Publication Details

Why count trees? Volunteer motivations and experiences with tree monitoring in New York City

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Year Published

2018

Publication

Arboriculture & Urban Forestry. 44(2): 59?72.

Abstract

Volunteer programs can benefit from a deeper understanding of the motivations and experiences of people engaged in citizen science. Research to date has studied motivations of citizen scientists and tree-planting volunteers. Less work has focused on tree-monitoring volunteers, a role that is rapidly increasing as more cities involve the public in monitoring the urban forest. Researchers conducted an assessment of volunteers (n = 636 respondents) of the TreesCount! 2015 street tree census in New York City, New York, U.S., to understand volunteers' demographics, motivations, experiences, and levels of civic engagement. Semistructured interviews (n = 40) were also conducted on a subset of the initial assessment respondents, to deepen understanding of these factors. Like tree-planting volunteers in previous studies, volunteers were more likely to be highly educated, female, white, and with high income levels. Top self-identified motivations for participation included personal values, wanting to contribute, and a desire for education or learning. Demographics correlated with different motivations, suggesting opportunities for targeting recruitment efforts to better reach underrepresented populations. Researchers also found motivations shifted slightly in post-census interviews, also identifying a new theme of exploring the city. Street-tree monitoring presents opportunities for contributing to one's community or city, and for learning about trees and urban nature, suggesting these acts of engagement can both strengthen connections to social-ecological systems and provide personal benefits. At the same time, considering volunteer motivations, experiences, and outcomes when designing programs can positively affect participation turnout, effort, and retention.

Citation

Johnson, Michelle L.; Campbell, Lindsay K.; Svendsen, Erika S.; Silva, Philip. 2018. Why count trees? Volunteer motivations and experiences with tree monitoring in New York City. Arboriculture & Urban Forestry. 44(2): 59–72.

Last updated on: March 14, 2018