CFAES Give Today

School of Environment and Natural Resources


Kathleen Rose Graduate Defense Seminar

Aug 11, 2014, 11:00am - 12:00pm


Kathleen Rose, MS student in Environmental Social Sciences, will present The Influence of Communication on Perceptions of Smoke Emissions and Prescribed Fires in High Fire Risk Areas at 11:00 a.m. in 333 Kottman Hall.

In recent years, wildland fires have increased in extent and magnitude.  At the same time, the number of people living in fire prone ecosystems has increased dramatically, placing more people and private property at risk from future fire events.  Prescribed fires are important ecosystem management tools as they efficiently reduce fuel loadings and the risk and damage from wildfire outbreaks.  Substantial research has demonstrated consistent public support for the use of prescribed fires in fuels reduction efforts.  However, continuing and significant public concern regarding smoke emissions and negative air quality impacts remains and has the potential to negatively influence public acceptance of prescribed fires.  These concerns also provide an opportunity to examine the impact of communication approaches on variables influencing perceived risks and benefits that may contribute to support for smoke management and prescribed fires.  This presentation reports results from two studies designed to assess the influence of information on beliefs and attitudes towards smoke emissions and acceptability of prescribed fire.
In the first study, a mail-back/internet survey was sent to residents living nearby four National Parks in high fire risk areas.  Path analysis was used to apply the Risk Information Seeking and Processing (RISP) model to the hazard of smoke emissions in order to examine the motivating factors behind information seeking behaviors.  The second study employed an experimental design to test the influence of message frames which were developed based on Construal Level Theory and Hazard Acceptance models.  An online pre-test/post-test survey with an experimental message frame was sent to residents living near three of the National Parks included in the previous study.  Message frame influence was tested for a few variables, including prescribed fire and smoke emissions acceptance and participant knowledge.

A number of important findings resulted from the studies.  First, participants in both studies indicated they were concerned about smoke emissions from prescribed fires.  Second, general support for the RISP model was found and most residents indicated they intended to seek more information about smoke emissions, with a number of factors contributing to this intention.  Finally, information exposure and message frames were both found to impact the tested variables, including smoke emissions acceptance and worry.  In sum, the communication of information has important implications for smoke emissions management and prescribed fire support.