Publication Date

Summer 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Environmental Studies


Lynne Trulio


docent, education, environment, harbor seals, san francisco bay, sign

Subject Areas

Environmental studies; Environmental education; Natural resource management


Environmental education can affect attitudes and behaviors, but determining the most effective methods for protecting wildlife requires research. This study examined the effect of two modes of environmental education, one passive and one active, on the behaviors of boaters toward harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) at Corkscrew Slough in Redwood City, California, an area where harbor seals haul out and pup. Thirty-one boaters viewed an interpretive sign (passive environmental mode) and 30 experienced a docent talk (active) both designed to educate boaters on protecting harbor seals; 31 boaters received no environmental information (the control), therefore were not exposed to the interpretive sign or the docent talk. I collected data on how these boaters responded to harbor seals in Corkscrew Slough and on the response of harbor seals to the boaters. Data were analyzed with ANOVA and Chi-square to assess differences between treatments. Boaters exposed to signs or docents stayed significantly further from the seals compared to boaters not exposed to any environmental education. However, neither the sign nor the docent reduced the length of time boaters spent traveling through the Slough compared to the control, nor was the number of boaters stopping to observe seals reduced. Harbor seals showed no difference in disturbance responses to boaters, no matter what the mode of education for the boaters. These results suggest signs and docents may change some boater behavior but that managers should not depend solely on these educational approaches to protect sensitive wildlife