What is StAND?

The Study of Active Neighborhoods in Detroit (StAND) is a collaborative research project between Michigan State University, Detroit Audubon and the City of Detroit Parks and Recreation Department. The study is led by Dr. Amber Pearson, Department of Geography, Environment and Spatial Sciences, Michigan State University. We aim to better understand the link between nature and active and healthy neighborhoods in Detroit.

Why does this matter?

This research aims to better understand the health of Detroit residents and how we can improve neighborhood conditions while also improving the natural environment. Through this research, we hope to better understand how to support and create active and healthy neighborhoods for everyone.

In an increasingly urbanized world, many people have become disconnected from nature. Yet, contact with nature is fundamental for human health and quality of life. Across the globe, it is estimated that 55% of the population currently resides in cities. Many cities lack easy access to natural spaces or 'greenspaces', particularly in low-income areas. Contemporary lifestyles and neighborhood conditions have led to increased public health concerns, including lack of physical activity, little time spent outdoors, and the rising prevalence of mental health and chronic disease issues.

This research aims to better understand the health of Detroit residents and how we can improve neighborhood conditions while also improving the natural environment. Through this research, we hope to better understand how to support and create active and healthy neighborhoods for everyone

Why Detroit?

We hope to learn about what makes neighborhoods active and healthy. By conducting this study in Detroit, we hope to promote Detroit as a beacon of healthy, active neighborhoods for other cities across the USA and beyond.

Our Research Partners

Detroit Audubon and City of Detroit Parks and Recreation Department

Our Funding

We are funded by the National Institutes of Health's National Cancer Institute and the Detroit Medical Center. Additionally, we are funded by:

Detroit Audubon

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Michigan State University



Earth Day Hope: Thrashing Solastalgia

By Ventra Asana, D. Min, Community Liaison

StAND, MSU Submitted April 8, 2024

There is a malady afoot concerning the problem of climate change distress, that some call solastalgia ( This term, coined in 2005 by Glenn Albrecht is defined as “the homesickness you have when you are still at home … [in that the] home environment is changing in ways you find distressing. In many cases this is in reference to global climate change…” ( I recently heard about this while I was dining with a friend. He shared with me his continuing distress over the state of our world, with its climate catastrophes, and that we would have to work much faster to alleviate them. When he mentioned solastalgia, my ears perked up. I had to wonder: do I suffer from this?

In all honesty, I do not suffer from solastalgia. It could be that with myriad community issues confronting me in Detroit, I am hyper-focused on eradicating blight, finding resources for flood remediation, writing community benefit agreements, and loads more items on a weekly basis. While climate change is a concern, it is not the primary driver in the face of such matters. But that does not mean that I do not care. As I often opine, it is extremely important that each of us find a focal point upon which to engage the fight to advocate for a healthier planet. As expressed in the Wikipedia article, communities that acknowledge solastalgia when given the chance to express their feelings about it, begin to collaborate and cohere around wellbeing, overall. As Earth Day approaches, I encourage you to ponder if you are experiencing solastalgia. If so, this would be a great time to gather others who feel similarly, to hold a space for expression and collaboration for specific ways to care for the earth.

Eco-Volunteering: Part II

By Ventra Asana, D. Min, Community Liaison

StAND, MSU Submitted March 11, 2024

In this last of the mini-series on “eco-prepping” for 2024, I want to provide some thoughts on volunteering in three categories: local, national and international. By now, most people who are wedded to ecological action already know its importance to restoring earth balance. Some skeptics opine about the futility of attempting to effect efforts against earth destruction. But like environmentalist and Pulitzer Prize winner, Wangari Matthai states “you cannot protect the environment unless you empower people, you inform them, and you help them understand that these resources are their own” I agree that the power to influence societal forces lies in our hands. Over the years, I have been honored to volunteer in sustainable agriculture projects in Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, India, and Bolivia. The immense satisfaction I experienced in assisting community partners in the rural areas of each country was only outweighed by the sincere hospitality and new cultural learning I garnered. Take every opportunity offered to immerse yourself in environmental projects, whenever possible.

