Humans are a highly social species – for decades, we have aggregated as large groups in concentrated spaces, forming towns and cities. While this has provided us with some benefits, such as innovation and economic growth, it has also burdened us with significant social and environmental challenges, such as overpopulation and habitat destruction.
Our lab is looking at ways in which such urban challenges can be met through the utilization of urban greenspaces. Research has shown that views and interactions with nature can benefit us physically and psychologically, from speeding up recovery of hospital patients to giving people a stronger feeling of community. We are interested in quantifying the ways in which humans benefit from these interactions with natural spaces, and also in determining how such greenspaces can best be utilized to provide benefits to the surrounding community.
Research currently focuses on the effects of increased urbanization on the ecology of the urban flying fox (Jo Towsey), the benefits of urban nature on child health and development (Liz Barber), how the extinction of (natural) experience influences mental and physical well-being and ways urban nature can be enhanced to deliver these benefits (Danielle Shanahan), and how the benefits of nature are delivered and what leads people to define themselves as nature-related (Lara Franco.)