Protecting Nature – Improving our Health


For centuries, people have found solace and respite through nature. Now, increasing evidence is showing that the benefits of spending time in nature extend beyond ‘feeling good’ to longer term improvements in our physical and mental health and wellbeing. We see the influence of this evidence beginning to shape policy and practice, such as the introduction of nature-based social prescriptions.

In this free online event, we took a deep dive into the benefits nature provides us and what this means for how we protect the natural world, with perspectives from science, policy, practice and the arts. Stimulating thinking and debate around the health benefits of protecting the natural environment, this event aimed to raise awareness and foster a sense of empowerment for action.

We looked at how people and organisations are working together to understand our relationship with nature and the critical role it plays in our health and wellbeing. As our natural resources come under ever increasing threat, we considered the question – how can we protect the environment and improve health for all?

This event was in partnership with SWEEP (the South West Partnership for Environment and Economic Prosperity) – a NERC funded programme, led by the University of Exeter in partnership with Plymouth University and Plymouth Marine Laboratory, that applies research to benefit our environment, economy and communities.


Luke Pollard MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Labour and Co-operative Member of Parliament for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport

Luke Pollard was elected as the Labour and Co-operative Member of Parliament for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport in June 2017, and re-elected in 2019. He was appointed as Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in January 2020

Dr Ben Wheeler

Senior Research Fellow
South West Partnership for Environment & Economic Prosperity (SWEEP)
University of Exeter

Ben Wheeler is a Senior Research Fellow at the European Centre for Environment and Human Health, at the University of Exeter Medical School. He has a BSc in Environmental Science and a PhD in Social Medicine, and has previously worked in medical schools and geography departments in the UK and New Zealand. Ben has a wide range of research interests in environment-health interconnections, but primarily applies geographical and epidemiological methods to examine the impacts that the environment can have on human health. Recently, Ben has been working to use the research to inform health and environmental policy at various scales, from Cornwall Council, to Natural England to the World Health Organisation.

Anu Anand

BBC World Service

Anu Anand is a presenter with 22 years experience in international news and current affairs. Anu has worked all over the world, reporting major stories like the death of Mother Theresa, the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, the 2004 Asian Tsunami, Nepal’s devastating earthquakes in 2014 and several Indian elections.

She was based in New Delhi for 8 years covering the country’s epic economic and social changes.

She has also worked for APTN, the Guardian, the Christian Science Monitor, Al Jazeera English and Marketplace, launching the global edition of Marketplace Morning Report from the BBC World Service in 2017.

Dr. Jonathan Reeves

Principal Research Officer (Health & Wellbeing)
Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT)

Jonathan Reeves’s focus is on the relationship between wetlands and human health and wellbeing, and how measured effects might be communicated for conservation gain. He leads WWT’s Blue Prescribing Project, a wetland health programme specifically designed to promote a range of mental and physical health benefits through facilitated wetland nature engagement. In 2019 he was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to travel to Japan and Korea to study the Japanese nature-health practice of forest bathing, aka shinrin yoku.

Emily Stephenson

University of Exeter | Beach Guardian

Emily Stevenson is a marine biologist and the co-founder of the award-winning social enterprise: Beach Guardian. Powered by passion, Emily is also an environmental reporter, with her weekly ‘Tune in Tuesday’ video blog and social media pages reaching over 8 million people worldwide and regularly features on BBC Spotlight. 

In 2019, Emily’s work received recognition as a Point of Light award recipient from the British Prime Minister and Young Citizen Award from the Rotary Club in Great Britain and Ireland. In 2020, Emily was awarded the highest accolade a young person can achieve for social action and humanitarian efforts: the Diana Award.

Beth Collier

Nature Therapy School
Wild in the City

A Nature Allied Psychotherapist (M.A., MBACP) and Ethnographer, Beth Collier teaches natural history and woodland living skills. Her work explores relationships with people and with nature.

Beth has theorised our relationships with nature from an applied psychotherapeutic perspective, developing Nature Allied Psychotherapy as a modality of practice for ongoing client work. Beth is currently writing Nature Allied Psychotherapy: Exploring Relationships with our Self, Others and Nature to be published by Routledge. She also provide professional training for psychotherapists and well-being professionals on the therapeutic use of nature through the Nature Therapy School.

Beth hosts the Black Nature Narratives podcast; exploring black perspectives on issues relating to the natural world and our relationship with nature.