Signs of Change

Previously we talked about the innovative way WZAM3 researchers are using GoPro cameras to learn more about what visitors do during their visits to Zoos and Aquariums (Z/As) and how they make these decisions. Well, our GoPros are back and better than ever! These versatile, portable recorders have allowed researchers to gather even more data to help us understand Z/A visitors as part of their research on the role of Z/As in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) learning.

In this most recent phase of their work, researchers Martin Storksdieck, Kelly Riedinger, Victoria Bonebrake, and Kimberley Preston from the STEM Research Center at Oregon State University investigated the influence of interpretive signs on visitors’ talk and behaviors at exhibits. How much do visitors engage with the signs? How much do the signs influence the way visitors think and talk about their visit and the wildlife they are seeing? Would changing the framing of the message on the sign change how visitors processed the exhibit?

A sign on a giraffe exhibit reads: What kind of things do you notice about the giraffe that would help it live in the wild? A sign on a giraffe exhibit reads: How could we make changes to limit our impact on giraffes in the wild?
Researchers are studying visitor reactions to species-focused signage (left) and conservation-focused signage (right).

To try to get some answers to these questions, the research team set up GoPros at exhibits in three different locations: the Nashville Zoo, Oregon Coast Aquarium, and the Oregon Zoo. They recorded visitors walking through the exhibits to see what kinds of conversations and behaviors people had at the exhibits. They then swapped out the original signs with boards that had a conservation focus to see if this would change people’s reactions and conversations.

This information is important because it could help researchers to elaborate on the findings from the first-phase of the GoPro study and will help Z/As in designing exhibit signs to promote conservation.

Stay tuned for more updates and results of the GoPro camera study!

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