My passion for the natural environment (especially marine environments) has long been engrained in both my professional and personal life. I’m interested in the relationship between humans and the natural world, which is reflected in both my research and teaching. After completing my PhD at the University of Plymouth combining Environmental Psychology with Marine Biology and a post-doctorate position at Plymouth Marine Laboratory, I joined Surrey in 2016 as a lecturer in Environmental Psychology.
Areas of specialism
University roles and responsibilities
- Year 1 Tutor (BSc Psychology Programme)
- Co-ordinate the Academic Tutorial Programme
- Personal Tutor
- Visiting Tutor
- Athena Swan Committee
Affiliations and memberships
Environmental Psychology focuses on the relationship between people and their physical environment. This encompasses two key aspects:
- The influence the environment has on individuals (in terms of experiences, behaviour and wellbeing)
- The influence humans have on the environment (thus understanding the determinants and drivers of behaviours that have positive or negative impacts on the physical setting).
Across my research and teaching, I am interested in exploring both aspects independently and together, with the marine environment as a common theme throughout.
The marine environment
Whilst 70% of the Earth consists of oceans and seas, this natural setting is often overlooked. Consequently, my research often looks at the human dimension of threats facing this environment (e.g. microplastics, marine litter, and overfishing), and people's use and experience of this natural setting. In order to address these global multidisciplinary topics, I have worked with economists, marine biologists, oceanographers, geographers, modellers, artists, and environmental scientists from a range of countries (including Brazil, Ecuador, Norway, USA, Chile, South Korea, and Sweden).
The influence of the environment on people
Experiencing nature can be therapeutic, restoring people's cognitive functioning and promoting their physical and mental health. I'm interested in exploring the mechanisms as to why nature (and especially coastal and marine settings) have these benefits, looking at the importance of connectedness to nature and place attachment, childhood upbringing, and the type and quality of the environment.
The influence people have on the environment
Individuals can have a dramatic impact on the state of the natural environment, from their consumer choice, to everyday behaviours to political will. Within my work, I'm interested in understanding key drivers of behaviour and behaviour change, including the role habits have, value orientation, knowledge and perceptions but also people's links to the environment such as childhood upbringing and connectedness to nature.
Application and impact
A key driver of all of this work is to be useful and applied locally, nationally, and internationally. Consequently, I am active in working with a range of stakeholders, from NGOs to advising decision makers, such as contributing to parliamentary enquiries and advising the United Nations through GESAMP (Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection)
OLA: Ocean LitterAcy Project is a multi-disciplinary GCRF funded project (2018-20). Working with colleagues from the University of Sao Paulo & Federal University of ABC in Brazil, this project proposal examines how citizen science, where volunteers collect scientific data such as recording marine litter, can be used to empower and encourage societal change regarding waste management.
Postgraduate research supervision
- Can virtual reality natural environments be used to manage the symptoms of clinical depression? [working title].
- School-funded PhD Studentship.
- October 2017 - present
- Virtual reality and restorative natural environments [working title].
- October 2017 - present
- 2nd supervisor
Christy E Hehir
- Beyond Good Intentions: Wildlife Tourism as a Driver of Emotion and Philanthropic Behaviour Change.
- ESRC PhD Studentship.
- October 2016 - present
- 2nd supervisor
- Persuasive communication: an experiment on hotel guests’ values, inconvenience and smart water-saving technology.
- October 2017 - present
- 2nd supervisor
I teach on the BSc (Hons) Psychology course.
I teach on the following modules:
- PSY3065: Dissertation
- PSY3072: Key Questions in Environmental Psychology
- PSY3095: General Psychology.
I teach on the following courses:
- Corporate Environmental Management MSc
- Environmental Psychology MSc
- Environmental Strategy MSc
- Research Methods in Psychology MSc
- Social Psychology MSc
- Sustainable Development MSc.
I teach on the following modules:
- PSYM034: Dissertation
- PSYM067: The Psychology of Sustainable Development
- PSYM137: Key Questions in Environmental Psychology.
