Social science informs best practices in communication by providing key audience insights and highlighting potential avenues for communication. Surveys have shown that 56% of NPS visitors are concerned about climate change and 61% want to learn about climate change in the park. Other research has found that concerned individuals want to learn about actions that can combat the effects of climate change. These insights suggest opportunities for parks to engage with their visitors and explain how park management plans and action strategies address a changing climate. Interns work to incorporate these social science findings and informed communication principles, such as place-based engagement and social norms messaging, into the products they develop. Below are some examples of past products.
In 2014, interns developed a “ranger toolkit” for the National Mall and Memorial Parks (NAMA). This product built on the information presented during interpretive tours of the monuments found in the park. Climate change impacts, such as sea level rise, were woven into current narratives—drawing heavily on place-based engagement and providing rangers with a new avenue for discussion on their tours. This product is still referenced frequently by park rangers at NAMA.
Videos have been integral products throughout the life of the internship—at least one video has been made every year. In 2013, interns developed a video series for Rock Creek Park. Each video had a different focus: flooding, invasive plants, “The City of Trees”, and native bird species. “The City of Trees” video integrates the history of Washington D.C.’s emphasis on preserving the city’s native tree species with climate change impacts and how these trees provide protection from flooding and erosion. By interviewing and featuring park rangers, these videos utilize trusted sources, which are vital to establishing credibility with an audience.
The 2015 group of interns developed several infographics for Harper’s Ferry National Historical Park. The infographic was developed as a timeline to show the interactions between the industrial activities that have led to climate change and flood events at Harper’s Ferry. This product has been regarded as an exemplary form of climate change communication within the NPS, as it draws on concrete facts and utilizes place-based engagement. The visual appeal and simplicity of the infographic also made it an effective communication tool.
In 2018, interns developed a series of “trading cards” to highlight the different geologic features found within the parks in the National Capital Region of the NPS. Cards were designed for each park in the region and linked to an online ESRI Storymap that expanded on the geologic features and connected them to ecology and climate change. A unifying character (Washington the Woodthrush) was found on the cards and throughout the storymap. The use of characters in communication products and educational tools has been found to increase engagement and information retention. Messages used throughout this series of products also sought to normalize climate-friendly actions as informed by social norms messaging strategies.