Connectivity Mashup: Synthetic Connectivity Layers for Conserving Biodiversity in a Changing Climate

Much work has been done to assess landscape connectivity for wildlife throughout the western U.S. This work has focused on different species in different areas, often using different modeling approaches. Working with the Wildlands Network, we are developing a map of the areas in the west-coast U.S. states that are vital for providing connectivity for both the current and expected future needs of wildlife. We are integrating the outputs of existing connectivity modeling efforts in the region with existing connectivity mapping efforts expressly focused on facilitating climate-driven range shifts. We will use this map, in conjunction with mapped protected areas, to identify gaps in the current protected area network and where connectivity could be greatly enhanced.

Lead: Tristan Nuñez / Josh Lawler

Samuel Kerr, CC BY-SA 3.0

Vulnerability to Climate Change of U.S. National Parks

Climate change is already impacting U.S. national parks through melting snowpack and glaciers, shifting ranges of plants and animals, changing wildfire patterns, rising sea levels, and other changes. Continued climate change threatens the health and functioning of the ecosystems, cultural sites, and infrastructure in national parks.  Published information on vulnerability to climate change exists for a limited set of resources in a fraction of the national park system. Currently, published spatial analyses that examine exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity cover selected resources in approximately 142 national parks out of 407 total parks. This cooperative effort between the UW and NPS scientists will review published NPS vulnerabilities, develop an approach to assessing the vulnerability of parks and park resources, and prioritize parks for further assessment.

Lead: Julia Michalak

NatureCollections: Exploring the Potential to Connect Children with Nature

Over the past several decades, more and more people—especially children—have interacted less and less with natural environments, and spent more time using technology.  Despite the prominent role that technology plays in children’s lives, few interventions to address this nature disconnection have been digital technology-based, and the effectiveness of these digital interventions is largely unknown.  Recognizing this gap, we developed NatureCollections beta, a mobile application to reconnect children with nature.  Leveraging kids’ love for collecting things (stickers, shells, rocks, etc.), NatureCollections allows users to build nature photo collections, curate their photos into categories such as plants, birds, and landscapes, and complete photography-based activities.  We are currently evaluating the effectiveness of this app at (1) increasing children’s time spent outdoors, and (2) increasing children’s connectedness with nature.  We are using a quasi-experimental design to evaluate the holistic effect of the app, complemented with focus groups with children and photo content analysis to identify key dimensions of children’s app/nature experiences that may illustrate app-effects and inform further development.  This work will provide a deeper understanding of how games like NatureCollections may be used to promote connectedness with nature.

Lead: Sarah Chase


GiZiBoNG,  CC BY-SA 3.0

Sentiment in Urban Greenspaces

An urban lifestyle that leads to more time spent indoors and less contact with nature may have negative impacts on mental health and well-being. In response, an increasing number of studies have explored the relationship between people’s surrounding environments and mental well-being. Nonetheless, assessing this relationship can be difficult due to different limitations in various study designs and data types. To address some of the challenges and further advance our understanding of the relationship, we used social media data––1,971,045 geolocated tweets sent by 81,140 users from locations throughout Seattle, Washington, USA––to quantify the relationships between sentiments expressed in individual geolocated tweets and their surrounding environments, focusing on three environmental indicators––land-cover type, tree-canopy density, and urban parks. The primary questions that we investigated were: (1) How does sentiment expressed in tweets vary across urban built and more natural land-cover types? (2) Within a given land-cover type, how does the amount of tree canopy associate with the sentiment expressed in tweets? (3) Are people more likely to express more positive sentiment in urban parks than they are elsewhere? The results suggest that the relationship between natural environments and peoples’ sentiment can be much more complicated than the general belief that all exposure to nature is beneficial to humans’ subjective well-being.

Lead: Yian Lin

Nature & Health Initiaitve

Josh directs Nature & Health at the University of Washington. Nature & Health is a collaboration of researchers, practitioners, and policy makers all interested in better understanding how time spent in nature affects human health and how that understanding can be used to design better programs, policies, and spaces that improve health and conserve nature. For more information, check out the Nature & Health webpage or contact us at