WCS to conduct multi-year, half-million dollar Ad’k study

SARANAC LAKE — The Wildlife Conservation Society, with an office in Saranac Lake, was recently awarded a federal National Science Foundation grant that will allow local staff to conduct a four year study on the impacts of protected spaces.

WCS will be studying “the connection between people’s visitor experiences and their interest in getting engaged in pro-conservation behaviors,” Heidi Kretser, Livelihoods and Conservation Coordinator at WCS said. “Basically testing the assumption that as people visit the Adirondacks and engage with the landscape, that they actually become more likely to engage in conservation behaviors.”

WCS staff is still figuring out the minutiae of the study, but said their staff could be in the field as early as next summer or fall. The plan is to set up at various locations around the Adirondacks and ask adult hikers to answer a brief survey.

Some of the hikers will then be left alone, while others may get a short presentation or be asked to join in a citizen science project. The subjects will then be sent a follow-up survey about their attitude toward conservation.

“For just sort of logistical reasons, we essentially picked the group that is the largest and the most widely dispersed across the Adirondacks,” Sarah Reed, who is based in Fort Collins, Colorado and works as an associate conservationist for WCS, said.

“What is it about visiting protected lands that connects people and helps to inspire them to become engaged in conservation?” Reed said.

Kretser said staff was somewhat surprised with the grant, noting that most organizations have to apply several times before winning the award, and added that WCS wants the process for hikers to be as painless as possible.

“We want to make sure we don’t scare people away when we tell them what it is,” Kretser said. “We’ll try to keep it manageable so that the people we ask to participate will want to participate.”

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