Sprucing up Dalhousie: Understanding Students’ Knowledge and Values about Biodiversity on Dalhousie University’s Studley Campus
St. Pierre, Mariah
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Previous studies about Dalhousie University’s campus biodiversity focused primarily on indoor greenspace and how nature improved students’ productivity and wellbeing. However, little was done to explore outdoor greenspaces and the value of biodiversity in one’s life. After identifying this knowledge gap, we were curious to see how students perceived biodiversity and if they had an accurate understanding of the amount of species on campus. Seeing this gap and the increasing disconnect between humans and nature, we set out with our research question: “What are students’ perceptions on the value of biodiversity on Dalhousie’s Studley campus, and how do these perceptions compare to actual campus biodiversity?”. In order to answer our question, we created and advertised a survey aimed at undergraduate students who spend most of their time on the Studley campus. Included in the survey were questions that were specifically designed to determine if participants a) thought biodiversity was important b) thought campus biodiversity should increase and c) what the numerical range of species on campus is. Other questions were aimed at determining the type of change participants wanted to see and why they value biodiversity the way they do. We used a mixed method analysis with quantitative descriptive statistics and qualitative coding for the frequency of key words and themes. Respondent estimates of biodiversity were compared to the 2019 BioBlitz estimate, and 35% of students selected the correct numeric range. Additionally, 95% of participants indicated that biodiversity was important and 71% agreed that there should be an increase on campus, primarily in native species. Participants’ view on the importance of biodiversity were mainly influenced by education and biodiversity’s role in ecosystem health. We recommend that Dalhousie increases the variety of native species on the Studley campus, particularly flowering species. As education and media like social media were identified as the most common influences on perceptions regarding biodiversity importance, we suggest using these pathways to further educate the University population about biodiversity centred initiatives on campus as well as biodiversity in general.