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Tina M. Waliczek, Paula S. Williamson, and Florence M. Oxley

The purpose of this study was to determine college students’ understanding of invasive species and their support for plant and animal pest control and eradication methods. Surveys were administered at a university and community college in Texas in biology and agriculture departments. A total of 533 respondents participated in the study. Most students said they were not part of any type of environmental organization and felt they were not very informed about invasive species issues. More students reported learning about invasive species in high school than in college courses. The average score on knowledge questions related to invasive and native plants and animals was 32%. Most students underestimated the negative impact of invasive species but many were aware of costs to manage those species. Reliable reported sources of information included environmental organizations, college courses, and the Internet. Pearson product-moment correlations showed positive relationships between students who had college class instruction regarding invasive species and positive attitudes toward management of invasive species. Positive relationships were also found between instruction and an awareness of invasive plants or animals. Respondents who were knowledgeable of invasive species in the community had more positive attitudes toward the management of invasive species. In demographic comparisons, differences were found with males, upperclassmen, and those identifying as Caucasian or other having more knowledge of invasive species and more positive attitudes toward their management.

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Florence M. Oxley, Tina M. Waliczek, and Paula S. Williamson

The San Marcos River in Texas supports a wide diversity of aquatic organisms and provides critical habitat for eight endangered species. It is also a highly invaded ecosystem, with 48 documented introduced species. Several of these are invasive and known to negatively impact native species. Increasing pressure to control or eradicate invasive species exists to mitigate their impacts. Management programs can be controversial and, in some cases, have been delayed or stopped because of public opposition. People who have a vested interest in an invaded ecosystem, stakeholders, may be the most likely to express opposition or offer support for invasive species control. Understanding opinions can help guide educational outreach to gain public support for management programs. To assess stakeholder’s opinions of invasive species (defined as species that cause harm to the environment or human health), a survey instrument was distributed, and 335 completed surveys were analyzed. The majority of survey participants believed nonnative, invasive species should be controlled to conserve the environment (84.4%), where they damage native Texas species (75.9%), and in particular when they threaten rare Texas native species (89%). Proposed management methods influenced levels of support for invasive species control. Significant differences among demographic groups were found in membership in environmental organizations, knowledge of invasive species in the river, and sources of information on invasive species.

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Tina M. Waliczek, Kathryn M. Parsley, Paula S. Williamson, and Florence M. Oxley

Negative impacts from invasive species present a global problem. Consequently, invasive species biology has emerged as an important subdiscipline of conservation biology. One of the goals of invasive species biology is to educate the public about impacts and potential control of invasive species. 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 increase in knowledge results in changes in attitudes about invasive species. A pre- and posttest instrument that measured knowledge and attitudes of invasive species was administered to several different classes of students at a university and community college. One group of students received a lecture and laboratory curriculum between the pre- and posttest (the lecture and laboratory treatment group). A second group of students received a lecture between the pre- and posttest (the lecture-only treatment group) and a third group received no instruction between tests (the control group). The lecture was in the form of an electronic presentation, whereas the laboratory curriculum included a case study, a visual aid, and a scavenger hunt to educate students about examples of invasive plant and animal species. In all classes and groups, there were at least 2 weeks between administering the pre- and posttest. Results showed that the control group scores were not different between the pre- and posttest. However, both the lecture-only and the lecture and laboratory treatment groups had scores that changed after receiving the curricula. In addition, there was an effect of curricula on student learning for the three conditions. The differences between the group that received no curricula vs. the two that did indicated that the curricula were effective teaching interventions to help students become more educated about invasive species.