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Natural Environments Initiative

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Project Description

An emerging body of research suggests that exposure to natural environments with particular features can restore resiliency sapped by stress, and may play a role in slowing the onset of chronic disease. This initiative launched a new research collaborative investigating how natural environments in urban settings can support human health and well-being.

With the support of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University and the U.S. National Park Service, we brought together 20 experts from within and beyond Harvard to identify the elements of design that contribute to healthy urban park lands—such as biodiversity, navigation routes, scents, and vistas.

Our guests included landscape architects, urban planners, public health scientists, and environmental psychologists who forged new alliances, distilled insights into urban ecologies at the intersection of ecosystem services and public health, and developed a plan for future projects.

This collaboration will inform many projects we are undertaking as part of our Nature, Health, and Built Environment program, including the Health and Places Initiative and the Exploring the Health Benefits of Nature project. 


Participants in the Urban Forest Bathing Exploratory Symposium

Pictured left to right, back row: Richard Mitchell, Juyoung Lee, Murray Mittleman, Julia Africa, John Spengler, Liisa Tyrväinen, Diana Allen, Qing Li, Yoshifumi Miyazaki, Eileen McNeely

Pictured left to right, front row: Marc Weisskopf, Daniel Ibanez, Laura Kubzansky, Catie Ryan, Alan Logan, Naomi Sachs, Yuko Tsunetsugu, Korpela Kalevi, Elizabeth Nisbet


Photo by Nicole Bellisle