Montana Climate Assessment Geocaching Outreach Project
Worldwide, four million people participate in geocaching--a game of discovering hidden treasures with GPS-enabled devices (including smart phones). Geocachers span all ages and tend to be interested in technology and the outdoors. To share information about the Montana Climate Assessment (MCA), an NSF-funded scientific report, Montana State University created a custom trackable geocaching coin featuring the MCA Website and logo. We then recruited volunteers to hide one coin in each of Montana’s 56 counties. Volunteer geocachers enthusiastically adopted all 56 counties, wrote blogs and social media posts about the coins, and engaged local Scout troops and schools. Other geocachers then found and circulated the coins while learning about Montana’s climate. One coin has traveled nearly 4,000 miles; several have visited other states and Canada. 95% of the volunteers said the project made them feel more connected to university research, and they told an average of seven other people about the project. Nearly all of the participants were unfamiliar with the Montana Climate Assessment prior to participating. The geocaching educational outreach project included several partnerships, including with Geocaching Headquarters in Seattle (a.k.a. “Groundspeak”); Cache Advance, Inc., an environmentally friendly outdoor gear company; and Gallatin Valley Geocachers. An advisory board of geocachers helped launch the project.
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