Alex Smalley news

The HEPE Story

6 May 2021

Centre researchers Kath Maguire and Ritadevi Alflatt have recently started a YouTube channel for the Health and Environment Public Engagement group, based at Cornwall’s European Centre for Environment and Human Health.

The group (known as HEPE) provide valuable consultation on researchers’ projects, helping to co-create research that is shaped by the people it impacts. Since being set up in 2013 HEPE has been consulted on over 120 research projects, funding bids, journal articles and lay summaries, across a diverse range of areas within health and environmental research. Through workshops and community activities, HEPE has also involved more than 70 other people from Devon and Cornwall in research activities. They have worked with over 60 researchers, taken part in 27 workshops, attended 25 conferences and supported the development of 12 medical students through the Special Studies Unit programme. In addition, they have supported the learning of numerous undergraduate and postgraduate students.

HEPE have provided their wisdom and expertise to many projects within WCCEH, including Virtual Nature and the Big Data Beacon Project.

You can read all about their work in The HEPE Story, which outlines the immeasurable contribution that the members have made to research.



Alex Smalley news

New nature experiment launched with BBC Music

25 January 2021

A new experiment goes live today, investigating how people respond to different kinds of digital nature experience.

The study is part of a new collaboration between the BBC and the University of Exeter, called ‘Soundscapes for Wellbeing’, aiming to connect audiences with the nature through creative TV, radio, and online programming.

The experiment is exploring the emotions people feel when they engage with natural environments through varying digital formats, from rich visual scenes to immersive natural sound recordings and big budget wildlife documentaries.

Award-winning film composer, Nainita Desai, and legendary sound recordist, Chris Watson, have both helped to create the study, which is being led by Wellcome Centre funded PhD student, Alex Smalley.

Alex 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 experiment is hosted online and open to anyone over the age of 18. It takes around 10 minutes to complete. You can take part at bbc.co.uk/soundscapesforwellbeing.

As poor mental health continues to rise in the UK, early research suggests the COVID-19 pandemic could worsen this trend. Yet lockdowns across the country have led some to seek refuge in nature and reconnect with the natural world.

Through special programming across the BBC, Soundscapes for Wellbeing is hoping to bring some of nature’s therapeutic potential to audiences who might be stuck at home.

 

Highlights will include Winterwatch’s Gillian Burke creating her own soundscapes for Radio 3’s Slow Radio, Lauren Laverne speaking with guests from the world of nature including the founder of Black Girls Hike, Nainita Desai and Chris Watson in conversation with Kate Molleson on Radio 3’s Music Matters, and Chris Packham interviewing Alex Smalley, on BBC Two’s Winterwatch.

Soundscapes for Wellbeing is also launching the new BBC Sound Effects archive, which allows audiences to escape aurally around the world from the comfort of their living room. The interactive website features 17,000 nature sounds in addition to recordings from all aspects of life. The site also has a mixing tool which allows users to create their own soundscapes.

Find out more about the research component of this project at virtual-nature.com.



Alex Smalley news

Watching nature on TV can boost wellbeing

5 November 2020

Watching high quality nature programmes on TV can uplift people’s moods, reduce negative emotions, and help alleviate the kind of boredom associated with being isolated indoors, according to a new BlueHealth study released today.

Centre PhD student Alex Smalley and the BlueHealth team have worked with the BBC Natural History Unit to create experimental conditions to test their hypothesis. Their findings support initiatives seeking to bring the therapeutic potential of nature to people at home, such as BBC Four’s recent Mindful Escapes series.

You can find out more on the BlueHealth website here.



Alex Smalley news

Mindfulness meets Mother Nature in new BBC series

7 September 2020

Following his successful collaboration with the BBC on Forest 404, Centre PhD student Alex Smalley has once again collaborated with the BBC on a new four-part series, Mindful Escapes: Breathe, Release, Restore.

The series brings together video footage from the The BBC Studios Natural History Unit’s archives with voiceover from Andy Puddicombe, founder of the Headspace mindfulness app. The series will premiere on BBC Four from September 7, 2020, as four 30-minute episodes, and will also be adapted into shorter episodes for the Headspace app later this year.

The four episodes – Breathe, Change, Joy and Rest – will offer “the viewer immersive mindful experiences within the natural world“.

Alex has produced a web video about his research, which can be viewed here.

 



Alex Smalley news

New podcast – Alex Smalley

2 September 2019

Explain it to me …

Pete Hodges, the Centre’s Comms Assistant, invited researchers around the Centre to talk about their work. In the second of this podcast series, PhD student Alex Smalley discusses his research and his links with the BBC Sounds podcast series, Forest 404.



Alex Smalley news

Research Fellows’ and PhD Students’ Success

30 April 2019

The Wellcome Centre is incredibly proud of everyone who works with us but we want to highlight a few people who’s work has been in the spotlight.

Congratulations to ‘Waiting Times’, Michael Flexer and Kelechi Anucha

Michael Flexer, Publicly Engaged Research Fellow on the ‘Waiting Times’ project has won the 2019 Public Engagement Award from Birkbeck, University of London.

‘Waiting Times’ is funded by the Wellcome Trust and led by Prof. Laura Salisbury (Exeter) and Prof. Lisa Baraitser (Birkbeck).

Michael designed a series of storytelling workshops, ‘Messages in a Bottle’, in which users of the day hospice in Honiton shared stories of their experiences of time.

Michael delivered the workshops with Kelechi Anucha (PhD student on Waiting Times) and Hospicecare staff. Michael and Kelechi have offered the prize money (£150) back to the hospice, to be used to fund something that the users of the day hospice who collaborated in the research can enjoy.

The Birkbeck award committee particularly commended how the relationship with Hospicecare was carefully developed throughout the research process, making it an excellent example of engaged research. Dr Elliot Kendall, Director of Research (English and Film) congratulated Michael and Kelechi on this recognition of their impressive engaged research practice.

Engage Researchers Academy

Dr Charlotte Jones and Dr Michael Flexer have both won a place in the Engage Researchers Academy.

This is a year-long professional development programme that supports participants to develop their skills and experience in engagement and enhance the impact and relevance of their research.

We look forward to hearing more about the programme over the year, and benefiting from Charlotte and Michael’s experiences.

PhD Student collaborates on BBC ecodrama podcast

Our very own Alex Smalley has been working with the BBC’s ecodrama Forest 404 to understand how the sounds of nature might affect wellbeing. To take part in the study you can visit here, and to listen to Alex talk about it on BBC Radio Devon recently follow the link here



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