Date of Award

8-2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Wildlife and Fisheries Biology

Advisor

Lanham, Joseph D

Committee Member

Andres, Brad

Committee Member

Baldwin, Elizabeth

Committee Member

Yarrow, Greg

Committee Member

Rodriguez, Shari

Abstract

Coastline habitats along the eastern seaboard of North America serve as prime locations for beachfront development and consumptive and non-consumptive recreational opportunities. Many of these areas are also globally important nesting and wintering areas for threatened and endangered shorebirds (primarily species belonging to the order Charadriiformes). Across the span of their hemispheric ranges, shorebirds face significant threats due to increases habitat loss, human disturbance, and illegal hunting practices. With coastline use increasing human-wildlife interactions, positive public input and interaction is needed to mitigate negative consequences to wildlife. Although many techniques have been employed to discourage beach users from practicing recreational activities that cause disturbance and potential harm to beach-nesting shorebirds, these birds still experience disturbance from human activities on coastal shorelines. To date there is limited information available on public understanding, perceived value, and support regarding the management and protection of beach-nesting shorebirds. The study herein was conducted to assess public knowledge and perception about beach nesting shorebirds and the management of their habitats. Using a random purposeful sample, we surveyed 100 individuals on six Cape Cod, Massachusetts beaches during the summer months (May - September) of 2013, using a mixed methods approach for qualitative and quantitative data collection. The results demonstrated that beach-users on Cape Cod are aware of and support the need for shorebird protection, with the most significant relationship existing between the beach-users' feelings regarding beach closures and the protection of beaches for shorebirds. However, these results indicate current signage used to manage beach-users in beach-nesting shorebird habitats on Cape Cod, is not an effective tool for communicating management of shorebirds and management of shorebird breeding habitat. Additionally, the results demonstrated that three factors (lack of knowledge, co-existence, and inconvenience/self-interest) influenced individuals' values toward shorebird conservation and management. The majority of respondents lacked knowledge regarding beach nesting shorebirds and their need for management due to two factors: ignorance about the role of the management agency in managing shorebirds and their habitat, and the management agency's negative image among beach-users. Aside from this lack of knowledge, the need for coexistence by beach - users, and the inconvenience/self-interest experienced by beach-users influenced the respondent's perception regarding the management and protection of beach nesting shorebirds and their habitat. These factors affect the perceptions and attitudes of beach-users, which ultimately effects the protection and management of beach nesting shorebirds on Cape Cod. With an increase in understanding and appreciation of shorebirds through education strategies, these factors could influence or change the perception of shorebird conservation on Cape Cod.

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