Research Scholarship Opportunities: Interested in Studying Nature and Well-Being?

The White House on the UL campus

Announcing a funded PhD on Nature and Well-Being: A Campus Wide Approach. The Faculty of Education and Health Sciences at the University of Limerick is sponsoring PhD research scholarships to be associated with the Health Research Institute (HRI). Six scholarships will be available for 2018/19 registration and the scholarships are for new PT or FT entrants and will cover fees and an annual pro rata stipend of €10000. One proposed project will be supervised by psychologist Dr Tadhg MacIntyre, exercise physiologist Dr Giles Warrington (Head of Department, PESS, UL) and Professor Dominic Harmon (University Hospital Limerick). It is fitting that UL with its 133 hectare campus spanning the river Shannon, investigate the benefits and co-benefits of a healthy campus concept.

The river Shannon is the centrepiece of the UL campus which has 11,600 students and 1,300 staff.

UN SDG three (“Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing”) has specific targets to reduce NCD’s through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being. UL’s Healthy Campus Initiative is an opportune platform for an evidence-based approach to promoting student, staff and community well-being and health. UL can be arole model for sustainable developmentto pilot innovative approaches to: (1) determine communities’ requirements from outdoor spaces in relation to physical activity, health and well-being; and (2) achieving greater sustainability. This research will assess where and how campus communities use sustainable space, for physical activity, recovery and restoration, to inform case studies that will be relevant to campuses and workplaces. Environmental psychology has provided limited frameworks to understand how we benefit from human-nature interactions. To address this issue, we focus on contextual factors that promote psychological recovery (Sonnentag et al., 2017), well-being and mental health (Keyes, 2002), and green exercise (Gladwell et al. 2013). A longitudinal mixed-methods studywill be employed to account for seasonal changes and differences in job-demands across the semesters.  Targeting students, an age group at risk of mental health disorder, enables positive  lifestyle changes to become habits which can result in lifelong improvements in health and wellbeing, exercise and fitness. Qualitative and quantitative methods will be augmented by objective measures of sleep duration and physical activity. Among the proposed outcomes are an Evidence-Based toolkit to inform policy and translate into practice impact with multi-stakeholders cross-sectorally.

The supervisory team comprises Dr Tadhg MacIntyre (lead), Dr Giles Warrington, both of whom currently supervise IRC scholars (Anna Donnla O’Hagan; Jessie Barr), and Professor Dominic Harmon (Dept. of Pain Medicine, UHL), a consultant with expertise in mindfulness and nature based interventions. Together they have accumulated expertise in the psychology of well-being and mental health, and sleep science all of which are central to students thriving within a healthy campus. Candidates both EU and non-EU are encouraged to engage with the relevant project supervisors in advance of submitting an application to discuss the project in more detail and candidate’s subject expertise. It is expected that interview dates for successful applications will be held sometime between 2nd to 13th of July. Further information available from the lead supervisor and the submission date for applications is June 21st.

GO GREEN EX is a transdisciplinary research initiative led by Dr. Tadhg MacIntyre at the Health Research Institute at the University of Limerick. The aim is to develop evidence-based interventions based on human-nature interactions to benefit individual and organizational health, well-being and performance. We bring health, sport and environmental sectors together in collaboration to bridge sectorial gaps, as well as to maximize impact in society. Our studies explore the physiological, biological, psychological and neural mechanisms underlying the effects of nature-based solutions and interventions in a range of settings (e.g. indoor, outdoor built and natural outdoor). Promotion of well-being and workplace performance, and work engagement, mental health prevention, mitigation of environmental hazards and converting natural and human capital into social capital are among the potential outcomes of the interventions. The interventions include green exercise, micro-breaks, nature savoring, restorative spaces and psychoeducational programs. Our multi-stakeholder engagement includes partnership with Waterways Ireland, Sport Ireland, Coillte, Mental Health Ireland, the Psychological Society of Ireland, Crossing the line, European Network of Outdoor Sports, and the International Council for Coaching Excellence. Research collaborations to date include UK, Spanish, Greek, German, Norwegian academic institutions and Irish higher education institutions including Trinity College, UCD, NUI Galway and DIT.

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