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 Alex Smalley

Alex Smalley

PhD Fellow

 01872 258135

 Knowledge Spa 

 

University of Exeter Medical School, Knowledge Spa, Royal Cornwall Hospital, Truro, TR1 3HD

Overview

Alex Smalley is exploring how digital experiences of nature can impact wellbeing.

His Virtual Nature project is working with interdisciplinary teams from the arts, media, and science to weave national-scale experiments into creative outputs, and engage people in conversations surrounding nature and health.

The first part of this research partnered with the BBC to create Forest 404, a groundbreaking podcast series and experiment examining reactions to natural soundscapes. Over 7,600 people took part in the study, and the wider project won several broadcast awards for its novel transdisciplinary approach. Outcomes from this study have been published in the journal Global Environmental Change. More details on the series can be found at bbc.co.uk/forest and an overview of the academic component can be found at virtual-nature.com/forest.

The second focus of the project assessed how fleeting and ephemeral experiences of landscapes might impact the therapeutic potential of natural environments. Over 3,000 people responded to an online experiment exploring the restorative potential of ‘memorable moments’ such as sunsets, rainbows and storms. The outcomes from this study are currently under review at the Journal of Environmental Psychology and more information can be viewed at virtual-nature.com/ephemeral-phenomena.

Collaborating again with the BBC, the final component of this research focused on the intrersection between healing experiences of nature and music. In January 2021, Alex partnered with the BBC to develop a cross-platform initiative called Soundscapes for Wellbeing which brough digital experiences of the natural world to a diverse set of audiences during the UK's third lockdown. Soundscapes for Wellbeing explored the links between music, nature, and health in different formats across radio, television, and online. At the heart of this debate, was a novel online experiment. Over 8,000 people took part in the study, the results of which have just been submitted for peer review. You can read more at virtual-nature.com/music-nature.

The outcomes of this work will also feed into therapeutic interventions designed to reach those who cannot access ‘real’ natural environments. A first example of this impact was Mindful Escapes, a unique collaborative series between BBC Four and Headspace. Alex was scientific consultant on this series, helping to underpin the programme with the latest academic findings.

Alex also has a background in both the physical sciences and science communication. He has spent the last 15 years communicating complex concepts to a range of national and international audiences.

Following an undergraduate degree which focused on atmospheric physics, he worked for Defra, private consultancy and BBC News before joining the University of Exeter. In addition to his PhD research, he recently led the science communication activities of two large pan-European grants, BlueHealth and SOPHIE, both investigating the links between aquatic environments and health.

Research group links

Research

Research interests

Alex is interested in virtual natural environments can impact wellbeing. His research into ‘virtual nature’ is investigating how nature, culture, and technology can combine to enhance psychological health.

Alex’s PhD research is developing our understanding of ‘what works’ in nature restoration, and is hoping to inform interventions which bring contact with the natural environment to people who can’t otherwise access it.

His 5 year project is funded by the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health, and the University of Exeter.

Research projects

Current Projects:

  • Virtual Nature: Exploring how digital experiences of the natural world can impact health and wellbeing, virtual-nature.com

Publications

Key publications | Publications by category | Publications by year

Publications by category


Journal articles

Smalley AJ, White MP, Ripley R, Atack TX, Lomas E, Sharples M, Coates PA, Groom N, Grand A, Heneberry A, et al (2022). Forest 404: Using a BBC drama series to explore the impact of nature’s changing soundscapes on human wellbeing and behavior. Global Environmental Change, 74
Yeo NL, White MP, Alcock I, Garside R, Dean SG, Smalley AJ, Gatersleben B (2020). What is the best way of delivering virtual nature for improving mood? an experimental comparison of high definition TV, 360° video, and computer generated virtual reality. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 72, 101500-101500.
Ford T, Kenchington R, Norman S, Hancock J, Smalley A, Henley W, Russell G, Hayes J, Logan S (2019). The agreement between the referrer, practitioner and research diagnosis of autistic spectrum conditions among children attending child and adolescent mental health services. European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 28(9), 1253-1264. Abstract.
Elliott LR, White MP, Sarran C, Grellier J, Garrett JK, Scoccimarro E, Smalley AJ, Fleming LE (2019). The effects of meteorological conditions and daylight on nature-based recreational physical activity in England. Urban Forestry and Urban Greening, 42, 39-39.
Fleming LE, McDonough N, Austen M, Mee L, Moore M, Hess P, Depledge MH, White M, Philippart K, Bradbrook P, et al (2014). Oceans and Human Health: a rising tide of challenges and opportunities for Europe. Mar Environ Res, 99, 16-19. Abstract.  Author URL.

Publications by year


2022

Smalley AJ, White MP, Ripley R, Atack TX, Lomas E, Sharples M, Coates PA, Groom N, Grand A, Heneberry A, et al (2022). Forest 404: Using a BBC drama series to explore the impact of nature’s changing soundscapes on human wellbeing and behavior. Global Environmental Change, 74

2020

Yeo NL, White MP, Alcock I, Garside R, Dean SG, Smalley AJ, Gatersleben B (2020). What is the best way of delivering virtual nature for improving mood? an experimental comparison of high definition TV, 360° video, and computer generated virtual reality. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 72, 101500-101500.

2019

Ford T, Kenchington R, Norman S, Hancock J, Smalley A, Henley W, Russell G, Hayes J, Logan S (2019). The agreement between the referrer, practitioner and research diagnosis of autistic spectrum conditions among children attending child and adolescent mental health services. European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 28(9), 1253-1264. Abstract.
Elliott LR, White MP, Sarran C, Grellier J, Garrett JK, Scoccimarro E, Smalley AJ, Fleming LE (2019). The effects of meteorological conditions and daylight on nature-based recreational physical activity in England. Urban Forestry and Urban Greening, 42, 39-39.

2014

Fleming LE, McDonough N, Austen M, Mee L, Moore M, Hess P, Depledge MH, White M, Philippart K, Bradbrook P, et al (2014). Oceans and Human Health: a rising tide of challenges and opportunities for Europe. Mar Environ Res, 99, 16-19. Abstract.  Author URL.

Alexander_Smalley Details from cache as at 2022-11-27 23:16:36

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