Interpreter perceptions of climate change and impacts in Missouri state parks
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT REQUEST OF AUTHOR.] Parks are an ideal setting for climate change communication because visitors have an affinity for natural and cultural resources. Interpretation, an informal communication process designed to transmit scientific information to visitors in leisure-based settings, can potentially engage visitors in climate education. Few studies have assessed perceptions of interpreters in relation to climate change, much less, their capacity to communicate such information. Further, in the Midwest, climate change communication needs a different approach because of the lack of apparent impacts like sea level rise and melting glaciers. To address this, a mixed methods approach (surveys, interviews, risk mapping, photovoice) was used to examine interpreters' perceptions of climate change and its impacts in Missouri State Parks. Overall, about 70 percent of interpreters were either alarmed or concerned about climate change, although many of them were unsure whether it was natural or anthropogenic. Interpreters report observing impacts such as flooding, earlier plant blooming, high temperatures, extreme weather, and invasive species, but were uncertain about attributing these impacts to climate change. They said that visitors might not be responsive to climate change-focused interpretive programs, but that climate change could be worked into the themes of existing interpretive programs. Interpreters also emphasized that their role was to convey the significance of resources directly related to the park, not complex science. Information obtained in this study is useful for assisting interpreters to engage audiences in productive dialogue through place-based climate communication while acknowledging multiple viewpoints, framing strategic messages, and developing educational materials.
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