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Experiences of nature across time

In 1984, Roger Ulrich pioneered an elegant study which found that patients with a view of a natural scene recovered more quickly from surgery than those facing a brick wall. Since then, 35 years of research has shown that exposure to natural environments are associated with a wide range of beneficial physical and mental health outcomes.

Yet, the quantity and quality of our experiences with nature has declined enormously as the world’s population become increasingly urbanised. This could be driven either by a physical decline in the quantity or quality of nature in cities, or a change in human behaviour inclined towards a more busy, sedentary and indoor modern lifestyle.

PhD student Rachel Oh has just returned from Singapore, having completed some data collection. As part of her PhD thesis, Rachel aims to collect evidence to assess longitudinal changes in individuals’ level of direct experiences of nature over 22 years. To date, she has collected responses for 300 household surveys and has completed some bird surveys in Clementi, Singapore. The household surveys will provide some data on if/how experiences of nature has changed across time, while the bird surveys and spatial analyses will hopefully share some insights on if/how opportunities for nature in cities has changed with increasing urbanisation.

The highly urbanised and densely populated urban landscape of Singapore. While living in a 12-storey building is quite a norm (see buildings on the left), living in 30-storey building is gaining traction. Yet, Singapore is also quite green with plentiful street trees and parks.
Different types of outdoor green space in Singapore – a pocket park and a semi-natural secondary forest.
Spot the Grey-headed Fish Eagle (with a catch in its left talons)! This species was captured in the 2018 bird surveys but not the 1996 bird surveys.