Factors Influencing Natural Science Graduate Students' Attitudes About The Environment

Date of Graduation

Summer 2002


Master of Natural and Applied Science in Biology



Committee Chair

Janice Greene


Research indicates that environmental attitudes are a function of degree choice and that people who choose careers in science (e.g. natural science graduate students) have a generally positive attitude about the environment. The question is, why is this true? What factors have influenced their positive attitudes about the environment? A quantitative survey was developed to determine which factors are important. The survey contained questions about current and childhood experiences, influential people, and influential factors. The New Environmental Paradigm was used to assess the environmental concern of the subjects. The subjects for this study were natural science graduate students at two midwestern universities (n = 149). Biology and geology students had significantly higher environmental concern scores and levels of participation in outdoor activities as adults compared to other students. The people who had the most influence on the subjects' environmental attitudes were parents and college professors. Three types of experiences were identified as being influential in shaping the subjects' environmental attitudes: outdoor/nature, familial, educational. These data indicate that natural science graduate students often have similar childhood experiences that may be related to their overall positive feelings about the environment and participation in outdoor activities as adults may influence their environmental attitudes. Results from this study indicate that parents and college professors should encourage students to participate in more outdoor activites. College professors should integrate more environmental science topics into their curriculum and be a positive role model for their students.

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© Angela Wilbers