A web-based survey will evaluate Minnesotans’ attitudes and risk perceptions related to the use of genetic modification techniques for the control of invasive species. Very little is known about public attitudes or risk perceptions concerning the use of genetic modifications for aquatic invasive species control. The purpose of this proposed project is to better describe public understanding and attitudes towards the use of advance genetic modification techniques as control tools for invasive species.
To thoroughly address the purpose, this research must investigate attitudes towards these techniques within the context of specifically understanding attitudes toward the invasive species and their impacts. Recent research on the human and social dimensions of invasive species provides guidance for the design of the proposed research. Although a robust literature concerning the human and social dimensions of invasive species management and governance has developed, there is limited research specific to the use of genetic techniques to control invasive species. The study proposed here addresses that gap in research. This study represents a crucial upstream evaluation of public attitudes and perceptions that will enable subsequent engagement to develop governance in the use of genetic technology for these purposes in Minnesota. This project will provide baseline information about Minnesota residents’ attitudes and risk perceptions toward genetic modification techniques as an approach for managing aquatic invasive species. The outcomes of this study include improving knowledge of the preferences and risk perceptions of using these techniques among the general population of Minnesota, tribal communities, and specific stakeholder and user groups such as anglers and boaters in the state. The focus will be on attitudes and risk perceptions toward using genetic modification to help control invasive species in general as well as two specific, widespread invasive species: common carp and zebra mussels. In addition, the project will help clarify the social psychological antecedents and consequences of these attitudes and risk perceptions. Focus groups and interviews will be used to assist survey design, and we will use mixed-modal surveys with web-based data collection. We will also implement a discrete choice experiment within the survey to better understand the attributes driving choices concerning the use of genetic technology. A total of 3200 surveys are targeted for completion from the Minnesota general public, lakeshore homeowners, anglers, and boaters.
1) to understand the attitudes, risk perceptions, and level of support for using genetic techniques in controlling two invasive aquatic species in Minnesota (e.g., common carp and zebra mussel);
2) to understand the antecedents/consequences to attitudes, risk perceptions, and level of support for using genetic techniques in these two specific cases;
3) to understand the general preferences for using genetic techniques in the management of invasive species in Minnesota, the antecedents/consequences of these preferences, and the population heterogeneity related to these preferences; 4) to explore and gain an initial understanding of potential concerns of tribal communities in Minnesota with using genetic techniques for invasive species control.
In 2021, researchers developed a preliminary framework for modeling the presence-absence of Eurasian watermilfoil that integrates data from point-intercept sampling and data quantifying boater movement between lakes with the following features:
- AIS presence is modeled as a function of habitat suitability and propagule pressure coming from infested lakes
- Detection of AIS is dependent on sampling effort (number of point-intercept samples)
The team also successfully fit the model to data using a Bayesian framework and are currently developing a small set of sub-models that differ in terms of their predictor variables and other assumptions (e.g., whether relationships between predictor and response variables are linear or non-linear, whether certain parameters are constant or time-varying). This work is important because it will allow the team to quantify the relative role of habitat suitability and lake connectivity (from boater traffic) on the presence and spread of Eurasian watermilfoil.
Researchers are also working to develop code to simulate AIS presence/absence data, which will be used to evaluate our integrated modeling framework. Lastly, the team is working to exploring ways that they might be able to modify the modeling approach to integrate point-intercept data with opportunistic data collected from volunteers. The goal of that work will be to model within-lake sampling biases present in citizen-science data (e.g., sampling concentrated near public boat launches and other highly accessible locations).