ABSTRACT In an attempt to develop an appreciation for amphibians and reptiles among non-science majors, we integrated field work and hands-on herpetology into our instruction of a non-laboratory lecture course. We used a pre-test/post-test survey and paired t-tests to evaluate student empathy for a variety of organisms, including salamanders and snakes. We likewise used reflective journals to monitor student attitudes toward amphibians and reptiles throughout the field experience and structured interviews to more fully explore emerging themes. Quantitatively, student empathy towards salamanders, the one organism to which they were routinely exposed, was greater after completion of the field experience. Likewise, several students expressed a greater appreciation for and comfort with amphibians and reptiles, as measured through reflective journaling and qualitative interviews. These findings suggest that actively engaging students in the field and exposing them to amphibian and reptile conservation may enhance the appreciation of these species, alleviate or lessen herpetophobia, and promote environmental protection. The broader impacts of these findings have clear ties to the management of non-game biodiversity and conservation implications for the global environment. Furthermore, natural resource managers and teachers in higher education should carefully integrate experiential education and reflective practice into their programs to enhance environmental awareness among their students, along with a desire to conserve non-game biodiversity, including amphibians and reptiles.
Cite this paper
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