Climate change attitudes of zoo and aquarium visitors: Implications for climate literacy education

Lisa Anne DeGregoria Kelly, Jerry F. Luebke, Susan Clayton, Carol D. Saunders, Jennifer Matiasek, Alejandro Grajal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Climate literacy education can occur in a variety of formal and informal learning settings across an individual’s life span. There is increasing recognition that informal learning settings such as zoos and aquariums have an opportunity to greatly contribute to individuals’ science learning. Here we present the results of a large-scale survey study of U.S. zoo and aquarium visitors (N = 3,594) designed to gain information about this audience that could guide the development of relevant climate literacy resources. The questionnaire included items from the “Global Warming’s Six Americas” validated segmentation procedure to allow comparisons of the climate change attitudes of zoo and aquarium visitors with the published results representing the American public. It also included items that further explored the environmentally relevant characteristics of audiences who visit zoos and aquariums. Guided by a conservation psychology theoretical framework, these items addressed visitors’ environmental behavior predispositions, affective connections to wildlife and nature, concern for animals, and social experiences at the zoo or aquarium. Furthermore, visitors rated their interest in learning more about global warming and their trust in zoos as sources of global warming information. Analyses compared the mean ratings across “Six Americas” segments on these items. Results indicate that as compared to the general public, a greater proportion of zoo and aquarium visitors fall within the “alarmed” and “concerned” segments of the “Six Americas” continuum, and a smaller proportion falls within the “cautious,” “disengaged,” “doubtful,” and “dismissive” segments. Additionally, mean ratings for all behavior, affective, concern, experience, interest, and trust items significantly differ across Six Americas segments. These findings offer audience profile information complementary to that provided by the Six Americas research team and that may be used to guide climate literacy resource development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)502-510
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Geoscience Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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