Project: Exposure potential of rural versus urban inland waters for improving population health and wellbeing.

Inland “blue spaces”, such as lakes, rivers and reservoirs offer the potential to benefit population health and wellbeing through several pathways: enabling stress reduction, encouraging physical activity, providing a place for social interaction and improving the overall environment.  Due to their broad geographic distribution across countries, inland blue spaces are easily accessible and therefore with effective management in place, these water bodies could benefit a significant proportion of the population on a regular basis. Interest in the potential health benefits associated with blue spaces has grown in recent years and the current research in this field has utilised a range of diverse methodologies to gain unique insight: from providing participants with wearable cameras to analysing smartphone data. This PhD will add to the existing body of blue space research by adopting interdisciplinary research methods to further investigate rural/urban trends and to specifically determine whether exposure to different types of water bodies across the rural/urban continuum can influence the important relationship between blue space and health.  

Research Objectives:  

  1. Determine how perceptions of health and wellbeing benefits associated with contrasting inland water typologies vary across a rural-urban continuum. 
  1. Use a range of GIS modelling approaches to evaluate inland blue space characteristics of rural versus urban populated areas and their potential impact on health and health inequalities. 
  1. Exploit Big Data via social media tags to gain novel insight into blue space usage and inland water-health linkages. 

Funding Acknowledgements: This PhD project is funded by NERC via the IAPETUS Doctoral Training Partnership.  

About Me: In 2018, I graduated from the University of Glasgow with a BSc (Hons) in Chemistry with Medicinal Chemistry. I then went on to work in the Organic Laboratories at Scottish Water where I carried out routine testing of water samples. This job first sparked my interest in water resource management and in blue spaces. Following on from this I completed a Masters in Public Health at the University of Edinburgh in 2020 and became interested in the potential for ‘upstream’ interventions to improve population health and wellbeing. This PhD now combines my interest in the environment and in public health and provides me with the opportunity to identify how inland blue spaces can be effectively managed as ‘upstream’ interventions to help equitably improve the health of a population.  

Contact: m.j.grace@stir.ac.uk