Document Type

Thesis

Date of Degree Completion

Spring 2019

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Primate Behavior

Committee Chair

Dr. Kara Gabriel

Second Committee Member

Dr. Lori Sheeran

Third Committee Member

Dr. Hope Amason

Abstract

The current study explored the impact of a volunteer tourism experience at a community-based conservation (CBC) organization on volunteer perceptions, attitudes, and values toward conservation, the environment, and science. The Madagascar Research and Conservation Institute (MRCI) is a CBC organization that utilizes volunteers as a data collection resource and workforce for conservation and community outreach initiatives. The current study analyzed data from volunteer experience evaluations (VEE), which included pre- and post-experience self-report surveys comprised of qualitative and quantitative response sections, completed by 45 voluntourists over a three-month span. The quantitative findings indicate that the voluntourist experience improved participants’ self-reported attitudes towards participating in sustainable practices but did not alter science attitudes. Overall, participants in programs with scientific training had more positive science attitudes and self-efficacy, suggesting that voluntourists may self-select into specific conservation programs due to their attitudes toward science. Qualitative responses mirrored the quantitative findings with voluntourists better able to describe ideas about sustainable lifestyle choices as well as displaying increased emphases on environmental awareness and concern, individual commitment to using and wasting fewer resources each day, and a better understanding of the ways in which scientific research impacts conservation and environmental awareness after their experience. The current findings suggest that volunteers select their experiences at research- and conservation-related organizations, in part, due to their understanding of scientific research and that voluntourist experiences can improve attitudes toward sustainability and the environment.

20190626143727522.pdf (47 kB)
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