ISG+ New Project: NC Aquariums prepare a green power(ful) experiment

This guest post by Windy Arey-Kent of NC Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores is the first in a 3-part series on their Innovative Solutions Grants+ project, aimed at testing different approaches to engaging guests for conservation action at aquariums.

The North Carolina Aquariums are excited to be working with The Ocean Project on their Innovative Solutions Grant projects in 2014. There are four NC Aquarium sites that are each participating; the Aquarium at Fort Fisher, Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, Aquarium at Roanoke Island and Jennette’s Pier at Nags Head. Each of the sites, working in cooperation with Greenlight Energy, will be focusing our efforts to promote and market clean energy in the form of Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) to our visitors during the peak visitation months of May – September, 2014.2417741502_26d4a3632c-199x300

The three Aquarium facilities will be testing separate interpretive messages and approaches to see which approach is most effective in motivating our visitors to engage in a specific conservation ‘ask’, and to take personal action by purchasing REC’s for their homes. In turn, each site will receive a 1:1 match from Greenlight; for each REC purchased at a site, that facility will receive a REC to move each of us towards a goal of 100% green power. The pier site, offering a very different facility and path for visitors, will offer this opportunity for visitors through a stand-alone kiosk.

There will be similarities at each site in our content, our ‘ask’, and the types of information given to visitors regarding the program and green power, in general. The approach at each site however, is the variable that we will be testing.

    • At Fort Fisher, educators will be utilizing the NNOCCI model (National Network for Ocean and Climate Change Interpretation) of interpretation where emphasis is placed on framing and engaging audiences in a positive way to overcome barriers and think productively about solutions to climate change and ocean acidification.


    • At Roanoke Island, a single conservation educator will be versed in promoting REC’s to visitors one-on-one, and will be able to engage in in-depth conversations about green power, REC’s, and the environmental consequences to living in a carbon-reliant society.


    • A third model at Pine Knoll Shores, will take a community-based social marketing approach that utilizes the principles of conservation psychology to stress the benefits of purchasing REC’s for the Aquarium and its’ animals.


  • The pier site, a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified facility with wind turbines and green power showcased on-site, will offer a kiosk where visitors are inspired to action, not through interpretation, but as a result of their visit to the site itself.

To evaluate the effectiveness of each approach and method, we will utilize technology provided by Greenlight Energy that offers visitors an on-site ‘dashboard’ for sign-ups through tablets, cell phones or laptops.  In addition, there will be a “text to” option for visitors onsite to gain more information on the program or directly sign up to purchase REC’s for their own homes. We will test each approach by measuring:

  • the numbers of inquiries for additional information (texts sent or hits to each individual ‘landing page)
  • how many visitors  purchase REC’s
  • visitor satisfaction in the program, using ipad surveys and visitor intercepts at each site.

We will then compare the three approaches at the Aquariums to the kiosk at the pier, which relies on the visual inspiration and behavior modeling to inspire action. Progress and results will be disseminated widely amongst our colleagues in the aquarium, zoo and museum communities, both by way of this blog and using sites such as climate interpreter, as well as, we hope, at the AZA annual meeting. Send along a note if you want to know more. We welcome your feedback!

- Windy Arey-Kent, Education Curator at North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores