Finding the Feel-Good Factor: Relating Human Subjective Wellbeing to Biodiversity

Lead Research Organisation: University of Kent
Department Name: Durrell Inst Conservation and Ecology


We live in a time of profound environmental change. Phenomena such as urbanisation and agricultural intensification are degrading ecosystems and decreasing biodiversity. Yet, while it is widely asserted in research, policy and practice arenas that interacting with nature is fundamental to human subjective wellbeing, there is little evidence characterising how biodiversity underpins this accepted truth. This PhD tackles this challenging problem by working across the disciplines of human geography, environmental psychology and ecology.

Study system

(1) Explore how people relate to different biodiversity attributes (e.g. particular morphologies, sounds, smells, ecological behaviours), both positively and negatively.
(2) Quantify variation in how people value different biodiversity attributes in relation to their social characteristics/identities (e.g. age, gender, ethnicity, experience of rural-urban living).
(3) Examine whether increased biodiversity awareness/knowledge and biodiversity on sites interact to deliver non-additive wellbeing benefits.

Research methods
The studentship will entail a mixed methods approach:
(1) Thematic analyses of how motifs, imagery and sounds centred on human relationships with woodland biodiversity attributes are conveyed in the arts (e.g. paintings, film, music).
(2) Participatory video with local communities to investigate people's interactions and relationships with woodland biodiversity attributes.
(3) In-situ and online questionnaires to assess human subjective wellbeing, biodiversity awareness and the (un)desirability of woodland biodiversity attributes.
(4) Biodiversity manipulations and surveys in woodland sites to relate to wellbeing results obtained from the questionnaires.

Depending on the successful candidate's background, training could include biodiversity survey skills, quantitative and qualitative social science data collection and analytical techniques (e.g. participatory visual methods, questionnaire design, NVivo, R), academic skills (e.g. writing journal papers, interdisciplinary collaboration), and transferable skills (e.g. multi-media communication, time management, collaboration with government and non-academic partners).


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
NE/S007334/1 30/09/2019 29/09/2027
2270321 Studentship NE/S007334/1 15/09/2019 31/12/2023 Alice Milton