Volunteers as Products of a Zoo Conservation Education Program

TitleVolunteers as Products of a Zoo Conservation Education Program
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsBixler, RD, Joseph, SL, Searles, VM
JournalThe Journal of Environmental Education
Pagination57 - 73
Date Published2014/01/01/
ISBN Number0095-8964
Keywordsaltruistic behavior, conservation behavior index, docent, egoistic behavior, environmental socialization
AbstractZoos embrace docents/volunteers as a means of interpreting the threats to wildlife and biodiversity to visitors. To accomplish this, zoos provide docents’ education, training, and work experience. Docents themselves also engage in solitary and social wildlife experiences outside of their volunteer obligations. This study examined what motivates docents and how they change as part of their experience. Results from a mailback questionnaire (91% response rate, n = 365) documented that both altruistic (interpreting wildlife to visitors) and egoistic (learning about wildlife themselves; socializing with like-minded others) motivations were predictive of continuing satisfaction with their volunteer experiences. Docents also reported starting or increasing many conservation behaviors after beginning to volunteer at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Docents with more years of experience tended to report more involvement with conservation behaviors. Results support an environmental socialization framework to explain the impacts of an environmental training program. Implications for future research and practice are presented.