Enhancing Environmental Communication and Products Through Qualitative Research

Monday, 15 December 2014
Denise DeLorme, University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL, United States and Scott C Hagen, Univ Central Florida, Orlando, FL, United States
This presentation discusses two ongoing interdisciplinary case studies that are using qualitative research to design and enhance environmental communication and science products for outreach and decision making purposes. Both cases demonstrate the viability and practical value of qualitative social science methodology, specifically focus group interviews, to better understand the viewpoints of target audiences, improve deliverables, and support project goals. The first case is a NOAA-funded project to conduct process-based modeling to project impact from climate change in general and sea level rise in particular to the natural and built environment. The project spans the Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida Panhandle coasts with concentration on the three National Estuarine Research Reserves. As part of the broader project, four annual focus groups were conducted with a purposive sample of coastal resource managers to capture their perspectives and suggestions to better meet their informational and operational needs. The second case is a Florida Sea Grant-funded project that is developing, implementing, and testing a cohesive outreach campaign to promote voluntary careful and responsible recreational boating to help protect sensitive marine life and habitats (especially seagrasses and oyster reefs) in the Mosquito Lagoon. Six focus groups were conducted with a purposive sample of the target audience of boaters to gain insights, feedback, and ideas on the direction of the campaign and design of the messages and products. The campaign materials created include a branded website, Facebook page, mobile app, information packets, brochures, pledge forms, and promotional items. A comparison of these two case studies will be provided and will explain how the qualitative findings were/are being implemented to tailor and refine the respective communication strategies and techniques including the emerging outreach products. The resulting outcomes are messages and tools that are readily accessible, understandable, engaging, useful, and memorable to the target audiences. The presentation will conclude with an overview of the strengths and role of qualitative methodology, how this approach can help address other science communication needs, and future research recommendations.