Biodiversity messaging to generation Y students at the Durban University of Technology, KwaZulu-Natal.
Foley, Jonathan Bernard.
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This study deals with the intersection of three global influences that are rapidly changing our world; the first a looming environmental crisis or loss of biodiversity, the second the growing influence of a new generation of students (Generation Y) who possess the ability and power to reshape the socio political, economic and cultural landscape and finally the phenomenal power and penetration of multimedia communication platforms. Mindful of these global themes and context this particular research focuses on a relatively new area of study not yet covered in the literature, that of South African university students perceptions of nature. The study involved establishing the extent of the knowledge, attitudes and perceptions of South African students (Generation Y) toward Nature, discovering how they connect with local biodiversity and determining the best communication modes for reaching this audience. The work posited that Generation Y students may be unfamiliar with the exact meaning and significance of the term biodiversity but could respond positively when exposed to nature based experiences at accessible botanic gardens, and protected urban green spaces. Student opinions (n= 428) at the Durban University of Technology were sampled statistically using an appropriate survey instrument. The resultant quantitative data revealed significant student levels of concern for biodiversity loss and a strong cultural bias in terms of personal linkages with medicinal plants. Visitor frequency to nature reserves was low however the use of botanic gardens proved more popular. Visual modes of communication such as television were preferred over text modalities and while the influence of multimedia electronic platforms was acknowledged the possible use of nature apps received a limited response. Qualitative data gathered from four focus groups involved guided discussion on the relevance of biodiversity, and local field visits to Pigeon Valley Nature Reserve and the Durban Botanic Gardens. Students produced response posters which revealed high levels of personal empathy and connection to nature, emphasizing existing cultural connections with local plants. A biodiversity communication model for South African university students was presented building on these findings.