Research shows that gardens are important for wellbeing. To examine garden use and wellbeing during the first Covid-19 lockdown, a sample of 850 UK respondents were asked to recall their experiences and use of their home gardens between March and May 2020. Key findings include: • Gardens were used frequently during the lockdown, with around 60% visiting their garden at least once a day. • Gardens were used more frequently than other natural environments during lockdown. • More frequent garden visits were associated with better wellbeing. • But more than 1 in 10 either had no access to a garden, or found it difficult to access one. • Ethnic minorities and those with a low household income were more likely to have no garden access or find access difficult. • Younger respondents were more likely to have difficult or no garden access than older respondents, with those under 47 years of age reporting the greatest difficulties. • The more nature in the garden, the greater the wellbeing of respondents. • Certain aspects of nature were particularly associated with improved wellbeing: natural sounds and smells, and animals, birds and insects. • Respondents did multiple activities in their gardens, with 43% gardening, 27% spending time resting, sitting and lying down, 21% reading, 14% watching and feeding nature, 13% listening to music, radio and podcasts, and 11% enjoying the weather.
People are drawn toward personally meaningful places. Seeing or remembering those places improves mood and supports wellbeing. But existing evidence relies on self-reports and comparisons with unpleasant places. Using brain imaging techniques, we examined reactions towards images of personally meaningful places, meaningful objects, neutral places and objects, and pre-validated (IAPS) images, among 19 volunteers (10 female) between 19 and 53 years old. A whole brain analysis showed that meaningful places and IAPS images elicited the largest response in the amygdala, associated with the processing of emotion. Similarly high activity was found for the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC),associated with self-referential processing, emotional appraisal, and memory processing. This was not found for meaningful objects or neutral places. The parahippocampal place area (PPA) showed enhanced activity only to personally meaningful places. Personally meaningful places clearly evoke distinctive neurological responses supporting the importance of this holistic and complex concept for human wellbeing.
Marine environments provide a range of important ecosystem goods and services. To ensure the sustainability of this environment, we require an integrated understanding of the activities taking place in coastal environments that takes into account the benefits to human visitors but also the risks to the environment. This paper presents two studies on the perceived risks and benefits associated with recreational visits to rocky shores in the UK and internationally. Marine experts and recreational users of the coast responded to questionnaires that explored the marine awareness and wellbeing effects of different activities on the visitor and, in turn, the perceived harmfulness of these activities to the environment. Two studies found that a visit to a rocky shore was seen to improve visitors' awareness regarding the marine environment as well as their wellbeing (with some activities being calming such as sunbathing and relaxing, and others exciting such as rock pooling). However, this was perceived to be at a cost to the environment, as some activities were noted to have detrimental effects on the habitat. Marine experts and coastal users gave very similar answers, as did British (Study 1) and international respondents (Study 2). Using an integrative approach, the perceived impacts on both the environment and visitor were then explored together. Walking and rock pooling were seen to provide considerable wellbeing benefits but had high negative impacts on the environment. In contrast, resource focussed activities such as fishing, bait collecting and crabbing were perceived as less important for visitor wellbeing yet also had negative environmental impacts. Using this integrative approach, this analysis begins to suggest priorities for management that benefits both the environment and the recreational users.
Marine plastic pollution is a global environmental concern. With reference to approaches in contemporary archaeology, object biographies and psychology, this article presents the application of a novel participatory (‘World Café’) methodology that aims both to understand how marine plastic pollution occurs and to demonstrate the value of the approach for encouraging behaviour change. As proof of concept, the authors present the preliminary results of fieldwork involving local people in the Galápagos archipelago to demonstrate the benefits of an archaeological approach in developing new frameworks to help mitigate this critical environmental threat.
Coastal visits not only provide psychological benefits but can also contribute to the accumulation of rubbish. Volunteer beach cleans help address this issue, but may only have limited, local impact. Consequently, it is important to study any broader benefits associated with beach cleans. This article examines the well-being and educational value of beach cleans, as well as their impacts on individuals’ behavioral intentions. We conducted an experimental study that allocated students (n = 90) to a beach cleaning, rock pooling, or walking activity. All three coastal activities were associated with positive mood and pro-environmental intentions. Beach cleaning and rock pooling were associated with higher marine awareness. The unique impacts of beach cleaning were that they were rated as most meaningful but linked to lower restorativeness ratings of the environment compared with the other activities. This research highlights the interplay between environment and activities, raising questions for future research on the complexities of person-environment interactions.
The beneficial effects of blue environments have been well documented; however, we do not know how marine litter might modify these effects. Three studies adopted a picture-rating task to examine the influence of litter on preference, perceived restorative quality, and psychological impacts. Photographs varied the presence of marine litter (Study 1) and the type of litter (Studies 2 and 3). The influence of tide and the role of connectedness were also explored. Using both quantitative and qualitative methods, it was shown that litter can undermine the psychological benefits that the coast ordinarily provides, thus demonstrating that, in addition to environmental costs of marine litter, there are also costs to people. Litter stemming from the public had the most negative impact. This research extends our understanding of the psychological benefits from natural coastal environments and the threats to these benefits from abundant and increasing marine litter.
