Education and Outreach

Tim Campbell, UW Sea Grant
Todd Verboomen,  East Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission
Jamie Kozloski,  Kingdom Animalia Exotic Animal Rescue

  • Pet release occurs in Wisconsin, and while the Habitattitude recommendations are useful, the mechanism for those recommendations aren’t always present.
  • To provide pet owners with a convenient alternative to pet release, UW Sea Grant partnered with ECWRPC and KAEAR to host three pet amnesty days modeled off of events in Florida and Hawaii.
  • All three events took in surrendered pets and generated earned media.
  • Kingdom Animalia Exotic Animal Rescue was critical to providing a home to surrendered animals. Finding a resource like this was the most difficult part of the effort.
  • This pet amnesty day model provides an alternative to pet release and could easily be applied to other communities in order to address pet release issues.



Doug Jensen , Minnesota Sea Grant

  • Habitattitude, a national education campaign aimed at preventing the release of aquarium and water garden fish and plants, was created in 2004 as a partnership based on a $400,000 grant from the National Sea Grant College Program to the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network, led by Minnesota, which leveraged $300,000 from the US Fish and Wildlife Service and $1,100,000 from the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC).
  • Habitattitude was created in response to the growing need for a national campaign due to the increase in release and escape of plants and animals from consumers and in acknowledgement of the need for uniform, consistent messages aimed at raising awareness and changing those behaviors.
  • 225+ partners have joined the Habitattitude campaign, including agencies, academia, non-profits and all sectors of the pet industry from manufacturers, breeders, shippers, wholesalers to retailers, including large stores like PETCO and PetSmart, and internationally including PIJAC Canada.
  • A 2004 survey of consumers led by Minnesota in two cities in two states showed that the Habitattitude campaign has a strong brand presence and between 85-89% of consumers indicated that the campaign would increase awareness and knowledge and 84% would no longer release unwanted fish and plants into the environment, thereby protecting our nation’s water resources from the spread of potential AIS.
  • Habitattitude recently has been revitalized through grants to the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network, led by Minnesota, and from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which has developed several dozen new and updated communication and education tools generating millions of exposures by Sea Grant and its partners.

Dreux Watermolen, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Bret Shaw, University of Wisconsin Extension

  • Bait shop owners are a significant source of fishing-related information to transient boaters and anglers and can be important partners in helping to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.
  • Bait shop tool kits can empower bait shops with tools based on social marketing strategies such as prompts (floating key chains, bait bucket and trailer stickers) and strategic messaging informed by social science research.
  • Evaluations of tools kits involved a survey of bait shop owners and statewide AIS coordinators and included questions about awareness/knowledge, outreach efforts and participation in previous initiatives.
  • 80% of bait shops participate in AIS prevention activities, mostly in passive activities such as hanging up signs and posters, less frequently handing out materials and even less likely one-on-one engagement.  Those who participate feel they are more knowledgeable about the risk of AIS and anglers care what they say about AIS. Bait shops appreciate being recognized for their efforts. Perceived social norms are correlated with willingness to add to outreach efforts.
  • Bait shop owners like informational materials that are simple and straightforward. Prompts like floating key chains and bait bucket stickers are well received.  57% used stickers for bait buckets.



Jessica Mayer, North Carolina State University

  • Aquarium hobbyists, water gardeners and outdoor pond owners around the Great Lake states were surveyed in 2012 and 2013 about their behaviors and attitudes towards purchasing and disposal practices that prevent the spread of AIS through the organisms in trade (OIT) pathway.  The purpose of this survey was to be able to inform and create an effective campaign to addresses these audiences to prevent the introduction of AIS through the aquarium and water garden sub-pathways.
  • Focus groups and interviews informed the final survey. Surveys were administered at 16 events, yielding 542 respondents.
  • Results suggest that respondents who have high awareness of AIS, high concern for the spread of AIS and high knowledge on how to prevent AIS are more likely to properly dispose of unwanted organisms or donate species to other users. Low awareness, concern and knowledge were more likely to contact retailers for humane disposal advice or return unwanted species.
  • Future campaigns should likely: Foster personal obligation (“It’s up to me”), attribute responsibility to hobbyists (hobbyists contribute to the spread of AIS, growing native species prevents AIS spread), visualize environmental consequences, build retailer trust, enhance hobbyist network, and generate campaign materials such as booths with examples and pamphlets with purchase options.
  • The most effective campaign outlets may be booths with examples of AIS and their effect on the environment, as well as informational pamphlets included with purchases. The campaign outlets that were perceived to be the least effective were radio commercials, information smartphone Apps, and podcasts.