The Development and Testing of a Procedure for Monitoring Visitor-Horse Interactions at Assateague Island National Seashore

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Title: The Development and Testing of a Procedure for Monitoring Visitor-Horse Interactions at Assateague Island National Seashore
Author: Ingle, Margaret Christine
Advisors: Yu-Fai Leung, Committee Chair
J. Douglas Wellman, Committee Member
George Hess, Committee Member
Abstract: Developing visitor impact indicators and associated monitoring techniques are critical first steps to sustain a balance between two national park mandates, protecting resources and providing recreation opportunities. The first paper of this thesis provides a comprehensive and organized assessment of major techniques that have been developed for monitoring visitor impacts in coastal areas, with a special focus on sandy coasts and barrier islands. Four major types of monitoring techniques are identified: remote sensing, on-site assessment, behavior observation, and perception survey. Current trends in impact monitoring, including a global expansion of impact studies, integrated methodological approaches, and an increase in the application of technology, are discussed. The second paper of this thesis describes the development of a procedure to monitor visitor-feral horse interactions at Assateague Island National Seashore. The procedure uses behavior observation of visitors and wildlife and remote sensing with Global Positioning System units. The behavior observation portion adopts behavior sampling and one-zero recording based on the ethological literature. General categories of behaviors of both visitors and wildlife are recorded: neutral, attraction, avoidance, and aggression. For visitors, two additional behaviors, touching and feeding, are recorded because they are illegal behaviors and of special concern to park managers. The behavior observation portion was tested on undergraduate students for inter-observer reliability and accuracy using video surveys. Wildlife aggression was the highest in accuracy and inter-observer reliability, but did not occur on the video clips. Wildlife neutral, visitor touching, and visitor neutral were within the acceptable ranges for inter-observer reliability and accuracy. Visitor avoidance was outside of the acceptable range in both inter-observer reliability and accuracy. Implications for the implementation of the monitoring protocol include a thorough training session that includes video clips of behaviors to help observers better understand the behaviors and monitored practice observation sessions in the field.
Date: 2005-04-13
Degree: MS
Discipline: Natural Resources

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