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Educating for sustainability through outdoor learning

School of Education and Social Work

Dundee United Kingdom Agricultural Sciences Ecology Environmental Biology Environmental Chemistry Environmental Engineering Architecture, Building & Planning Education Sport & Exercise Science Rural Planning Soil Science

About the Project

This research focuses on sustainability as a means of avoiding the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance. An understanding of biodiversity [the myriad of organisms and habitats fundamental to sustained functioning of the environment] and our impact on this, is at the heart of sustainability. To place this in context this research adopts an ecosystem services approach to the environment thereby recognising the different services afforded in terms of productivity, ecological support, environmental regulation and cultural services, including human well-being. Education and environmental awareness clearly have a role to play in influencing and directing human activity if impact is to remain sustainable. This research aims to explore the many facts of outdoor learning as a vehicle to development and engage a sense of nature connectiveness and understanding. The context and focus will be through statutory and further/higher education activities, as well as public and family engagement in outdoor initiatives such as citizen science projects, gardening and facilities including botanic and zoological gardens and allotments.

Several personally initiated small and medium scale research initiatives within this arena have been in operations for several years, for example a series of annual pond dipping sessions at the UoD Botanic Garden that contribute data to a longitudinal database exploring the impact of human activity on the water environment within the garden. So too a small-scale exploration of outdoor learning and nature connectiveness with both initial teacher education students and undergraduate environmental science and geography students. This latter research went on to indicate a tentative positive correlation between outdoor learning and nature connectiveness, suggesting further research and application would be beneficial.

At present the holistic research remains fragmented and as lead researcher I’d welcome the opportunity to scale this up and seek external funding to support doctoral and other students. Initially to underpin the empirical research with a review of literature into outdoor and environmental education in relation to sustainability and nature connectiveness. Further to this, broadening the empirical work across the educational arena and seek to identify good practice and impact driven initiatives.

For informal enquiries about the project, contact Dr Liz Lakin ()
For general enquiries about the University of Dundee, contact

Applicants must have obtained, or expect to obtain, a first or 2.1 UK honours degree, or equivalent for degrees obtained outside the UK in a relevant discipline.

English language requirement: IELTS (Academic) score must be at least 6.5 (with not less than 5.5 in each of the four components). Other, equivalent qualifications will be accepted. Full details of the University’s English language requirements are available online:


Step 1: Email Dr Liz Lakin () to (1) send a copy of your CV and (2) discuss your potential application and any practicalities (e.g. suitable start date).

Step 2: After discussion with Dr Lakin, formal applications can be made via UCAS Postgraduate. When applying, please follow the instructions below:

Apply for the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in Education: Select the start date and study mode (full-time/part-time) agreed with the lead supervisor.

In the ‘provider questions’ section of the application form:
- Write the project title and ‘’ in the ‘if your application is in response to an advertisement’ box;
- Write the lead supervisor’s name and give brief details of your previous contact with them in the ‘previous contact with the University of Dundee’ box.

In the ‘personal statement’ section of the application form, outline your suitability for the project selected.

Funding Notes

There is no funding attached to this project. The successful applicant will be expected to provide the funding for tuition fees and living expenses, via external sponsorship or self-funding.

This project is linked to the IIG 2019/20 bid for Mining Impacts on Water and Health (CEPMLP).


´Barrable, A. & Lakin, E. (2019) Nature relatedness in student teachers, perceived competence and willingness to teach outdoors: an empirical study, Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning, Routledge

Cardinale, B.J., Duffy, J.E., Gonzalez, A., Hooper, D.U., Perrings, C., Venail, P., Narwani, A., Mace, G.M., Tilman, D., Wardle, D.A., Kinzig, A.P., Daily, G.C., Loreau, M & Grace, J.B. (2012) Biodiversity loss and its impact on humanity. Nature 486 (7401) pp.0-9

Deci, E.L. and Ryan, R.M (1985) Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behaviour, New York, Plenum

Science Communication Unit (2015) Science for Environment Policy Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity, UWE, Bristol

Tilman, D. (1999) The Ecological consequences of changes in biodiversity: A search for general principles, 80 (5) pp.1455-1474

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