NAAEE Behavior Change eePRO Group Meeting


NAAEE Behavior Change eePRO Group Meeting

At the virtual NAAEE 49th Annual Conference the Behavior Change eePRO Group held a Zoom meeting for conference attendees who wanted to gather. The purpose of this blog post is to publicly share the resources that were given by call participants. We’ve also included a survey to understand how best we can support you and gauge interest in another virtual meeting.

Who Was There

The Behavior Change eePRO Group meeting at this year’s NAAEE was well attended. We had professionals spanning the country, from Pomona, California to Riverside, Rhode Island. Our formal educators joined too, from schools like Humboldt State University, Utah State University, and North Carolina State University. We also had folks representing the Nevada Department of Wildlife, Oakland Zoo, Galveston Bay Foundation, and more!

The work you are all doing is incredible and inspiring. In Hawaii, Megan Warner is guiding teenagers with mental health challenges on hikes, gardening experiences, cultural field trips, and environmental science lessons. Dana O’Mara is using humor to connect folks to nature through her parody web series, Nature Laughs

While the work you are all doing is tough, it’s important. Healthy Outdoor Communities is promoting equitable access to nature and green space as an equalizer in the fight against health disparities in urban communities. Caitlin Kempski is researching Keeper Talks at AZA-accredited facilities and is looking at zookeeper diversity. 

Our group crossed disciplines and boundaries. We had a painter and video artist amidst environmental educators and nonprofit founders.

It was a pleasure to gather with you all at this year’s virtual NACCB conference. For those of you who shared contact information in the Zoom chat box, we will circulate those details in an email so we can connect with one another.

Sharing Knowledge and Resources

The following topics and resources were shared in the Zoom call chatbox, organized by theme. 

Tools of Engagement

Tools of Engagement: A Toolkit for Engaging People in Conservation is available to download on the NAAEE website which provides ideas and resources about how to best engage people in your conservation work. The Toolkit is divided into six sections. The first four sections (A-D) focus on 20 core planning steps. Section E provides planning tools that can help individuals and groups work through the steps in the planning process. The last section (Section F) includes a glossary and resources, as well as an introduction to each of the complementary modules.

We also recommend checking out Heather Kuhlken's work leading family outdoor and environmental education experiences (they have lots of great virtual resources for you here!) 

Empathy in Conservation

Empathy was a hot topic at the meeting. Participants advocated for intersecting our conservation work with empathy, an increasing focus in the field. As the Executive Director of Advocates for Snakes Preservation (ASP), Melissa Amarello leads an organization that uses stories of individual snakes to encourage empathy and teach about relatively unknown snake behaviors.
 They also use animal behavior storytelling to capture their audience and inspire empathy
 and curiosity

If you’re interested in empathy, check out the Seattle Aquarium’s Developing Empathy for Conservation Outcomes Conference on Thursday, November 19, 2020, 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm

Behavior Change and Social Marketing

For those of you still struggling to get your internal organization, department, or team on board with behavior change and social marketing, you're not alone. Some noted difficulties with getting their communications department to support social marketing work. Participants expressed how it’s difficult to explain that EE and social marketing are more than simply conveying information. These challenges are real, and we are interested in learning more about how we can help you communicate the importance of your work to others in your organization. 

Conducting audience research is an important component of behavior change work. Kelly Dennings shared shoestring budget options which include: 

  • literature reviews
  • intercept interviews
  • in-depth interviews
  • photo voice
  • journey mapping
  • quick survey

As a cost-saving measure, others recommended partnering with academic institutions. One participant shared how their Fish and Wildlife Service office was able to have academic research produced at a low cost. Try first reaching out to your local universities, but don’t limit yourself geographically. Try researching out to departments or schools that align with your research interests. 

If you’re looking for behavior change and social marketing case studies, Tools of Change, a website coordinated by Jay Kassirer, offers a valuable database, organized by topic. If you're interested in community-based social marketing, check out work by Dr. Doug McKenzie.

The Social Marketing Association of North America (SMANA) manages a listserv and is a place for professionals to share career opportunities, tools and resources, upcoming events, questions, and social marketing news.

During the Zoom call, pride of place was discussed and a few participants mentioned the use of mascots. A classic example of mascot use for conservation behavior change is Smokey the Bear. Rare, a nonprofit leveraging behavioral insights and design thinking approaches, is well-known for its use of mascots in conservation campaigns. You can read more in their report, The Principles of Pride: the science behind the mascots, which compiles the insights and experience from individuals within Rare and its partners over 25 years of experience. Rare received more recognition in the chatbox as one of our chat members worked on climate change adaptation with the organization in Micronesia!

Also, be sure to check out the recording of the Blah Blah Blah Behavior Change symposium, which took place at the NAAEE Conference on Wed. Oct 14, 2020 from 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM. Over 600 people attended for a rich discussion on conservation behavior and action. The recordings are available on the Whova platform for one year, until September 2021.

Mindful and Nonviolent Communication 

For those of you interested in integrating mindfulness into your professional development, check out the Earth Holder Community, a global community of mindfulness practitioners. Also, look into work on mindfulness-based environmentalism and non-violent communication, otherwise known as NVC. A well-known NVC author teacher is Oren Jay Sofer. In fact, through the Whova platform, you can access a recording of the conference session, Nonviolent Communication, Empowerment for Sustainability Dialogues: Incorporating "Nonviolent Communication (NVC)" in EE, which was held Wed. Oct 14, 2020. 

ReThink Outside, a partnership between Blue Sky Funders Forum, funders, practitioners, and researchers, shares tools and research on communication for practitioners on their website. And the following academic article, available on ResearchGate, was shared: Mindfulness and Sustainable Consumption: A Systematic Literature Review of Research Approaches and Findings.

Stay Involved with Our eePRO Behavior Change Community

  • We’d like to feature you and the impactful work you’re doing. If you’re interested in featuring your work, email Rosemary.
  • Do you have a conservation behavior change topic you’re passionate about? Try guest blogging for us! If you’re interested, email Rosemary.
  • We encourage you to join our free eePRO community to continue connecting and sharing resources and ideas. If you’ve already joined, stay active in our eePro group by actively posting in our discussions and forums. 
  • Lastly, we’d like to better understand how we can support you. Some of you suggested monthly virtual meet-ups or ‘clinics’ where folks can sign-up to get help with specific projects. Please complete this short survey so we better understand how to support you.


Thanks for putting this overview together. One minor edit, the Tools of Change website is not part of Doug's work. It is coordinated by Jay Kassirer (also based in Canada). Doug helps review content but it isn't the same as his site - I look forward to meeting with everyone again.