At the Houston Zoo, we are in year 3 of an ongoing CBSM project to reduce discarded fishing line along the coast. We are currently piloting our strategy, which involves commitment sessions with anglers (asking them to make a commitment to properly recycle their line, taking a polaroid picture, having them sign it). All of these strategies need to be adapted due to the pandemic. Does anyone have any resources or suggestions on adapting engagement strategies during this time?
Conservation Impact Manager - Houston Zoo
Hi Martha. It is exciting to hear about your CBSM pilot progress. These are definitely interesting times. We do a lot ot CBSM work across a wide range of audiences and the impacts have varied. Our CBSM projects that are in implementation/pilot phases have been temporarily paused as we work to figure out whether and how strategies are going to need to adapt to new safety standards. The pilot that will be most impacted for us is one addressing littering behavior at skate parks. The pilot was planned for launch in June, but since most skate parks are still closed, we have been in a holding pattern. Once we are cleared to resume, it is likely that there will have to be some modifications. Like you, our current strategy involves obtaining a signed commitment and then placing this commitment on a board at the park. Participants will also be provided with a sticker to immediately apply to their board or helmet. I think we can manage the social distance piece for the verbal communications, but the exchange of materials is difficult. To some extent, we will be taking our lead from the standards set by state and local jurisdictions in making determinations about how to proceed. There are other issues for us to consider as well such as whether it will be cost-effective to do in-person outreach on site if park attendance is limited to allow for social distancing.
The most immediate adjustment to our work has been in our methods of research for behavior selection and barrier/benefit analysis. For example, we have some food waste work where we are looking at prioritizing behaviors through waste characterizations and that work has been completely paused due to COVID-19 concerns. Planned in-depth interviews have shifted to a virtual format which has introduced challenges in scheduling, response, and connecting with interviewees. Much of the non-verbal communication is lost in the virtual format, but our interviewers are adapting and building confidence in this revised format. We have also been following discussions in the AAPOR network (American Association for Public Opinion Research) around the human subjects protection implications of conducting research (such as focus groups) in person. For example, there is some discussion as to whether it is ethical to expose participants to risk, even if social distancing measures and other protective efforts (e.g., PPE) are in place. It is likely that this type of research work will be transitioning to a virtual space for now until we more fully weigh the risks and benefits. Virtual focus groups have worked well for us, but there are also limitations in the ability to interpret non-verbal information as well as concerns about tech access for some groups. But, there are also some advantages such as the ability to draw people from a wider geographic area as well as those who may not otherwise be able to attend because of childcare and transportation. On the bright side, we have had continued success with mail surveys during this time with no adjustments to our normal protocols. Thank you for starting this dialogue. There is certainly much to learn from eachother as we adapt to changing circumstances.
President, Action Research