diver behavior in the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from