Young Researchers Igniting Ideas for Disruptive Science: From MINDSCAPE to Video Portraits

Left to Right: Andree Walkin (UL Sport), Lucie De Graaf (ISPED), Dr. Aoife Donnelly (DIT), Dr. Tadhg MacIntyre (HRI, UL) and Dr. Giles Warrington (PESS, UL)
Conference theme: Nature-Based Solutions for Healthy Campuses and Communities

EPA funded conference on Nature-Based Solutions for Community and Campus Well-BeingImpact is the key word in contemporary science and to maximise it while studying green exercise and blue mind requires two key concepts. One is participant engagement in what is termed co-design of research to ensure it aligns with the needs of those who will benefit most from it. The second, is the more complex issue of disruptive science-the quest for a novel approach which trandisciplinary in nature. This creates a challenge for scientists many of whom have traditionally worked in silos using established paradigms. Research findings would in the past emerge from cumulative findings and breakthroughs would be rare. Instead, transdisciplinary science requires novel approaches using a shared paradigm across diverse disciplines. Studying human-nature interactions is by its nature (pun intended) complex. This area has  increasingly become the concern of scientists from across the disciplines. Our GO GREEN EX research aims to ignite new ideas using transdisciplinary approaches to generate disruptive science. This approach mirrors the current Bluehealth2020 project goals -a project which is concerned with investigating the effect of blue natural spaces on health and well-being.


Fiona Donovan, National Healthy Cities and Counties of Ireland Network
Nollaig O’Sullivan, with Fiona Donovan, National Healthy Cities and Counties of Ireland Network and John Sweeney (Clare LSP)

Our generation of tech-savvy young researchers in exercise psychology, environmental science, public health and sport psychology consistently challenge traditional approaches to research. Firstly, their concern for participant engagement, effective feedback for participants and highlighting best practice case studies is an advance on traditional models. Furthermore, our team of young researchers including Jessie Barr (studying mental health in sport at UL), Chris Bryan (investigating resilience in sport and business contexts), Nollaig O’Sullivan (Clarisford Park-pictured left), Andree Walkin (UL Sport) with interns Lucie De Graaf (Institute of Public Health Epidemiology and Development-Bordeaux), Cathal Sheridan, Emma Feerick and Maire-Treasa Ni Cheallaigh have prioritised an exploratory model which is inclusive.

From Case Studies to Trandisciplinarity

Case studies with participants in exercise in green and blue natural spaces will enable us to weave their narrative into video-diaries which will be accessible online through local sport partnerships. We are working with Clare and Limerick LSP’s to record, develop and disseminate a series of case studies from athlete ambassadors (e.g. Niamh Briggs, Rosie Foley) and community champions (e.g. Keith Wood) to share the experiences of those from whom interaction with green and blue is integral to their well-being. For cross-channel swimmer, Rosie Foley (former international rugby player) the Shannon is her playground and route to reflection. Irish Women’s rugby captain Niamh Briggs uses the sea on her trips home to Waterford to clear her mind of the challenges of injury and recovery. Our research team including Cathal, Maire-Treasa, Jessie, Emma and Chris have been involved in the case study development and the current round of interviews will also feature in our forthcoming book published by Routledge Physical Activity in Natural Settings: Green Exercise and Blue Mind. Maire-Treasa is helping create video-portraits which will bring the individual narratives to life in a format which is accessible for a wide audience for health promotion.

Jesse Barr (UL), Lucie De Graaf (ISPED & DIT) with Tadhg MacIntyre at Clarisford Park, Killaloe, Co. Clare.

Lucie De Graaf has been outstanding in leading the planning, pilot-testing and development of the parkrun studies we are conducting which includes testing on-site and a national survey. The survey will enable us to map the experiences and attitudes of participants in these volunteer led sporting events and we will evaluate the social capital that they create with particular emphasis on positive interactions with the environment. See here for information on the parkrun approved survey. Lucie, in addition to her expertise in quantitative analysis has been engaged in planning the format of our forthcoming MINDSCAPE conference, funded by the Environmental Protection Agency, to be held on Oct. 14th at Clarisford Park, Killaloe, Co.Clare.

EPA funded conference on Nature-Based Solutions for Community and Campus Well-Being

The event will bring together researchers, practitioners in outdoor sport and activities with government agencies and multi-stakeholders to develop partnerships and knowledge share. One goal of this is to influence the future planning of activity in the area of nature-based solutions and to bridge the gap between research and action on the ground. For instance, greenways and blueways provide an infrastructure for activity but the psychological connection to our natural spaces has been somewhat overlooked. Our research partners and collaborators can help merge the social and physical infrastructures in our natural landscapes to ensure people engage with nature and the environment more readily. International keynotes include Prof. David Sheffield (University of Sheffield), Prof. Marc Jones and Dr. Chris Gidlow (Staffordshire), Prof. Juergen Beckman (TUM), Prof. Mark Nieuwenhuijsen (Barcelona Institute for Global Health) in addition to Irish experts: Prof. Alan Donnelly (UL), Dr. Niamh Murphy (WIT) and Dr. Annalisa Setti (UCC) and Terri Morrissey CEO of the Psychological Society of Ireland.

Infographic of our Twitter Data Capture for European Week of Sport Sept. 23-30th

Jessie Barr (2012 Olympian) and doctoral student in psychology at UL, International rugby player Niamh Briggs and Kate Kirby (Head of Performance Psychology, Sport Ireland Institute) team up for a workshop in Dublin on Thur. September 21st, with an experiential dimension to kick off the European Week of Sport. The Psychological Society of Ireland are ambitious in ensuring psychology matters and this event will combine personal narratives from athletes with insights from research and lessons from practitioner psychologists. Entitled: Winning Through Well-Being: Exploring the Benefits and Co-Benefits of Sport and Physical Activity should be of interest to sport coaches and managers, support staff and athletes and players alike.

Twitter is the medium for rapid knowledge sharing for millennials and we have  a study inspired by our young researchers which uses hashtags to both promote and record activity in the outdoors. Using hashtags participants will be able to share their exercise experience-whether indoor or outdoor-whether in nature or on a pitch-whether in water or on land. They will be asked to say how the felt afterwards and to tag their county in the #BEACTIVE campaign. The program will be launched shortly in collaboration with Sport Ireland.

The future of our research ambitions is in the hands of the next generation and their engagement, innovation, and experiences will elucidate our knowledge of nature-based solutions for years to come.



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