School is back, which, depending on your state of mind, means it’s either late summer or early fall. Regardless of the time of year, the Mizzou Botanical Garden (MUBG) hosts its annual Jacquelyn K. Jones Lecture – a visit from a leading expert in a nature-related field.
Mark your calendar September 15 to attend the 2022 lecture by Kathleen Wolf, a social scientist affiliated with the College of the Environment at the University of Washington. Wolf has written over 5,000 articles on the benefits of nature and trees for human health and well-being – from the cradle to the grave. The conference will take place at 6:30 p.m. in the Monsanto Auditorium at the MU Bond Life Sciences Center.
A bonus event, an introduction to the therapeutic benefits of forest bathing, will take place the following day at 9 a.m. at the Hinkson Creek Recreation Area. More information on both events and a story about Wolf can be found at garden.missouri.edu.
Campus collaborators for this event include Anand Chockalingam, professor of medicine at MU, and Sonja Wilhelm Stanis, professor and associate director in the School of Natural Resources at MU. Both will be featured at the conference and, together with Wolf, will lead forest walks the day after the conference.
Chockalingam’s research focuses on cardiomyopathy, mental stress and holistic interventions. He started a Heartful Living heart wellness program that includes time spent in nature.
“Regularly connecting with nature, spending time outdoors, exploring trails and neighborhood parks is therapeutic on many levels,” Chockalingam said. “Our ability to understand ourselves and appreciate life increases profoundly when we connect with nature.”
Wilhelm Stanis said a significant portion of his research over the past 14 years at MU has focused on outdoor recreation and health.
Working with colleagues at MU, Kansas State University and the University of South Carolina, she sees parks as a public health resource.
“I started doing a number of studies to document the physical activity that happens in parks,” she said. “Where are people active and why are some parks better at promoting physical activity?”
Among other things, she and her colleagues looked at aesthetic features like shade and water features, as well as facilities like playgrounds and pathways. In cities, proximity, neighborhood safety factors and accessibility were taken into account.
Funded by a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Active Living Research Grant, Wilhelm Stanis and his colleagues developed a Community Parks Audit Tool (CPAT), a checklist of beneficial features that communities can use to assess or planning recreation areas with the aim of promoting physical activity and subsequently the health of residents. A recent grant from the NIH allowed the research group to develop the audit tool in an application: eCPAT.
Using the help of youth groups, neighborhood associations and community organizations, they did an inventory of the park in Kansas City looking at differences in park access and quality, especially for low-income families. income, one of Wilhelm Stanis’ passions. Through this study and similar studies conducted in other cities, the research team has shown that involving community members in planning and evaluation leads to a better understanding of the importance of parks to the public health.
She has also worked with graduate students on a variety of studies regarding parks and health in Colombia, including research with the Missouri Katy Trail, Douglass Park, and school playgrounds.
“A student of mine examined the mental health benefits of outdoor exercise using memory tests before and after walks in an urban environment and in Rock Bridge State Park. park environment increased the measured cognitive benefits.
Wilhelm Stanis and the School of Natural Resources are using “Improving Student Success in Mizzou” funding from the Provost’s Office to add plants to classrooms. This is in response to studies that have shown that greening indoor environments can increase concentration, reduce stress and even make people more productive.
In her course on parks, health and wellness, she said the focus is on the benefits of human exposure to green environments. “It examines the physical, mental, social and cognitive benefits of exposure to nature,” she said.
During his visit to the MU campus, Wolf will spend time speaking with students and faculty from the School of Natural Resources in classrooms and casual environments. MUBG has also planned an event where Wolf will share insights with other community professionals committed to the benefits of green infrastructure.
“I’m thrilled to have Kathleen Wolf visit campus because it’s a great opportunity to have this conversation about nature,” said Wilhelm Stanis. “People here on campus and in our community do this work, and it’s an opportunity to share resources and information.
Janice Wiese-Fales writes about the Mizzou Botanical Garden. His columns appear twice a month in the Missourian.