Progress Updates: The Nuts & Bolts of the Research Process

What are the WZAM3 research teams up to from month to month? For you research nerds out there, this is where you can find the nuts and bolts of the research process. On a quarterly basis, each part of the research team will give nitty gritty updates on what’s going on with designing studies, collecting data, analysis, and more.  Have questions or suggestions? Get in touch with us at

Interested in the research findings and what they mean for your work? Look for the findings, news on conferences, and other WZAM3 stories on the home page.

MARCH 2019

COSI Center for Research and Evaluation

This quarter, the CRE team has been focused on data collection and analysis. Collaborators from 25 zoos and aquariums (Z/As) have been using electronic tablets (supplied by the project) to collect pre-visit/post-visit data from their visitors to help us understand the individual condition of the visit, how the visit is contextualized within the life stage and learning ecology of the visitor, and common entry themes and exit outcomes.

To date we have over 5,000 completed questionnaires. Summer data collection yielded 2,005 completed, usable questionnaires; and fall data collection yielded 2,223 completed, usable questionnaires. An additional 1,162 surveys were completed this winter. Spring data collection will begin March 11 and run through the end of each collaborator’s last spring break.

New Knowledge Organization Ltd.

This quarter, NewKnowledge has continued to lead the monthly Nationwide Zoo & Aquarium Research Study: Short Asks. Each month, over 90 institutions participate in a very brief survey of several staff, volunteers, or visitors. The Short Asks study data will be combined into a larger study on discourse around STEM at zoos and aquariums. There’s still time to join the study – find more information here.

We have also continued to look for ways to publish the results of our work, particularly in peer review papers, this blog, and other publications for zoo and aquarium professionals. These publications have focused on the Word Matters study, a study about institutional trust of these institutions, and more.

Oregon State University

This quarter, the Oregon State University (OSU) research team has continued to: 1) analyze data from the GoPro tracking study and 2) plan for the experimental study to be implemented this spring at Oregon Coast Aquarium and the Nashville Zoo.

In the first year of the study, OSU conducted a tracking study using GoPro cameras at 6 zoos/aquariums (Z/A) across the country, capturing video from 70 visiting groups as well as entry and exit interviews. (Find more about this creative approach to research in this blogpost.) This quarter, the OSU team finished coding the entry and exit interviews and is in the process of coding the video data from the tracking study.

The team has also been collaborating with staff at Oregon Coast Aquarium and the Nashville Zoo to plan for the experimental study. Over the past few months, the OSU team has worked with staff to identify exhibits at each site for the study as well as to discuss signage at both exhibits (Sea Otter exhibit at Oregon Coast Aquarium and the Giraffe exhibit at Nashville Zoo) for the comparison and experimental conditions. Both sites recently developed prototypes of the signs for the treatment condition (conservation message) that we are currently piloting at both sites and we will use existing signs (scientific and natural history information) as the comparison condition. The team piloted the data collection procedure in early February at the Nashville Zoo.