Creating informed consumers of aquatic invasive species management programs through online education for nonprofessionals.
There are limited educational opportunities regarding aquatic invasive species (AIS) management that target laypersons. This is a significant gap, particularly as nonprofessionals are often tasked with making decisions about whether and how to pursue AIS control efforts, for example, through their roles in community lake associations. Thus, there is a need for educational programs to help consumers of AIS management services, "do-it-yourself" lakeshore homeowners, and other engaged nonprofessionals gain a stronger foundation in the science and practice of AIS management. We helped fill this unmet need through development of a new online course, AIS Management 101, that targets lakeshore property owners, lake association members, and other nonprofessionals engaged in AIS decision making, seeking to make them better-informed consumers. The course covers concepts ranging from basic invasive species biology to pesticide science, treatment evaluation, regulations and permitting, and nonchemical management tools. Participants in the course demonstrated significant knowledge gains through check-in and check-out knowledge assessments. Course participants also reported greater understanding of key issues pertaining to AIS management and application of this improved knowledge to actual management decisions following completion of the course. While this program focuses on management of aquatic invasive species, similar approaches could be applied to lay audiences engaged in management of terrestrial invasive species or other natural resource issues.