My research interests lie in exploring the relationships between humans, nature and conservation, with a particular interest in the concept of connection to nature and affecting pro-conservation behaviour change. Disconnection from nature is seen as a problem for biodiversity conservation and I am interested in investigating the initiation and development of people's connection to nature, the causes of variability in connection, plus examining how a connection to nature drives behaviour. I am involved in projects looking at the aspects of nature experiences that influence connection, how connection varies between people, the relationship between connection and human health and well-being, plus other ways to influence behaviour change.
Connection to Nature
Connection to nature is a multidimensional construct influenced by affective (emotional), behavioural and cognitive (knowledge) factors. Developing a connection to nature is thought to be one important pathway for motivating conservation behaviour. I am working with the University of Essex to examine variables correlating with differences in connection to nature across the UK population that will hopefully enable us to improve our conservation actions. I am also working on a project to develop and use methods for evaluating the effectiveness of RSPB connection to nature activities.
Biodiversity and mental health
Mental ill-health is a large and growing problem for societies globally. Previous work has illustrated the benefits of exposure to nature as part of mental health recovery. In partnership with a mental health service provider, this project is looking at the opportunities for making changes to mental health infrastructure such as hospitals and out-patient units, which can increase biodiversity and benefit the patients, carers and staff who use those spaces.
Wild Watching – activities for people living with dementia
Dementia is term that describes a set of symptoms showing a decline in mental ability. Dementia is becoming increasingly prevalent throughout the UK. In 2016 and 2017 we worked with the local Alzheimer’s Society in Dorset to develop a nature-based activity pack for people living with dementia. This packed was piloted in collaboration with a number of memory cafes throughout Dorset and Cornwall to see if there were any indications of effects on connection to nature and quality of life.
Giving nature and people a home
There is currently a huge demand for new housing in the UK. RSPB is interested in how to make new housing stock more nature friendly. As part of a large collaboration, Rebecca Jefferson and I are investigating how increasing the biodiversity of our housing stock could deliver benefits to people – does growing up in a more biodiverse place make us healthier and happier?
In conjunction with Rebecca Jefferson, I was the thematic lead on the CCI collaboration looking at impact assessment in small and medium conservation projects. More information can be found through this link http://www.cambridgeconservation.org/resource/website-resource/prism-evaluation-toolkit
- 2014 to present: Research Associate at the University of Oxford
Partners and Collaboration
- Dr Jo Barton, University of Essex
- Dr Rachel Bragg, Social Farms & Gardens UK
- Dr Holly Cressen-White, University of Bournemouth
- Dr Tobit Emmens, Devon Partnership NHS Trust
- Dr Mike Ferguson, University of Essex
- Dr Ryan Lumber, University of Derby
- Prof Miles Richardson, University of Derby
Dr Joelene Hughes
Principal Conservation Scientist, Conservation Science
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