Feb 23, 2015

NY Invasive Species Public Awareness Phase I Study Now Available

Ithaca, NY                                                                                                            Contact:  Chuck O’Neill

20 February 2015                                                                                                                chuck.oneill@cornell.edu


NY Invasive Species Public Awareness Phase I Study Now Available

The Cornell University Cooperative Extension Invasive Species Program (CCE ISP) has announced that the report summarizing Phase I of the study “New York Residents’ Awareness of Invasive Species” has been completed and is now available for download at the NY Invasive Species Clearinghouse website, NYIS.INFO. This study of the awareness and understanding of invasive species among average New Yorkers was commissioned by the CCE ISP with NY Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) funding through a contract with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. The study is being undertaken by the Human Dimensions Research Unit in the Department of Natural Resources of the Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Invasive species have been introduced and spread throughout New York State for generations. Current efforts at preventing new introductions, detecting new invasions in time to undertake a rapid response that stands a chance of eradicating or at least preventing the spread of those introductions, slowing or preventing the spread of existing infestations, and undertaking effective control and management programs are generally based on the knowledge of a relatively small community of experts. While it has long been known that the general public, and also specific resource user groups, can help prevent the introduction and spread of invasive species, information on how much the public knows and understands about invasive species, and how willing they are to help be part of the solution instead of part of the problem, has never been collected on a statewide basis in NY.

“Understanding the level of awareness, knowledge, and concern about invasive species among the general public and the behaviors engaged in by specific stakeholder groups can guide educators and outreach coordinators as they develop programs to encourage people to behave in such a way as to prevent the spread of invasive species,” said Nancy Connelly, one of the researchers on the project. The CCE ISP hopes that this study will serve as a baseline against which future outreach efforts can be measured.

The study is being undertaken in three parts; Phase I was an initial screening survey conducted by telephone in the fall of 2014 to identify those New Yorkers with some level of awareness of invasive species, and Phases II will be a more in-depth follow-up survey by web/mail and Phase III will consist of  detailed telephone interviews with those who had some level of awareness. The follow-up survey and interviews were designed to identify how New Yorkers’ concern about invasive species compares to other concerns, and whether their behaviors influence the spread of invasive species.

This Phase I report details the results of the initial screening survey.

“Some of the findings were surprising,” says Chuck O’Neill, Coordinator of the Cornell University Cooperative Extension Invasive Species Program. “The research team at the HDRU found that three-quarters (74%) of New Yorkers are aware of the term ‘invasive species’ or the definition that was provided by the survey. One-third (34%), by their own assessment, ‘know something about them,’ with knowledge levels being the lowest in NYC and Long Island and highest in the Adirondack and St. Lawrence – Eastern Lake Ontario regions.”

The HDRU team asked about public awareness of seven specific invasive species. The most widely known species, by name at least, were water chestnut (59%) and wild pigs (57%). Awareness levels for various species, which varied by region, can help educators decide where to focus their future outreach efforts to have a greater impact on public awareness.

TV and Internet were found to be the primary sources of news and information for New Yorkers. Using both of these outlets has the potential to reach at least three-quarters of residents with invasive species messages.

The follow-up Phase II and Phase III will provide more detailed information about levels of concern about invasive species, behaviors that may contribute to or help prevent introductions and spread of invasive species and New Yorker’s willingness to do more to prevent the spread and under what conditions.

The full report can be found on NYIS.INFO, or by visiting the Human Dimensions Research Unit website at http://www2.dnr.cornell.edu/hdru/index-2.html.

For more information on the overall study concept, contact:

Chuck O’Neill, Coordinator
Cornell University Cooperative Extension Invasive Species Program
Email: chuck.oneill@cornell.edu