Woodlands in peril: Evaluating natural resource volunteerism as a weapon against invasive pests

Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Exhibit Hall 4 (Austin Convention Center)
Lesley Tylczak , Entomology, University of Minnesota, St Paul, MN
David A. Andow , Department of Entomology, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN
Eugene Borgida , University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN
Terrance Hurley , Dept. of Applied Economics, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN
Invasive species are a well-publicized threat to the integrity of native ecosystems. Nevertheless, the available funding for invasive species monitoring has been in decline, especially in comparison to other government initiatives. Natural resource management volunteers are now being sought by agencies such as the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and the Department of Natural Resources to balance this financial shortfall. However, the majority of information regarding the viability of volunteers remains observational and subject to speculation. Few studies have evaluated the cost-effectiveness of volunteer networks directly. In an effort to introduce a rigorous scientific foundation for suggested volunteerism approaches, a first-detectors network was established to monitor for invasive pests in the oak woodlands of central Minnesota. Half of the volunteers were solicited with invitations highlighting group identity (woodland owners), with the alternative half receiving invitations highlighting individuality to gauge effect. Potential volunteers were invited to place five pheromone traps in their woodlands to monitor for oak pests. Those who opted to volunteer were also completed surveys that applied to their views on volunteerism. Half of each treatment received a newsletter as feedback. Volunteers were evaluated on the basis of their recruitment rates, retention rates, and the reliability of their submissions.
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