There is increasing evidence to show that green spaces provide mental-health benefits, greater wellbeing, and lower levels of depression, stress, and anxiety. However, we don’t all have equal access to such spaces so researchers in UCC have been developing a major new Citizen Science project to support immersion in nature, even when access to traditional green spaces may be limited.
The NatureWatch project links nature and technology to support the wellbeing of older adults. The team, which is funded by Science Foundation Ireland’s Discover Programme have been developing training materials and exercises for people who are interested in exploring nature, photography, technology, and wellbeing.
“Participants have been actively using technology to observe nature in their own areas- immersing themselves with the surrounding wildlife, and telling us that they want to learn more about the species in their gardens, towns, and cities,” explains Dr Paul Holloway who is leading the project.
“This is especially important as we are in the midst of a biodiversity crisis, with over 1 million species threatened with extinction globally, with some once-familiar Irish species included in this list, such as the curlew. People who have a deeper connection with and understanding of nature are more likely to live in an environmentally-friendly way, benefitting both nature and themselves.”
The training developed within this project supports individuals to identify different bird and plant species, with photos and recordings uploaded to the project website. By noting where species are found, and when they are recorded can support scientific research aimed at supporting biodiversity. For example, the project has had participants using cameras and recorders to note the date and time of migrating species, which can identify whether such species are arriving earlier due to climate change, potentially leading to mismatches in the emergence of their natural food sources.
The NatureWatch Festival planned for July and September will provide in-person training on how to use the technology, guided nature walks on UCC’s campus, and wellbeing exercises linking with nature.
Join the team on July 7th 2022 between 12pm-3pm on UCC’s North Main Campus, where they will offer a range of activities, including a guided wildflower and nature walk, technology demonstrations and technology training, and wellbeing exercises. There will be the option to sign up to receive free training equipment (i.e., cameras, recorders) through the participation in our seasonal online workshops.
“While the project has thus far been aimed towards older generations, there is no age limit on attendance,” says Dr Holloway, “and we would encourage anyone interested in learning more about nature-technology-wellbeing to attend.”
Register for the NatureWatch Festival here: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/naturewatch-public-workshop-tickets-373162126967
NatureWatch website: https://cork-nature-watch.webflow.io/