Recollections from the RESONATE Launch Meeting


A Student's Perspective

As students with an interest in environmental psychology and a drive to delve into the realm of academia, we had the opportunity to participate in the RESONATE Launch Meeting. The event gathered experts with various academic backgrounds from all over the world—sharing one aspiration: To answer the question of how nature-based interventions affect our mental and physical health.

Mother Nature as a Therapist?

There is growing evidence that spending time in natural and semi-natural places such as urban parks, woodlands, mountains, rivers and beaches can reduce people’s risk of various health and social challenges, including heart disease, diabetes, stress, depression and loneliness; as well as build their resilience to cope with every-day and longer-term life challenges. Various interventions have thus been established to promote health and well-being and reduce disease by allowing better access to nature. Such nature-based therapies can help people experiencing stress to recover, but they also have the potential to be “therapeutic” by building biopsychosocial resources that can protect people against the impact of potential future stressors. It is therefore important to consider both protective and recovery resilience, as nature-based therapies do not only benefit people with existing conditions, but also at-risk groups and even general populations.

RESilience thrOugh NATurE-based therapies (RESONATE)

The new €6.3million EU Horizon Europe and UK Research & Innovation funded RESONATE project (Building individual and community RESilience thrOugh NATurE-based therapies) will explore these issues with a review of existing interventions, in-depth exploration of 9 nature-based therapy Case Studies across Europe, and three Social Innovation Actions which will develop community focused nature-based Resilience Hubs.The project will build a stronger evidence base, raise awareness and acceptance, enhance utilisation and to do so collaboratively between diverse stakeholders and communities. In the end, the goal is to provide practical guidelines and tools for implementing green care and is expected to have a significant impact on the future development and use of nature-based therapy in health and social care across Europe.

In the Shoes of International Environmental Researchers - A Student's Perspective

On September 14th, we (a group of bright-eyed students at the University of Vienna) participated in our first international research meeting. Big academic events like these can be daunting, therefore we wanted to share our experiences so that any young student interested in pursuing a career in academia, gets a better idea of what to expect. International meetings might seem scary and bring the imposter syndrome out in many of us, but we wanted to show that everybody starts somewhere. And for us that somewhere, was the university’s entrance.

Before the event began, we gathered in order to guide the attendees to the meeting room, marking our first interaction with the invited experts. We had cited many of them in our Bachelors and Masters theses before and it was fantastic to put faces to names we had read countless times. Done. We successfully accomplished our first task: all participants managed to gather in the correct room but the excitement among us students was noticeable, and nobody was quite sure what to expect. Were we in over our heads?

Luckily, the meeting started with presentations in order to bring all participants up to speed. The first presentation was about the EU policy context, which is extremely important, but something that one normally doesn't get to learn during a Bachelor or Master program. This was followed by presentations on the work packages, each of which deals with specific tasks or questions. For example, one work package focuses on creating an interactive map that will depict nature-based interventions worldwide, whilst a different package deals with economic questions, such as the cost-benefit analysis of nature-based interventions. Gradually, we gained a clearer understanding of how a project is organised and how complex and intricate such an international collaboration can be. The presentations were followed by explanations of the individual case studies—finally a topic we were familiar with :-). The case studies are roughly divided into three categories: one group of experts deals with healthy populations, another with at-risk populations, and the third one investigates clinical populations. The case studies themselves showed us how complex and far-reaching the project is: each case study takes place in a different country and faces different challenges.

Phew, that was a lot to take in at once. At that point, we've all earned ourselves a coffee break. Moments like these are not only good for recharging one’s energy but also provide opportunities for conversation between attendees. Informal communication is just as important as the formal type, and we appreciated everyone’s openness towards us.

