Kevin Gaston and Caitlin DeSilvey

Interdisciplinary research

Professor Kevin J Gaston and Dr Caitlin DeSilvey are working together to better understand and measure the cultural benefits humans derive from nature.

The measurement and valuation techniques applied to many ecosystem goods and services, including water, food, and physical resources, are already well established. However, ways to quantitatively value cultural ecosystem services, such as the wellbeing humans derive from spending time in beautiful natural spaces, are less well understood.

Professor Kevin J Gaston is highly experienced at applying quantitative methods to study ecosystem goods and services, land-use strategies, the scaling of biodiversity and the ecology of urban environments.

Dr Caitlin DeSilvey, a member of the Expert Panel informing the ongoing work of the UK National Ecosystem Assessment (UK NEA), brings to this research a humanities perspective grounded in qualitative approaches. Caitlin is interested in the cultural aspects of environmental change and uses creative methods to understand and interpret how people value different landscapes.

Together, Kevin and Caitlin are bridging the divide between traditionally different research approaches. This innovative work has the potential to inform and solve diverse problems associated with subjects ranging from urban planning and design of the built environment to conservation and land-use. The first research paper produced as a result of this collaboration has been published.

“Study of people’s attachments to specific places and the value they attribute to different landscapes is highly relevant for an understanding of cultural ecosystem services. It can be challenging, however, for qualitative social scientists to find common ground with researchers who focus primarily on quantitative measures.

In the Environment and Sustainability Institute, we have an exciting opportunity to bring together different disciplinary perspectives and develop collaborative research methods that can respond to this challenge.”

Dr Caitlin DeSilvey, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Social Science