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Nature through a screen? Give it a try…

Scientists are trying to find out whether people could benefit from ‘nature experiences’ through a screen. Sign up to take part!

The soothing effect of nature is instinctive. Most of us feel calmer and happier after listening to rustling autumn leaves, watching a flowing river or even smelling rain!

Doctors know that natural light helps regulate our sleep cycles, and there’s increasing academic interest in how the natural world can affect our wellbeing. Marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols’ book, Blue Mind, takes an all-round look at how experiencing natural water features makes us happier, healthier and more intelligent!

But in reality, getting in to nature can be a challenge for many of us - all the more so during a global pandemic.

And that’s where the Soundscapes for Wellbeing initiative comes in. Designed as a hub bringing together content from across the BBC, the initiative opens access to the BBC Sound Effects digital archive (with over 17,000 nature sounds which can mixed and matched) as well as nature-related programming from across the organisation.

The centrepiece of the initiative, however, is an innovative ‘Virtual Nature Experiment’.

The Virtual Nature Experiment

The experiment is being carried out by the University of Exeter and the BBC. It aims to understand how people feel when they have ‘nature experiences’ (such as watching a documentary or a cinematic sequence) via phones, tablets and laptops.

The goal is to find out how the health benefits of nature could be brought in to people’s homes, particularly those who may not always have access to the great outdoors.

Well-known sound recordist, Chris Watson, and renowned composer, Nainita Desai, have been involved in creating the study.

Take part…

Excitingly, the public are invited to take part in the experiment by watching a short 3 minute online video before answering some questions about the experience.

Lead researcher Alex Smalley said:

“We’ve assembled an amazing team to create this experiment, which fuses approaches from the arts, natural history, and science. We’re hoping as many people as possible will take part, and help us understand how best to bring virtual experiences of nature to those who can’t easily get outside.”

The whole process should take 8-10 minutes – you could be contributing to the future wellbeing of others, and you may even find something out about yourself!



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