Numerous studies have demonstrated positive associations between experiences of nature and human health and wellbeing: spending time in nature is positively related to attention, cognitive capacity, emotional state, and social connections. Furthermore, evidence is emerging that time in nature is positively related to environmentally responsible behaviour at all life stages. Importantly, however, disadvantaged communities have less access to and engagement with green spaces and nature more generally. Evidence indicates that disadvantaged communities encounter not only economic, but also sociocultural and psychological barriers to engaging with nature, including, for example, concerns about safety and lack of confidence. Understanding and addressing barriers to engaging with nature is critical to achieving policy objectives, such as that of the UK Government 25-year Environment Plan to “encourage children to be close to nature, in and out of school, with particular focus on disadvantaged areas”.
Generation Wild is a programme developed by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust to engage children from disadvantaged communities and their families and teachers with nature. Generation Wild provides children with opportunities to visit WWT wetland centres and to take part in home and school-based activities. Because it is an intervention, Generation Wild is also a valuable opportunity for researchers to identify and evaluate relations between engaging with nature, human health and wellbeing, and care and concern for the environment.
The studentship builds on a collaboration between Cardiff University and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust to evaluate Generation Wild. The PhD student will join an interdisciplinary team, including researchers with training in theories and methods from psychology, geography, anthropology, and conservation. The PhD student will have the opportunity to plan and conduct research investigating the contexts and consequences of the Generation Wild programme, including, for example, barriers to engagement with nature-based interventions, how interventions impact on the health and wellbeing of children from disadvantaged communities, and how interventions impact children’s identities as environmental citizens, such as their place in nature and the natural resources used in their everyday lives.
The overall project involves a mixed-methods intervention design, combining quantitative and qualitative methods, and the PhD student will have opportunities for advanced training in both quantitative and qualitative methods. The PhD student will also have opportunities for hands-on learning about policy-focused research, including a placement within WWT’s policy and communication team.
The supervisor team will be Professor Merideth Gattis (Psychology), Professor Wouter Poortinga (Psychology) and Dr Kersty Hobson (Geography and Planning)
Studentship Awards commence in October 2022 and will cover your tuition fees as well as a maintenance grant (currently £15,609 p.a. for 2021/22 for full-time students, updated each year); and includes access to an additional Research Training Support Grant (RTSG), though an element of this latter fund may be ‘pooled’ and require separate applications from 2022 onwards.
There are other opportunities and benefits available to studentship holders, including an overseas fieldwork allowance (if applicable), internship opportunities, overseas institutional visits and other small grants.
This studentship is available as either a 1+3 or +3 basis. A 1+3 studentship provides funding for four years (or part-time equivalent), completing a research training Masters in the 1st year, followed by 3 years research funding for a PhD. A +3 studentship provides funding for the three years PhD research study only (or part-time equivalent).
ESRC studentships are highly competitive, candidates should have an excellent academic background in the social sciences, holding a 1st or strong upper 2nd class degree; applications from those also holding a relevant research training Masters degree (or an equivalent background in research training) will be considered for a +3 award.
How to apply:
You can apply online - consideration is automatic on applying for a PhD in Psychology, with an October 2022 start date (programme code RFPDPSYA).
Please use our online application service at
and specify in the funding section that you wish to be considered for ESRC funding.
Please specify that you are applying for this particular project and the supervisor.
Applications must include
• a covering letter of up to two pages
• details of academic/professional qualifications
• if relevant, proof of English Language Competency (see institutional requirements for entry)
• two academic references
• a cv (two pages maximum)
• a research proposal of up to 1000 words (plus bibliographic references)