In this study, I used ArcGIS to develop a coarse-scale greater ecosystem model (GEM) that evaluates the permeability of national parks and their surrounding landscapes. Since much is unknown about species’ behavioral responses to human encroachment, the GEM model used one variable “wildness” and three potential species responses. Previous greater ecosystem models are species and habitat-suitability specific, and therefore, are difficult to compare across the continent.
Since wildness has been evaluated on a national level, I concluded that the GEM model can be used across the continent to evaluate protected areas’ greater ecosystems. Secondly, the GEM model aids the National Park Service’s Inventory and Monitoring program outside parks’ administrative boundaries. Thirdly, the GEM model can be used to analyze ecosystem representation and the conservation status of a parks’ greater ecosystems. By using the GEM model parks can be ranked to determine conservation priorities and the most intact wildlands surrounding parks can be identified. Locations identified with the model can then be evaluated and re-designated to complete a much needed protected area network to help conserve half of the earth for other species (Wilson, 2017).
In this study, I used ArcGIS to model an innovative conservation strategy and evaluate if two scenic trails in the national park system could serve as green infrastructure for continental wildlife corridors over the next century. In cities, green infrastructure, such as parks and greenways, are employed as a climate mitigation and adaptation strategy. Therefore, on a continental scale I used Beier’s two-kilometer wildlife corridor method (2018) and buffered the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) to analyze if the trail buffers held vital conservation values for wildlife corridors: wildness, connectivity and diversity. To determine the feasibility of using my model in the field and to inform policy on if new land acquisitions or designations are needed, I also calculated the conservation status and land management that the trails traversed.
The PCT and the CDT corridors were both found to be remarkably wild and connected when compared to other land units in the U.S. Eighty-six percent of the PCT and 87% of the CDT was in the top 50% of the most wild and connected landscapes. Secondly, many of the ecosystems along the proposed corridor are already represented in the American reserve. Thirdly, both the PCT (99.96%) and CDT (94.96%) follow the route of the best corridor values in the U.S. and match the forward centrality models for the next 100 years. Fourthly, the public already owns 90% of the land the trail buffers traverse and the land that is not permanently protected (12%) is managed by two primary agencies: The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Therefore, it is recommended that these scenic trails become re-designated as “critical wildlife corridors” and act as an anchor for the protected area network to reach half-earth (Wilson, 2017).
Nature and Neuroscience is a presentation at the North American Association of Environmental Educators Research Symposium.
Abstract: Nature and Neuroscience provides an overview of portable Electroencephalogram (EEG) devices and present the results of two studies from our research. The methods used constitute an emerging line of inquiry that uses portable EEG devices to measure brain wave activity during outdoor experiences. Relatively few studies have used portable EEGs in outdoor and nature research due to technological constraints. EEGs allow researchers to better understand how outdoor experiences affect neurophysiology. In 2015, we completed a neurobehavioral study on green play and ADHD children which determined the effects of outdoor play on their sustained-attention and hypervigilance regulation. Using attention restoration theory (ART) as a theoretical framework, we used EEG scans to measure theta beta ratios (TBR) in ADHD children before and after a 30-minute nature walk. The children also completed a perceived restorative scale (PRS-ii) to measure their perceptions of the greenspace. Our EEG scans were inconclusive due to several factors, but the children’s PRS-ii results suggested that the children found the greenspace restorative. Our findings suggest that more research on the effects of green space on neurological functioning is warranted and recommendations are reported.
Additionally, in 2017, Daniel and Faircloth completed a study using portable EEG devices on the effect of an organized 1.5 hour night walk experience on anxiety states as exhibited in brain wave activity before and during the experience. Portable EEG devices were used along with the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) for Adults (Spielberger, 1977). The results of the STAI indicated that the participants were not anxious just prior to the night walk. The EEG recordings of participants revealed that changes in brain wave patterns were detected during the sequenced night walks, and that affective states changed across the solo portion of the night walk. Participants were aroused during the solo portion and these changes in brain waves were detected by the EEG helmets. Future studies will examine the relationship between participant anxiety, as measured by the STAI, and specific EEG patterns of night walk participants, as measured with Emotiv helmets, with larger sample sizes.
Primary Nature Experiences was a presentation at the North American Association of Environmental Educators Conference.
Abstract: Step outside at dusk or stroll a sidewalk with a young child, and they will be the first to tell you that the moon looks like a banana or that there is a row of ants marching beside you. Young children are often more aware of their surroundings then adults and simply need us to join in their wonder of the natural world (Carson, 1954). Biophilia (Wilson, 1984), or man’s inherent love of nature, is very evident in young children and we must remember to capture their scientific interest with nature study at a young age. As an emphasis on STEM education rises, nature study with young children should be paramount. In this hands-on workshop, participants will experience how to develop hands-on constructivist lessons that build scientific inquiry while using nature as an impetus. Participants will leave knowing the philosophical underpinnings of biophilia research as well as practical applications of 20 key phenomena-based inquiry activities that are linked to NGSS standards. The inquiry activities are appropriate for K-5 students and can be used as launching points for all seven cross-cutting concepts of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Guiding questions for the workshop will be: How can biophilia be used to capture the attention of young children and how we plan to engage young children for scientific inquiry in the future?
Background: One in ten U.S. children has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). ADHD children are characterized by their inability to hold sustained-attention and regulate their hypervigilance. Previous studies have shown that exposure to greenspace can reduce ADHD symptoms. This study examined whether a 30 minutes of nature walk in a greenspace aided in increasing sustained-attention ability and hypervigilance regulation neurologically and behaviorally. Methods: Eleven children ages 7 to 13 years old participated in a neurological test which included a pre and post electroencephalogram scan (EEG) to measure their theta beta ratio (TBR). Children then participated in a continuous performance test (CPT) to measure their behavioral functioning, and a perceived restorative scale (PRS-ii) to measure their perceptions of the greenspace. Results: EEG scans were inconclusive, and numerous ideas for further research are reported. CPT results suggest that children who participate in green play have increased sustained-ability when compared to other studies noted in the literature. The PRS-ii results suggested that the children found the greenspace restorative. Conclusions: These findings suggest that while ADHD children deem green play restorative further evidence of the effects of greenspace on neurological and behavioral functioning is warranted.