Understanding how biodiverse ecosystems underpin human wellbeing via surveys with woodland visitors
Lead Supervisor: Prof Zoe Davies
Location: University of Kent, Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE)
Duration: 6 weeks
Suitable undergraduate degrees: Conservation, Ecology, Environmental Science, Sustainability, Geography, Psychology
There is growing evidence to show that being in natural environments, such as woodlands, leads to improvements in human wellbeing. This can be achieved across the five domains of health: physical (e.g. relaxation), cognitive (e.g. restored attention), emotional (e.g. improved mood), social (e.g. cohesion) and spiritual (e.g. awe). However, the specific role biodiversity plays in such nature-health relationships is still rarely considered. This gap in our understanding limits our ability to manage natural environments more effectively to maximise both biodiversity conservation and public health.
Consequently, a team of researchers from University of Kent, University of Leeds and James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen have developed and validated a self-reported psychometric wellbeing scale, BIO-WELL, which incorporates biodiversity metrics such as, ecological qualities of nature (e.g. species diversity), ecological processes (e.g. species interactions) and specific attributes (e.g. colours, smells) (Irvine et al. 2023 Journal of Environmental Psychology). This placement project involves helping the team collect and analyse questionnaire data gathered from within woodlands (locations to be decided in discussion with the student).
Duties of the student
The placement student will be part of a wider project team at University of Kent, including Prof Zoe Davies, two postdoctoral researchers, a PhD student and an MSc student. The project team are currently working in close collaboration with Woodland Trust to examine the value of woodland biodiversity for human health and wellbeing across Britain. The student will be trained and supported by the team. They will have the opportunity to develop skills and gain experience in how to deliver questionnaires to members of the public, statistically analyse the resulting data in R and interpret their findings.
The ideal candidate
The preferred candidate will be someone passionate about contributing to research on human-biodiversity interactions. The student will need to be willing to gather data independently, once trained (a ‘buddy system’ will be in place for health and safety). Gathering questionnaire data in-situ within woodlands will require working unusual hours (e.g. when the public are most likely to be visiting natural environments, such as in the early evening after normal working hours and over weekends) and being flexible (e.g. changing locations if a particular woodland is not visited by many people).
We would like to encourage applicants from underserved groups, such as students from low- or middle-income countries or minority groups. However, applications from individuals of all backgrounds are welcome.