Preventing Aquatic Invasive Species through Behavior Change

about 50 people in a room cluster around tables in small groups collaborating on learning materials

The Minnesota DNR’s Invasive Species Program has embarked on an exciting project that aims to better promote the adoption of desirable aquatic invasive species (AIS) prevention behaviors and create positive social norms supporting AIS prevention in Minnesota. The products of this effort will be useful to AIS program managers. The handout Preventing AIS through Behavior Change provides a summary of the project. Learn more below!

What is Community-Based Social Marketing?

Community-Based Social Marketing (CBSM) is a social science approach to foster sustainable, environmentally beneficial behaviors over the long term. CBSM reaches beyond traditional information and awareness campaigns by targeting individual behaviors, bridging the gap between awareness and action. 

Steps to a Community-Based Social Marketing project include:

  1. Selecting desired behaviors
  2. Identifying barriers to and benefits of people performing desired behaviors 
  3. Developing strategies
  4. Pilot-testing strategies
  5.  Broad-scale implementation and evaluation

More information on this approach can be found at www.cbsm.com

How Does CBSM Apply to AIS Prevention?

Behavioral science shows that there is often a gap between awareness and action. By building “community norms” around taking the right actions, everyone is more likely to adopt and consistently practice desirable AIS prevention behaviors such as Clean, Drain, and Dispose while they are out enjoying our lakes, rivers and wetlands.

As AIS program managers, knowing that information campaigns alone do not typically result in people changing their behaviors, we need to know where we can focus our limited resources to have the biggest impact. CBSM provides a step-by-step, comprehensive approach to assessing risks and identifying opportunities for long-term change. The Minnesota DNR started this process by prioritizing AIS prevention behaviors (Step 1) and identifying barriers and benefits (Step 2) to provide statewide baseline information about priority pathways, audiences, and behaviors. Now, anyone can use this information to guide their local AIS programs.

These baseline data will inform the design, pilot, and evaluation of behavior change strategies (Steps 3 and 4). Strategies should aim to remove barriers and promote benefits, making it easier for and motivating people to do the right thing.

Ultimately, this work will provide more consistent, effective and efficient ways to work with Minnesotans and visitors on this important issue (Step 5).

Identifying and Prioritizing Desirable Behaviors (Step 1)

A full literature scan, literature scan summary, and a list of more than 150 discrete behaviors were identified for the five major pathways for AIS movement in Minnesota today.

  • Recreational watercraft
  • Live bait
  • Gear and equipment
  • Retail plant trade
  • Retail aquarium trade

A panel of experts, representing a diversity of jurisdictions and areas of expertise related to AIS, conducted a probability-impact ranking exercise. Each member ranked each behavior based on three criteria:

  • Impact: a measure of effectiveness in preventing the spread of AIS in Minnesota.
  • Uptake: likelihood of the behavior being adopted by the target audience.
  • Market potential: opportunity for growth in the number of people performing the behavior.
  • All three criteria rankings were multiplied together and rankings from all panel members were averaged to give a single “product of averages” (overall ranking) for each behavior.

The Expert Panel Session #1 Summary summarizes the ranking process (Pgs. 5-7), how each behavior ranks within each pathway (Pgs. 7-13), compares all the behaviors (Pg. 28, Appendix B), and provides recommendations (Pg. 14-18).

Identifying Barriers and Benefits (Step 2)

An essential component of developing an effective behavior change program is to identify the barriers and benefits associated with the targeted behavior change. The following pathways and audiences were recommended for barrier benefit research:

  • Anglers and their use of live bait and boats.
  • Shoreline property owners and their movement of previously-owned equipment (docks/lifts).
  • Aquarium and aquatic plant trade stakeholders.

Surveys and Roundtable Discussions 

The objectives were to: 

  • Establish a baseline of current behaviors.
  • Gauge attitudes and awareness.
  • Identify actual and perceived barriers and motivators to engaging in desired behaviors.
  • Gauge willingness to modify behaviors.
  • Understand communication and engagement preferences

These reports summarize our findings:

Barrier and Benefit Matrix 

The Barrier and Benefit Matrix summarizes the barriers and benefits associated with the target behaviors, as reported by participants in the quantitative and qualitative research conducted. Possible strategies are also identified that could help eliminate barriers and promote benefits.

Building Capacity in Local Agencies

In October 2019, the DNR gathered local AIS experts at a two-day AIS Behavior Change Design Workshop to:

  • Review the results of the DNR’s CBSM and AIS Prevention project.
  • Have participants utilize the project results to collaboratively brainstorm behavior change strategies for the target audiences and behaviors. See their ideas in the Workshop Summary Report.
  • Have participants utilize the project results and workshop experience to inform AIS programs in their local jurisdictions. 

Moving Forward Report  

The Moving Forward Report (in progress) summarizes the research findings and outlines the next steps for developing and deploying behavior-based strategies to foster target behaviors that aim to prevent the introduction and spread of AIS in Minnesota. 

  • Prioritizing pathways and behaviors (Pgs. 6-14)
  • Angler survey results, barriers, benefits, and potential strategies (Pgs. 15-22)
  • Shoreline resident survey results, barriers, benefits, and potential strategies (Pgs. 23-28)
  • Trade pathways research summary, barriers, benefits, and potential strategies (Pgs. 29-34)
  • Building capacity in local agencies (Pg. 35)
  • Recommendations and next steps (Pgs. 36-43)

These next steps will guide future work to be led by the DNR, in partnership with local agencies and organizations, industry stakeholders, statewide partners, CBSM and AIS experts, and the residents/visitors of the state.

The project team recommends that the DNR leads and facilitates the next steps shown below for developing and implementing a prioritized, scalable and replicable system of behavior-change approaches that consistently encourage social norms and adoption of desired behaviors.

AIS Prevention Program Next Steps for the Minnesota DNR

Flow diagram showing the following steps: design quick start pilot projects, understand social fabric and local connections, design and implement targeted campaings, design statewide AIS CBSM program, implement scalable AIS CBSM program, facilitate feedback from stakeholders, sponseor further research on pathways and behaviors, lead evaluation and continuous improvement.

What Happens Next?

The DNR and partners will pursue CBSM Steps 3, 4, and 5 for the priority behaviors as funds and capacity allow.

Grants

The DNR will administer a small grants program for tribal and local governments to conduct CBSM work for AIS prevention in Minnesota in 2020. The DNR applied for and was awarded funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative for this effort. Local AIS program managers will be able to apply for funds from the DNR in 2020 to implement activities that are identified in the Moving Forward Report. Logistics and timing for this grant program have yet to be determined. Stay tuned!

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Questions?

Contact Tina Fitzgerald at [email protected] or 651-259-5146