For successful conservation and the continuation of restoration projects, public understanding, acceptance and support are essential. While research into public views related to restoration exist but large gaps remain. Studies examining attitudes related to conservation are limited and even fewer studies investigate these constructs in relation to demographic, societal or cultural factors; even fewer of these studies focus on prairies. Tall-grass prairies were once a dominate biome in Minnesota but now are an endangered ecosystem. While conservation is occurring throughout Minnesota to restore and create new prairies, there is lack of information examining the relationship of prairie restoration and the public’s views. New restoration programs include the use of bison as flagship species which can serve to promote engagement and education. Minneopa State Park recently introduced a herd of bison and provides an ideal study site to investigate. The purpose of this research was to investigate knowledge and values of visitors at a state park with a prairie ecosystem. A new research instrument PAKS, (the Prairie Attitude and Knowledge Survey), was created for this study that was designed specifically to measure three constructs: people’s attitudes, behaviors and knowledge. The instrument included statements that elicit individual’s knowledge, attitudes and behaviors related to conservation and prairies. Data collection of park visitors occurred in the summer of 2018 and comparison group in spring of 2019. The participants responses on the PAKS show consistently positive environmental views for both state park visitors and non-visitors. Almost all visitors valued a community with natural attractions and enjoyed spending time in nature however they also indicated a worry regarding environmental issues. Individuals who indicated positive attitudes toward conservation are likely to indicate positive behaviors. However, these individuals demonstrated a novice-level of knowledge. Although, 90% of responses indicated that participants are worried about environmental issues of concern in southern Minnesotans. This study not only adds to research investigating Minnesotan’s views of environmental conservation but specifically of prairies. The information gained from this study could be used in educational research and have implication in future conservation.


Brittany Smith

Committee Member

Christopher Ruhland

Committee Member

Matthew Kaproth

Date of Degree




Document Type



Master of Science (MS)


Biological Sciences


Science, Engineering and Technology



Rights Statement

In Copyright