Employing visitor studies and video media to better communicate science in National Parks
Koch, Alison Lindsey
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The future of the National Park Service depends upon the agency's ability to educate the public to care for and preserve America's parks. In order to achieve this, parks must provide accurate, up-to-date scientific and preservation management information to visitors so that they gain a greater appreciation of parks by understanding what they protect. Although the Park Service has gone to great lengths to ensure scientific information is utilized in all management decision-making, no management documents or Park Service programs currently provide practical guidance or are adequately equipped to directly address communicating accurate and up-to-date scientific and preservation information to those who hold the future of parks in their hands: the public. Demands placed upon interpreters, who are the park staff primarily responsible for front lines visitor communication and services, are such that science communication can get lost in an array of other informational needs.Researchers, resource management, and visitor service personnel must create avenues or maximize current strategies to cooperate more effectively to communicate park science and management. Contrary to interpretive trends in the National Park Service, social survey and visitor studies show that communicating scientific and preservation information to visitors at parks and other institutions is expected and well-received. One specific underutilized form of both employee to employee and park to visitor communication is that of video media. Video allows a platform for scientists to speak directly to visitors, train other park staff, and encourage continued divisional cooperation. It can also provide an effective archival media library of information. A filmmaker must forge through bureaucratic and institutional realities in order to achieve successful scientific communication, but the benefits are immense when this work is crucial to help sustain the future of "one of America's greatest ideas," the national parks.
Videos to train NPS staff are films that are part of the student's thesis project.