Can interactive data visualizations promote waterfront best management practices?

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Taylor & Francis

Lake water quality management often requires private property owner engagement since land-use change generally occurs on private property. Educational components of lake management outreach must connect current property owner behaviors with future water quality. However, it may be challenging for property owners to associate their current behaviors with water quality outcomes due to the time lag between a behavior (e.g., fertilizer application) and a water quality outcome (e.g., decreased water clarity). Interactive data visualizations, characterized by user-determined selections that change visualization output, may be well suited to help property owners connect current behavior to future water quality. We tested the effectiveness of an online, interactive visualization as an educational intervention to alter property owners' perspectives related to applying lawn fertilizer and installing waterfront buffers. We used cognitive psychology measures to quantify intervention effectiveness. Since property owners' decision making may be driven by connections to their property, we also explored relationships between seasonal and permanent residents and intentions to apply fertilizer or install waterfront buffers and intervention effectiveness. Despite no significant difference in effectiveness between the interactive and noninteractive versions, the combined responses demonstrated a positive shift in behavioral beliefs and intentions related to lawn fertilizer application and waterfront buffer installation. Seasonal residents were less likely than permanent residents to apply lawn fertilizer before the intervention and more likely to shift their intentions after the intervention. This study provides evidence that brief educational interventions-regardless of their interactivity-can shift private property owner beliefs and intentions regarding lakefront property management.

Behavior change, decision making, environmental education, proenvironmental behavior, outreach