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Research Fellowships

Assessing the Benefits of the Natural Environment to Individual Well-being

EPA Office of Research and Development

EPA National Science Foundation Graduate Research Internship Program (GRIP) & Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) Opportunities

Opportunity Title:

Assessing the Benefits of the Natural Environment to Individual Well-being

Research Area:

Other – Exposure Science/Epidemiology

EPA Lab/Center/Office:

National Exposure Research Laboratory (NERL)


Research Triangle Park, NC


12 months

Brief Summary:

This internship involves analyzing survey data and measures of ecosystem services to evaluate the association between the natural environment and individual well-being, along with factors including demographics and socio-cultural characteristics that influence that association. EPA is particularly interested in identifying the benefits or salutogenic influence of the natural environment.

Opportunity Description:

Exposure to the natural environment has a potentially large positive influence on human well-being. However, the nature and size of the influence at the individual level is not well characterized across the U.S. Within a comprehensive research effort to address this gap, EPA intends to analyze data collected by the General Social Survey (GSS) on knowledge, attitudes and behaviors related to the environment and on subjective well-being (happiness and satisfaction with life). GSS geocoded data at the census tract level will be accessed through special agreement with the host institution (NORC at the University of Chicago) that ensures the protection of sensitive data. This analysis will aim at better understanding the trends in knowledge, attitudes and behaviors related to the environment as well as the association between individual-level factors, such as demographics, socio-cultural factors and connectedness to nature, and subjective well-being, in the contiguous US.

This work will contribute to the Public Health and Ecosystem Goods and Services research topic included in the Sustainable and Healthy Communities Strategic Research Action Plan 2016-2019 ( Specifically, it will be related with the following near-term research aims:

  • Enhance understanding of beneficiaries of ecosystem goods and services;
  • Understand modifiable factors and health interventions;
  • Provide indicators, indices and tools to assess, track and inform community sustainability.

This internship will allow the student to:

  1. Get familiar with literature and state-of-the-science related to assessing the beneficial effects of exposure to the natural environment on individual well-being, including subjective well-being;
  2. Use advanced data analysis tools to evaluate current knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs in the general population regarding the natural environment, as well as the association between individual-level factors and subjective well-being;
  3. Develop capability and expertise in social science as applied to exposure science;
  4. Collaborate in environmental health studies that will benefit from social science capability and expertise;
  5. Communicate research findings in professional meetings and/or peer-reviewed journal articles.

Opportunities for Professional Development:

This internship will expose the student to a team of scientists with diverse interests and capabilities working together on cutting-edge research in advanced quantitative analysis of environmental health data, as well as applied research that will inform better decision-making in regards to protection of the natural environment, ecosystem services and public health. The student will have the opportunity to learn state-of-the-art computational methods including ArcGIS, R and/or Python by application to unique and disparate "big data" to achieve research objectives.

Point of Contact or Mentor:

Kim Rogers (

For more information about EPA Research Fellowship opportunities, visit: