Here’s an update from intern Julie Nance as she wades in to gathering data from the public:

“Last week I began front-end evaluation – talking to people out in the Visitor Center to get their opinions for the climate change exhibit.  I had them choose what case study they would want to learn more about, from a set of 14 pictures (species affected by global warming such as salmon, pteropods, etc).


I wrote down what everyone said and came up with some interesting trends, such as how the majority of women in their 20’s and 30’s as well as school age girls chose the emperor penguin over the rest.  This wasn’t a huge surprise given the options.
So the next round, I removed the penguin and turtle to force a harder choice, so many in that age group switched to the next most familiar and cute creature: the clown fish.  As my fellow intern Nick puts it, they’re only interested in “charismatic mega fauna”.
However, there were many people who chose things that were more local and meaningful to them personally.  My favorite comment I found funny was, “I chose Dungeness Crab, because I like to eat them, and I’m interested in keeping that going.”
The two most surprising comments were from gentlemen who were roughly age 60 to 70.  This demographic is kind of stereotyped as being very skeptical of climate change, and I will admit that I pegged them as probably being in that group.  One chose phytoplankton and said, “they are basic foodstuff.  They’re at the bottom  of the food chain, so that has effects all the way up.”  The other chose algae and said, “some people don’t believe [climate change] and think it’s ‘business as usual’, but I don’t think so.  Algae will probably be one of the first affected.”  Wooohoo!  You go dudes!  Thanks for changing my perception.

This week I’m preparing for the next phase of evaluation in which I will get into more detail with visitors about the exhibit itself, how it will work, and what types of resources they would want available on it.  A graphic designer, Alison, who works on projects for the VC is making a graphic for me to print and show to visitors while I talk to them about the exhibit.  This will really help them to visualize what I’m talking about.

The psychology behind talking to people and getting their opinions is staggering.  Every question, phrase, graphic, etc. I use goes through this complex interview process in my brain.  I wonder things such as, “how might people misinterpret this?”  “Will using this picture bias people’s responses?”  “Will using this phrase turn people away and change their answers?”  “If I color code, what are these colors going to make people think?”
That last one is big right now, along with positioning of things.  I am going to ask people to self-categorize into one of the groups from “Global Warming’s Six Americas,” but the graphic I was going to use from that study has different colors for each and I wonder if people will choose their favorite color, or think that one color is better or more desirable or think that I as the researcher want to lean them a certain direction based on the color or position.  If I lay out the 6 options top to bottom, it makes the top seem to be best and the bottom worst.  Colors- are warm or cool colors more acceptable and which do I appear to be favoring?  If I lay them left to right it might feel best to worst on a spectrum, or perhaps even political left wing/ right wing.  When you are doing research with human beings, whose thought patterns are so complex, you really can NOT control for every variable and you just have to do your best and realize that the results are influenced by many things.”

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