The Inhabitat Project

Using collaborative science to explore linkages between environmental condition and human health and wellbeing

Inhabitat is an innovative, interactive research project designed to explore relationships between natural environmental condition and aspects of human health and wellbeing.

The environments in which we live are thought to be important determinants of our health. Evidence suggests that people exposed to higher quality environments – with greater biodiversity – report better health than those exposed to lower quality environments. Additional factors such as litter, graffiti, and other environmental incivilities are known to affect how we feel, yet it is not well understood how these aspects of environmental quality impact on health, which factors are of greater relevance, or how they may interact with each other.

This collaborative ‘citizen science’ project will further our understanding of how environmental type, state and condition might impact on human health and wellbeing.

Working in collaboration with our partners Sea Communications, an award winning design, communications and social innovation company based in Penryn, Cornwall, we have assessed the feasibility of the project, scoped relevant tools and methods, and have carried out initial pilot consultations with potential users.

During the proposed research we intend to collect data at a national scale using an innovative multi-platform approach and will draw on methods commonly used in ‘citizen-science’ and environmental engagement programmes. Citizen science techniques are well established within biological, ecological and conservation sciences; well-known examples include the Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird count, the RSPB’s Big Garden Bird watch, and the OPAL (Open Air Laboratories) network.

More recently, health researchers have considered the potential of working with the general public using collaborative science to address key health and wellbeing issues. The benefits of using a citizen science approach are multiple, but include opportunities to gather large and extensive quantities of data, increasing the power and scale of the research.

The proposed research will be conducted in collaboration with a number of high profile environmental, access and health focused charities and organisations. The feasibility stage of the project was supported by a grant from Exeter University Open Innovation Fund and conducted in collaboration with Sea Communications.