Marion Dresner

Date of Award

Spring 7-25-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Environmental Science and Management


Environmental Science and Management

Physical Description

1 online resource (vii, 90 pages)


Natural areas -- Oregon -- Portland -- Management -- Citizen participation, Urban ecology (Biology) -- Oregon -- Portland -- Management -- Citizen participation, Motivation (Psychology), Volunteers -- Psychology




To better understand the value of those who engage in environmental stewardship of natural areas, we studied volunteer steward's motivation to participate, their sustainable behaviors and attitudes toward stewardship-related constructs. Specifically, we designed and conducted a survey of volunteers who work as stewards in urban natural areas in Portland, Oregon. We hypothesize that as volunteer frequency increases: participants will be more motivated to participate for environmental reasons, volunteers will be more likely to feel a strong connection to the stewardship site, participants will be more likely to engage in public pro-environmental behaviors, and their level of environmental literacy will increase. Participants were sampled using a face-to-face survey methodology over the course of late winter and spring of 2012 during 18 different Portland Parks and Recreation sponsored stewardship events. We examined the motivations, attitudes and behaviors of the volunteers, and devised appropriate management implications for those organizing volunteer efforts. We equated a three-tiered typology of environmental literacy, based upon the frequency of volunteer participation, and analyzed our survey data using a principal component analysis, generalized linear models, and a qualitative coding analysis. The most frequent participants showed a higher likelihood of participation in public environmental behaviors, whereas participants at all frequency levels were also likely to participate in private environmental behaviors, such as removing invasive plants in one's yard. Volunteers across all frequencies of participation were motivated to engage in stewardship events by a desire to help the environment. By understanding volunteers' motivations and linked behaviors, park managers may gain insights about the recruitment, retention, and messaging of volunteers upon whom they may depend to achieve restoration goals. We recommend considering volunteers' motivations and benefits derived from participation in messaging to recruit and retain volunteers. Additionally, park managers should take advantage of educational opportunities linked to stewardship events, such as training programs and chances for volunteer mentorship.

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