An Evaluation of the Naturalist on Board Interpretive Program in the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary




Stephenson, Ronald J.

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This research is an evaluation of the volunteer-based Naturalist on Board (NOB) program in the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS) in the Gulf of Mexico as a natural resource management tool for preventing coral reef damage during the summer months of 2001. Staff has responsibility for maintaining balance between use and its impact. The purpose is to realize program potential. Research questions address the relationship of the program to protection. The focus is identification of strengths and weaknesses, and determination of appropriateness and effectiveness for protecting resources, and serving education and outreach mandates. Research seeks ways to remediate weaknesses and maximize advantages of strengths. Design was based on conducting mixed-methods, exploratory, goal-free evaluation of program development, factors that shaped the program, and an assessment of meeting objectives. Methods include case study based on survey of key informants, investigation of Sanctuary documents, and a survey of 896 Sanctuary recreational Scuba divers. The focus is what the program is doing and its results. Studies of the effectiveness of interpretation in reducing damage to coral reefs by divers and snorkelers in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are limited. This research demonstrates that the NOB can be an effective way to help protect Sanctuary coral reef resources from diver impact. Requirements for success including funding, volunteers, a water-based setting, a cooperative host, a strong sponsor, a receptive audience, optimal teaching/learning opportunities are already in place.



coral reef ecology, volunteer workers in science, marine parks and reserves


Stephenson, R.J. (2008). An evaluation of the Naturalist on Board interpretive program in the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (Unpublished dissertation). Texas State University-San Marcos, San Marcos, Texas.


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