USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) declared April as Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness Month and asked that people join a fight they can’t win alone. In one Michigan county, APHIS will have some unlikely helpers too – goats! Starting next month, goats will graze on invasive species as part of a parks department pilot program.
Though experts have deemed invasive species a serious risk, many laypeople don’t think invasive species are particularly dangerous or relevant (and thus don’t allocate many if any resources to learning about them or reducing them). A lack of public engagement and shared responsibility is problematic given a simple action or uninformed decision can wreak havoc on our environment. For example, a seemingly harmless souvenir or food item obtained while traveling abroad could harbor a dangerous disease.
Important as these issues are, most people hardly think about invasive species risks. The challenge then is identifying the behavioral motivations of various audience segments and communicating with them in such a way that those risks become relevant and adequately severe to facilitate improved voluntary compliance.
So, how do we do that? Communication research, of course.
I’ll be speaking about some of these issues at the upcoming USF Social Marketing Conference in June. Until then, you can check out APHIS’ series of blog entries on the topic, or visit Hungry Pests for more information on how you can help prevent the spread of invasive species.
Images: Bugwood Blogspot