A citizen science project is investigating the relationship between nature and people’s wellbeing.
‘Nature up close and personal: A wellbeing experiment’ is a collaboration between the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH), the University of Derby and the British Science Association (BSA).
Thousands of volunteers from across the UK are needed to take part in simple, 10-minute, nature-based activities for five days across one week, before 25 August 2020. Participants will then be asked to feedback on their experience using an online form.
The scientists involved in the project say it is the first time that researchers have combined citizen science and nature-connectedness to look at the impact on wellbeing.
The £58,000 study has been funded by a COVID-19 urgency grant from the Natural Environment Research Council. Over the past few months, the role of nature and the great outdoors has been vital for many people – helping to improve our mental health and wellbeing, and boosting the nation’s morale.
Dr Michael Pocock, an Ecologist at the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, who is leading the project, hopes it will provide new evidence of the benefits of citizen science.
He says: “Although there is already lots of evidence of the positive impact the natural environment has on our wellbeing, many of the studies have been on exposure or time spent in natural spaces, rather than how engaged with nature people are. We hope that through this new project, we will discover the impact of different types of nature-based activity on our wellbeing and connectedness with nature.
“We can then make evidence-based recommendations on how to develop activities to help mitigate the negative effects of social isolation. This is particularly relevant now with the effects of the COVID-19 crisis.”
Participants can sign up at any point over the six-week period, then participate in their nature-based activities across a week. The participants will be divided into five groups, each doing a different nature-based activity – from noticing to recording nature.
We hope we will discover the impact of different types of nature-based activity on our wellbeing and connectedness with nature - Dr Michael Pocock
A private garden or access to a large open space is not required – a local park, patch of weedy ground, or even a balcony is all that is needed. And with activities taking between 10-15 minutes a day, the project team hopes that even the busiest of people will be able to easily join in.
Professor Miles Richardson of the University of Derby, says: “In this project, we will test whether the benefits of citizen science are unique, add to or complement those that ask people to simply enjoy the good things in nature.”
Katherine Mathieson, Chief Executive of the British Science Association, adds that although restrictions on people’s movement and physical distancing are necessary to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, there are serious concerns about the impact on people’s wellbeing. “By using nature-based citizen science in parks, gardens or as part of our daily exercise routine, we could potentially mitigate some of the negative effects of social isolation as well as offering a great way for the public to be involved in science and real-life research,” she says.
To get involved in the project, visit www.ceh.ac.uk/natureupclose
‘Nature up close and personal: A wellbeing experiment’ has been developed thanks to a COVID-19 urgency grant (NE/V009656/1) from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).