We believe that current education and extension efforts could be improved by targeting knowledge gaps and misperceptions among current and future streamside landowners in the risk-based context of degraded watersheds. The purpose of the project proposed here is to identify these knowledge gaps through a mental models research approach. Such an approach is based on an in-depth assessment of the web of beliefs, or "mental model" that affects how an individual defines a problem and ultimately makes decisions about issues that are communicated to them.
The results from the research component of the project will be used to develop a targeted watershed-based curriculum with high school educators, which will then be used to remediate knowledge gaps among students and their parents (i.e., current and future landowners in the watershed). Knowledge gaps among the larger community will be remediated through tailored on-going web support of landowner decisions and development of streamside land management plans. It is expected that a better understanding of these gaps, and the associated beliefs and perceptions of stakeholders, may illuminate ways to improve both educational efforts and inform landowner decision making, with the end goal of encouraging land conservation and reducing stream impairment due to habitat alteration.
To design education, extension and outreach efforts that 1) identify knowledge gaps in stakeholder knowledge related to an expert-based model, 2) assist in gap remediation with respect to risk and watershed ecology by more clearly identifying the necessary risk communication messages and designing the associated education and extension efforts, and 3) lead to greater behavior change among stakeholders in the watershed.