New nature experiment to investigate link between the outdoors and wellbeing

THOUSANDS of volunteers from across the UK are needed to take part in a new nature experiment to investigate the link between the outdoors and wellbeing.

‘Nature up close and personal: A wellbeing experiment’ is investigating the relationship between nature connectedness and wellbeing.

Stanedge Tunnel – Canal & River Trust. Picture: Jason Lock

The project is a collaboration between the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH), the University of Derby and the British Science Association (BSA), and the researchers hope North West residents will be willing to offer their time to this important study to determine what effect engaging with and being aware of nature has on their wellbeing. 

A private garden or access to masses of 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 for five days over a period of eight days, the project team hope that even the busiest of people will be able to easily join in.

Participants will then be asked for feedback on their experiences using an online form.

The new 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 mental health and wellbeing and boosting the nation’s morale.

New data for the North West suggests residents have been making the most of the recent lockdown when it comes to getting outdoors and close to nature with the number of species recordings increasing by 29 per cent to the same period in 2019.

Taken from the official UKCEH species recording app – iRecord – researchers have revealed that not only have more people downloaded the app, but they are using it more frequently in order to track sightings of the UK’s native wildlife species, including insects, birds and mammals. 


Dr Michael Pocock, an Ecologist at the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, who is leading the project, said: “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. 

“And given the recent figures have shown that the North West is one of the leading parts of the UK when it comes to being up close and personal with nature, I hope residents will want to take part in this new experiment. 

“Hopefully, we will even be able to identify how different types of engagement with nature provide different impacts on the participants. 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.”  

The ‘Nature up close and personal’ project will run until August 25, and participants can sign up at any point. Once registered, the participants will be divided into five groups, each doing a different nature-based activity – from noticing to recording nature.  

To get involved, visit www.ceh.ac.uk/natureupclose to sign up and get started. Remember, these nature-based activities are simple and can be done by anyone, from nature nerds to those that feel nature passes them by – this is for everyone.  

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