ESRC-Scottish Government/ Forestry Commission Scotland Studentship
Designing and managing forests for health
Applications are sought from suitably qualified candidates for a joint ESRC-Scottish Government PhD three-year (‘+3’) studentship. The project entitled ‘Designing and ManagingForestsfor Health’ has been developed in collaboration with the Forestry Commission Scotland and seeks to examine the links between forestry and community health across Scotland.
The successful candidate will be based in the Centre for Research on Environment, Society and Health (CRESH) in the School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh. They will also be active members of the university’s OPENspace Research Centre and the Human Geography Research Group.
Applications will be particularly welcome from candidates with a social science / environmental background (e.g. geography, landscape architecture, sociology, environmental science), and quantitative methods will be emphasised in project and training plans. Applicants must have a Masters degree or equivalent in an appropriate field. A working knowledge in GIS would be advantageous.
Start Date: September 2012
Applicants should submit the following documentation through the University of Edinburgh online system:
- A recent CV
- A cover letter explaining their interest in the project.
- A completed Equal Opportunities Monitoring form (available here for download)
The deadline for submission is 27th April 2012. Interviews will take place during May 2012.
Applicants may discuss the project with any member of the supervisory team: Professor Jamie Pearce (firstname.lastname@example.org), Professor Catharine Ward Thompson (email@example.com) or Dr Niamh Shortt (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Outline of Research
The international evidence suggests that exposure to ‘green’ environments (including forests) is associated with health benefits, including lower mortality rates, blood pressure and obesity levels as well as better self-perceived health. Further, previous studies suggest that the availability of green space may reduce health inequalities. Three key mechanisms have been implicated in explaining the green space and health associations. First, green space provides opportunities for physical activity (PA), and increased PA levels are associated with reduced risks of physical and mental illnesses. Second, green space facilitates social contacts, for example through providing opportunities to meet others or participate in group activities. Third, exposure (physical and visual contact) to green space can promote recovery from attention fatigue and stress, and stress has been implicated in the aetiology of common chronic physical and mental illnesses.
Despite the volume of conceptual and empirical work on green space and health, important gaps in the knowledge base remain. In particular, it is unclear whether different types of green environments (e.g. parkland, coastal areas and woodland) have differential effects on health. This research gap has left policy makers bereft of insights into which greening interventions are likely to result in the maximum benefits for health and well-being, and address health inequalities. The focus of this study is on forestry and population-level health. The aims of the research are to: (1) evaluate the literature considering the relationships between forestry (and other forms of green spaces) and health; (2) develop a health related forest classification for Scotland to inform a spatial strategy for the health-centred management of woodlands; (3) examine links between forestry and community health across Scotland; (4) develop a ranked profile of communities with ‘good’ or ‘bad’ forestry-related health outcomes with a view to developing a needs appraisal; (5) contribute to the knowledge base supporting a spatial strategy regarding the range and level of wellbeing benefits that can be expected from forestry.
Working in close collaboration with the Forestry Commission, this project will provide new insights into the relationship between forestry and health in Scotland. It will also deliver new GIS products to compliment the ongoing work in the Commission’s GIS system (SIFT). The project also supports the Commission and the Scottish Government work priorities including the Scottish Forest Strategy (particularly Key Theme 5 ‘Access and Health’) and numerous Scottish Government priorities (e.g. four national outcomes: tackling inequalities; securing longer and healthier lives; delivering sustainable places and valuing our natural environment).