Microplastics enter the environment as a result of larger plastic items breaking down (‘secondary’) and from particles originally manufactured at that size (‘primary’). Personal care productsare an important contributor of secondary microplastics (typically referred to as ‘microbeads’), for example in toothpaste, facial scrubs and soaps. Consumers play an important role in influencing the demand for these products and therefore any associated environmental consequences. Hence we need to understand public perceptions in order to help reduce emissions of microplastics. This study explored awareness of plastic microbeads in personal care products in three groups: environmental activists, trainee beauticians and university students in South West England. Focus groups were run, where participants were shown the quantity of microbeads found in individual high-street personal care products. Qualitative analysis showed that while the environmentalists were originally aware of the issue, it lacked visibility and immediacy for the beauticians and students. Yet when shown the amount of plastic in a range of familiar everyday personal care products, all participants expressed considerable surprise and concern at the quantities and potential impact. Regardless of any perceived level of harm in the environment, the consensus was that their use was unnatural and unnecessary. This research could inform future communications with the public and industry as well as policy initiatives to phase out the use of microbeads.
The oceans are crucial for human survival, yet they are under serious threat from humans, for example through overfishing and poor waste management. We investigated two questions. First, does a leisure visit to an aquarium improve visitor attitudes and intentions towards marine sustainability, specifically regarding overfishing and pollution? Second, does an information booklet handed out in addition to the visit have additional measurable impact? Aquarium visitors (n = 104) completed a questionnaire on marine sustainability attitudes and behavioral intentions before and after their visit. Half of the visitors also were given informational materials that offered behavioral solutions to the problem of overfishing. The aquarium visit significantly improved visitors’ overall attitudes and intentions. The information booklet additionally improved intentions significantly, but not attitudes. These findings show that a visit to an aquarium can help individuals develop what we term a marine mindset, a state of readiness to address marine sustainability issues. Implications, limitations, and ideas for further research are discussed.
Antimicrobial resistance is of growing concern in human and animal health. The aim of this study was to raise awareness and perception of risk of infection-related behaviours during routine preparation for veterinary surgery. We took a multi-disciplinary and multi-method approach to 'make visible, the invisible' by illustrating how microbial contamination can be spread during the preparation process for surgical procedures. The design-led visualization approach enhanced inter-disciplinary team and workshop participant contributions during the co-development of an innovative digital tool to support training for veterinary practitioners and students. After experiencing the intervention, 92% of 51 participants agreed to change their behaviour and stated an intention to implement an infection control behaviour that aligned with training objectives. The 3D graphics enhanced the delivery of training content by making difficult and abstract contamination concepts easy to understand. A similar approach could be taken for human health applications.
Marine litter, manufactured solid waste material that enters the marine environment, is a growing environmental concern (Galgani et al., 2010). Found throughout the oceans, from the poles to the equator and from the shoreline to the deep sea, impacts of this debris on the environment and wildlife is well recorded. For example, rubbish items can have lethal and sub-‐‑lethal effects on marine dwelling organisms, through processes such as ingestion, entanglement, and chemical contamination from eating those materials (Gall and Thompson, 2015). Whilst the research examining the distribution, abundance, and impacts of litter on the environment and its inhabitants is ever growing, it is important to recognise the human dimension of this problem. Humans are unquestionably the source of the problem; optimistically, we are also the solution, but an often overlooked aspect is that we too are also impacted by marine litter. Here, this short article will briefly overview the impact litter has on individuals, the psychological value of doing something about it, and why this is important when trying to address this global and growing issue.
