The Department of Forestry at Southern Illinois University, in cooperation with the Mississippi River Basin Panel on Aquatic Nuisance Species and Illinois DNR has recently begun a project to determine the level of awareness regarding aquatic invasive species among Illinois’ boaters. Subjects from the 11-county region (River to River CWMA) of southernmost Illinois have been selected based on boater registrations from IDNR’s database. Some organizational registrations were removed (like DNR vendors who rent boats on a single water only). The survey instrument contains 21 questions related to recreational activities, prevention actions which respondents currently practice, perceived importance of ANS prevention, watercraft use in out-of-state waters, and the most effective means of outreach.
Dr. Mae Davenport, an assistant professor in Forestry and leader of the Human Dimensions Research Unit, along with undergraduate student, Hunter Rawlings, are coordinating the project. Plans are underway for a follow-up statewide survey related to VHS and other target invasive species as a result of data generated in this effort. 1000 surveys were sent in early March, and responses are already being returned. One responded replied the survey was “thought-provoking” and stated further “I think that what made me the happiest about your survey instrument was the fact that it functioned as an educational tool rather than just as a device for gathering data.” The study findings will provide invaluable information to natural resource managers and educators about current boating practices and how to best communicate with southern Illinois boaters about ANS prevention.
A preliminary technical report is expected in late June.