Knowledge and Meanings of Wilderness and Wildlife Refuges among Okefenokee Visitors on guided Intrepretive Tours
Past research has shown that interpretive tour visitors at Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge do no better than other visitors on knowledge and value questions about federal wilderness areas and national wildlife refuges. Tours into the Okefenokee Swamp Wilderness are conducted by a National Wildlife Refuge concessionaire. Interpretive tour guides participated in a training session on the purposes and values of wilderness and wildlife refuges. Visitors who took guided interpretive tours in the spring of 2001 with trained and untrained guides completed knowledge surveys immediately after taking the boat tour. Results indicate that there were no differences in visitor knowledge scores with trained versus untrained guides. A small sample of interpretive tour visitors was also interviewed in an effort to understand the meanings they ascribe to wilderness. Visitors were able to describe and articulate their views of wilderness with considerable clarity. Recommendations for future research include monitoring the guides' interpretive messages, conducting more in-depth interviews with visitors and guides, assessing visitors' and guides' prior knowledge of wilderness and wildlife refuge purposes and values, and developing guide training based on the principles of persuasive communication.