Background: Many investigations into the determinants of hand hygiene (HH) behaviour have explored only individual predictors or were designed according to arguably overly simplistic models of behaviour. Consequently, important influences on HH behaviour, including habit and emotion, are sometimes neglected. This study is the first to employ the Theory of Interpersonal Behaviour as a comprehensive model for understanding the determinants of HH behaviour. Method: A self-report questionnaire was conducted with staff from two large UK veterinary referral practices. Participants (n = 75) reported their HH behaviour and responded to statements rating the importance of social norms, self-protection, patient protection, time pressures, access to equipment, habit and disgust, to their HH behaviour. Results: Regression analysis showed that, overall, determinants explained 46% of variance (p
Despite its remoteness, marine plastic pollution is a significant environmental problem in the Arctic. In Svalbard, for example, plastics are found on the shorelines, in the water column, on the ocean floor and in the ice. Organisms have been observed to be entangled in nets and ingestion of plastics has been documented in a range of organisms. Notably almost all Arctic bird species have been found to have ingested plastic, with Northern fulmars being particularly affected, with 89% of samples recorded as having ingested plastic. Identification and valuation of ecosystem services affected by marine plastic pollution can provide input for decision makers in evaluating and comparing management policies concerning this unique environment. This study employs the contingent valuation method (CVM) for eliciting the willingness to pay (WTP) of Norwegian households for reducing marine plastic pollution around the archipelago of Svalbard. An Integrated Choice and Latent Variable model (ICLV) is employed to explore attitudinal determinants of WTP. We find an average WTP for an initiative to reduce marine plastics of NOK 5,485 (USD 642) per household per year. The ICLV results reveal that people who are relatively more concerned about marine plastic pollution and who deem the proposed initiative effective are willing to pay more (up to 85 % and 50 %, respectively). The use of ICLV models in CVM and recommendations for future research are discussed.
The ecosystem services approach is based on the interdependencies between nature and human well-being. The ecosystem services aspect of these conceptual classifications is well-developed but the well-being aspect still remains unstructured and vaguely defined. This research advances and exemplifies the linkages between ecosystem services and well-being, with important insights for environmental and health management. An integrated framework was developed by adapting and linking the UKNEA-FO framework with Smith et al.’s (2013) human well-being domains. Besides benefits, the notion of disbenefits was incorporated to recognise the potentially detrimental effects from interacting with nature. Benefits and disbenefits occur at the social-ecological interface so they are classified by the seven domains of well-being they affect. Accounting for disbenefits and benefits specifically increased understanding of the differences in magnitude of their impact on society, spatial scale, and users. The framework is applied to Welsh saltmarshes, where we see that benefits mainly accrue at larger scales with a greater magnitude affecting local to global individuals, while disbenefits tend to occur at a smaller scale and impacting in-situ individuals only. Through trialling our integrated framework on Welsh saltmarshes it is evident that, by including the disbenefits and explicit well-being domains, this approach enables the greater inclusion and understanding of human well-being from the natural environment.
Exposure to nature can strengthen an individual’s sense of connectedness (i.e., emotional/cognitive bonds to the natural world) and enhance psychological restoration (e.g., feeling relaxed/refreshed). To date, there have been few large studies looking at the role that type and quality of natural environments may have on these outcomes. The present study used data from a large survey in England (sample analyzed = 4,515), which asked participants to recall a recent visit to nature. After controlling for covariates, respondents recalled greater connectedness to nature and restoration following visits to rural and coastal locations compared with urban green space, and to sites of higher environmental quality (operationalized by protected/designated area status, for example, nature reserves). A series of structural equation analyses provided evidence for a bidirectional association between connectedness and restoration. Consideration of the psychological benefits associated with different types and quality of environment has implications for human health, environmental management, and conservation.
This report provides an update and further assessment of the sources, fate and effects of microplastics in the marine environment, carried out by Working Group 40 (WG40) of GESAMP (The Joint Group of Experts on Scientific Aspects of Marine Protection). It follows publication of the first assessment report in this series in April 2015 (GESAMP 2015). The issue of marine plastic litter was raised during the inaugural meeting of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) in June 2014. Delegates from 160 countries adopted Resolution 1/6 on ‘Marine plastic debris and microplastics’ (Annex I). The resolution welcomed the work being undertaken by GESAMP on microplastics and requested the Executive Director of UNEP to carry out a study on marine plastics and microplastics. This was to be based on a combination of existing and new studies, including WG40. This provided the motivation for GESAMP to revise the original terms of reference to reflect both the request from UNEP to contribute to the UNEA study, and the key recommendations from the WG40 2015 report.
The present paper illustrates the breadth of research methods in the Social and Behavioural Sciences and how these may be applied to the issue of environmental microplastics. Microplastics are a human-caused problem and we need to understand the human dimension in order to address it. Nine key points are emphasised in this paper and follow from the key observation that humans, through their perceptions, decisions and actions, are pivotal to the issue of primary and secondary microplastics in the environment: (1) human perception and behaviour can be subject to systematic and rigorous scientific study, using theory-based hypothesis testing, measurement and statistical analysis; (2) qualitative methods can explore new areas of research and provide novel, in-depth insights; (3) best practice and recommendations exist for measuring social data; (4) quantitative cross-sectional approaches can test how important social factors are for key outcomes (e.g., the role of perceived risk, values, social norms for behaviour); (5) experimental quantitative approaches can compare randomised groups and study cause–effect relations; (6) certain limitations and challenges are unique to research with people; (7) communications and interventions (e.g., change campaigns, new regulation, education programmes) should be developed based on scientific insights into human thought and behaviour and then evaluated systematically; (8) social researchers should work towards developing standardised tools and protocols; and (9) social research on microplastics and its determinants is in its infancy and a number of important research questions remain to be addressed.
