Each year, over three million visitors travel to the semi-arid desert surrounding Moab, Utah. Despite a growing national desire for learning-based tourism experiences, this tourist destination offers few opportunities for visitors to engage with science-based information relevant to the region. This represents a large missed opportunity for science education, as Moab is home to world-class research in ecology, paleontology, archaeology, hydrology, and climate change that would enrich visitors' understanding and experience. To address this gap, we provided outdoor recreation guides with a day-long training to teach information and tools to effectively communicate place-based science to their thousands of yearly clients. Using the Utah High School Core Science Standards, we created curriculum tailored to relevant information for outdoor recreation guiding clientele and based scientific explanations on a “what do you see, what does it mean, why does it matter framework”. Here, we measured the effectiveness of this science education model by surveying participants on their knowledge gain and perceived ability to effectively communicate scientific concepts to clients. By the conclusion of the training program, we anticipated recreation guides would indicate an increase in knowledge of presented topics and an increase in perceived ability to communicate that knowledge.
At the conclusion of the trainings, we observed increases in participants' perceived ability to communicate science to clientele. We observed less of an increase in knowledge gain, implying that outdoor recreation guides enter into the training with a basic understanding of science relevant to the areas they are bringing clientele. Participants indicated high levels of program enjoyment and high levels of desire for continued learning. Taken together, our results suggest that providing customized training on relevant science to outdoor recreation guides can increase guide knowledge, but more substantially, can increase guides’ confidence and ability in communicating science to a wider audience. This program represents a potential model for increasing science engagement using place-based curriculum for guides in other tourist destinations.