Very few ecosystems in the world are completely free of introduced species, and an increasing proportion of habitats is becoming dominated by them (Pysek and Richardson, 2010). Invasive species decrease species diversity (McGeoch et al., 2010), have negative economic impact (Pimentel et al., 2005), and threaten human health (Mack et al., 2000). Recognition of threats posed by invasive species has led to increasing pressure to control or eradicate them (Mack et al., 2000). Yet, control and eradication can become controversial.
Bertolino and Genovesi (2003) noted the impact public opinion has on success of invasive species management, citing failure of a plan to eradicate the invasive American gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) from Italy due to public outcry from an animal rights group. Larson et al. (2011) considered the social pillar critical to the success of invasive species management plans and suggested focusing efforts on increasing collaboration and building support with a broad range of stakeholders, as well as increasing community education. Obstacles impeding invasive species management would likely be alleviated, given a well-informed public (Bertolino and Genovesi, 2003).
Vanderhoeven et al. (2011) suggested well-designed educational programs targeting particular groups could be effective tools to teach the public about invasive species. People who had prior knowledge of invasive species eradication programs and who were also members of conservation organizations showed greater levels of support for invasive control programs (Bremner and Park, 2007; Oxley et al., 2016). Invasive species education at various levels of learning was examined (Waliczek et al., 2017). Yue et al. (2012) found that in marketing native vs. invasive species, educational labeling on plant material regarding the potential invasiveness of species would not necessarily change purchasing habits of typical consumers.
Educational programs have been put into action at the elementary school level to help increase awareness of invasive species and their impacts (Farmer et al., 2007). High schools have also implemented various teaching strategies in environmental science courses to address invasive species (Baumgartner and Zabin, 2008; DiEnno and Hilton, 2005). Oxley et al. (2016) found 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 invasives. Undergraduate- and graduate-level coursework at 94 Canadian universities was reviewed and education regarding invasive species was found lacking (Smith et al., 2011), leading the authors to call for incorporating invasive species into the university curricula.
A study by Waliczek et al. (2017) found a large gap in student knowledge about invasives, citing that college students did not feel informed or educated about invasive species. Yet, the study also found that students rated college classes as highly reliable sources of information about invasives, second only to environmental organizations (Waliczek et al., 2017). The authors pointed out the need to incorporate invasive species biology into college curricula (Waliczek et al., 2017). The purpose of this study was to determine if a lecture, a lecture and laboratory learning model, or both influence college student learning gains and whether increases in knowledge result in changes in attitudes about invasive species.
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