Plastic pollution is caused exclusively by humans. It poses growing global threats to both the ocean and society, and requires urgent action. Using psychological principles can motivate and implement change by connecting symptoms and sources.
The success or failure of environmental management goals can be partially attributed to the support for such goals from the public. Despite this, environmental management is still dominated by a natural science approach with little input from disciplines that are concerned with the relationship between humans and the natural environment such as environmental psychology. Within the marine and freshwater environments, this is particularly concerning given the cultural and aesthetic significance of these environments to the public, coupled with the services delivered by freshwater and marine ecosystems, and the vulnerability of aquatic ecosystems to human-driven environmental perturbations. This paper documents nine case studies which use environmental psychology methods to support a range of aquatic management goals. Examples include understanding the drivers of public attitudes towards ecologically important but uncharismatic river species, impacts of marine litter on human well-being, efficacy of small-scale governance of tropical marine fisheries and the role of media in shaping attitudes towards. These case studies illustrate how environmental psychology and natural sciences can be used together to apply an interdisciplinary approach to the management of aquatic environments. Such an approach that actively takes into account the range of issues surrounding aquatic environment management is more likely to result in successful outcomes, from both human and environmental perspectives. Furthermore, the results illustrate that better understanding the societal importance of aquatic ecosystems can reduce conflict between social needs and ecological objectives, and help improve the governance of aquatic ecosystems. Thus, this paper concludes that an effective relationship between academics and practitioners requires fully utilising the skills, knowledge and experience from both sectors.
This research takes a holistic approach to considering the consequences of marine plastic pollution. A semisystematic literature review of 1191 data points provides the basis to determine the global ecological, social and economic impacts. An ecosystem impact analysis demonstrates that there is global evidence of impact with medium to high frequency on all subjects, with a medium to high degree of irreversibility. A novel translation of these ecological impacts into ecosystem service impacts provides evidence that all ecosystem services are impacted to some extent by the presence of marine plastic, with a reduction in provision predicted for all except one. This reduction in ecosystem service provision is evidenced to have implications for human health and wellbeing, linked particularly to fisheries, heritage and charismatic species, and recreation.
Ecosystem services conceptualises the multiple interactions between ecosystems and the people and communities benefitting from their direct or indirect use, aiming to provide stakeholders and scientists with a common language. While some users appear to have adopted this language and terminology, there are concerns that the complexities associated with the concept make it inaccessible and, rather than providing stakeholders with a tool to explain complex relationships, the language and terminology itself may disengage. Through surveying UKbased coastal and marine stakeholders (n=158), this study examines stakeholders’ perceptions of the concept of ecosystem services and its role and usefulness within the marine and coastal science-policy-practice interface. Overall, stakeholders provided favourable opinions, with findings similar across respondents with the exception of industry; which used it less, was less confident with it and believed it to be less important. The results provide an evidenced argument for the benefits of the ecosystem services approach, including communication, supporting management and linking environment to humans. The analysis also details the required advancements to ensure effective future use, including improved terminology, pluralistic valuation and shared learning. Finally, the paper highlights challenges and benefits relating to the term, creating links to ongoing discussions about effective scientific communication for marine and coastal management.
Marine litter is a global, persistent, and increasing threat to the oceans, and numerous initiatives aim to address this challenge. Fishing For Litter (FFL) is a voluntary clean-up scheme, where litter is collected as part of routine fishing operations. We surveyed fishers (n=97) and stakeholders (n=22) in the UK to investigate perceptions of FFL, its strengths and weaknesses, and potential co-benefits of the scheme. Fishers reported being aware of and concerned about the negative impacts of litter. Overall, FFL was evaluated very positively (7.85/10). In addition, FFL fishers reported less environmentally harmful waste management behaviors both out at sea and in other contexts than did non-FFL fishers. Fishers and stakeholders listed strengths and weaknesses of the scheme and made suggestions for future changes. As well as directly helping to remove litter, this paper demonstrates that clean-up schemes can make a contribution to addressing the underlying causes of marine pollution.