After the break, everyone was gathered in the room again, and the exchange among the experts began. This took place in the form of World Café Sessions: At each table (organised by topic), experts sat together and were encouraged to exchange ideas, identify common problems, and address open questions. This offered us the opportunity to participate in technical discussions and be a part of the conversation. For example, the group of professionals dealing with clinical populations faced the challenge of comparability in their studies—even though they all study clinical populations, the subjects they investigate vary significantly. We learned about this difficulty during our studies but it was interesting to see how it is handled in practice.

Is it already lunchtime? The morning passed surprisingly quickly. Before everyone could dig into a buffet, we took a group picture in the beautiful green courtyard of the University of Vienna. As students we are familiar with attendance lists. It was fun to learn that conference pictures work the same way. They are not just nice memories but a form of official documentation. The EU needs to know that their experts actually got together for work and did not just go hiking instead.

After some more informal discussions during lunch, another World Café session followed and each person had the opportunity to exchange ideas with every other participant. This time, they were encouraged to specifically consider what information they need from the respective work packages. We realised how interdisciplinary the project is and how crucial communication among different team members can be. Exchanging ideas across different disciplines is anything but easy: a particular measurement standard may be considered exhaustive by one discipline, while another discipline does not rate the same standard as highly. Nonetheless, despite challenges, everyone managed to reach a consensus in the end. It became clear to us that having expertise in one's field alone is not enough; social and communicative skills are just as essential to successfully carry out a project.

Towards the later part of the day, attention turned to aspects like reporting, budgeting, and ethics—underlining the practical side of project management. Deliverables, quarterly reports, budget planning. University prepared us for t-test and p-values, and it became clear we had entered a world of academia we were not yet prepared for.

For most of the participants the day ended with an Open Floor Plenary that offered an opportunity to voice opinions and concerns but right at the end of the day, young researchers interested in networking and furthering their professional career, had the opportunity to attend a so-called “Early Career Network”. This type of network refers to a professional and social network that is, as the name suggests, designed for individuals who are still in the early stages of their career. It was created to facilitate connections with other professionals, to serve as a platform for sharing information, and to foster social and peer support. Verbally exchanging ideas with professionals is essential, but it is just as important to exchange contacts with peers and to take part in social activities that allow for interaction in a more relaxed setting.

The event was a great opportunity to gain insight on how large scale research projects are organised. Classes have prepared me for writing research papers but I would not have known about all the moving pieces an international collaboration has to account for. Organising a project of this scale seems extremely stressful, so I hope everybody involved lives close to a forest or park. (Addi Wala)

Participating in this event was a huge opportunity. It offered me valuable insights into the inner-workings of international research projects. What I found particularly fascinating was the interdisciplinary aspect of the project—individuals from diverse academic backgrounds come together and share a common goal: to promote nature-based therapies in primary care. (Laurie Girres)

What’s in Store for the Future?

The RESONATE project runs from June 2023 until May 2027. The results will lead to a collection of open-access nature-based therapy guides for different stakeholders, practitioners and policy makers. These guides will help local communities decide if introducing nature-based therapies in their area is right for them, and if so, provide a road map for how best to ensure the interventions are as acceptable and effective as possible.

Additional Information:

The RESONATE project is funded by the European Union’s Horizons Europe research and innovation programme under grant agreement No: 101081420; and through associated funding from the UK’s Research & Innovation agency.

The consortium consists of world leaders in NbT research, practice, policy, and innovation in Austria (Green Care Austria, Paracelsus Medizinische Privatuniversität Salzburg), Belgium (EuroHealthNet), Bulgaria (Meditcinsky Universitet-Plovdiv), Denmark (Københavns Universitet), Italy (Universita degli Studi di Padova, ETIFOR), the Netherlands (Natuurvoormensen Omgevingspsychologisch Onderzoek, Universiteit Twente), Spain (ISGLOBAL, AZTI), Sweden (Nature Based Solution Institute, Uppsala Universitet), and the UK (University of Exeter, funded by UKRI), with additional expert oversight from leading NbT researchers/practitioners in Australia (University of Wollongong), Canada (University of British Columbia) and the US (Cornell University, University of California San Francisco).