Here are further volunteer opportunities on the local, national, and international scenes: Local:

  • Sustainable Agriculture, Michigan State University (
  • Eco-art Therapy (
  • Social Environmental Entrepreneurs Volunteering (

  • Eco-Volunteering: Part I

    By Ventra Asana, D. Min, Community Liaison

    StAND, MSU Submitted February 14, 2024

    Continuing January’s thread of ecological “prepping in winter”, there are some additional actions we can take to effectively divert our attention away from longing for warmer weather. There are plentiful organizations that help to take care of the environment – many of which would welcome our time to advance their programs. While it would prove impossible to list all the groups doing such work – whether domestically or globally – it is possible to offer some categories from which to engage a search.

    In this categorizing effort author Paul Hawken offers numerous keyword groupings in his book, Blessed Unrest, including:

  • Agriculture and Farming (soil cultivation, sustainable agriculture, agricultural policy)
  • Air (acid rain, anthropogenic emissions, air quality
  • Arts (eco art, arts activism, arts therapy)
  • Biodiversity (endangered species, marine ecosystems, environmental ethics)
  • Civil Society (social entrepreneurs, NGOs, environmental movements)
  • Community Development (grassroots organizing, community building, social networks)
  • Cultural Heritage (ethnographic heritage, cultural appreciation, Indigenous site protection)
  • Ecology (evolutionary biology, landscape heterogeneity, generative ecology)
  • Although this is a truncated list of Hawken’s categories, these keywords can serve as an initial place to begin an internet search for organizations to provide our input toward ecological sustenance. Everyone can do something to advance effective earth care; it is just a matter of starting somewhere.

    Winter Prepping: Good Ecology Reads

    By Ventra Asana, D. Min, Community Liaison

    StAND, MSU Submitted January 16, 2024

    Now that the real winter is upon us in all its frigid glory, this could be a perfect time to start the new year by doing some “prepping in winter” to increase our ecological knowledge for spring and summer. Toward that effort, I’m listing some good reading that I hope will pique your interest and spur you to action. Add some, or all, of these books to your reading list and I’m sure you’ll be enlightened!

    2024 Eco-reading List

  • Ecopsychology: Restoring the Earth, Healing the Mind, by Allen D. Canner
  • The Carbon Footprint of Everything, by Mike Berners-Lee
  • The Joyful Environmentalist: How to Practice Without Preaching, by Isabel Losada
  • The Ecology Book: Big Ideas, Simply Explained, by DK and Tony Jupiter
  • Nature Swagger: Stories and Visions of Black Joy in the Outdoors, by Rue Mapp
  • In Africana Studies: Linking Environmental Studies with Transforming Black Experiences, by Ruben Patterson
  • Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of The Earth, edited by Llewellyn Vaughn-Lee
  • Indigenous traditions in ecology: The Interbeing of Cosmology and Community (Religions of the World and Ecology), edited by John Grim
  • Replenishing the Earth: Spiritual Values for Healing Ourselves and the World, by Wangari Maathai
  • The Red Deal: Indigenous Action to Save Our Earth, by the Red Nation

  • Charitable Giving for 2023

    By Ventra Asana, D. Min, Community Liaison

    StAND, MSU Submitted December 12, 2023

    The year has sped by and once again, we find ourselves in the mad rush of trying to get everything done: holiday shopping, travel, hosting and attending holiday events. While this is an exciting time, it is also a great opportunity to think about some areas of charitable giving. There are a number of organizations to which we can contribute that will serve the dual purpose of helping others and helping us to realize our own good fortune. I’ve included some of these below:

  • Heifer International is an organization that helps families to eliminate poverty by providing animals that can be raised for food and for sales to others (
  • Suitcases for Hope is the place to donate gently used suitcases that help foster kids to cart their belongings in luggage, instead of plastic bags (
  • Doctors Without Borders states on its website that they “bring medical care to people affected by conflict, disasters, epidemics, and social exclusion.” (
  • Oxfam International is an organization that works to fight inequality, poverty, and injustice around the world (

  • And also consider local giving, wherever you are, including:

  • Animal rescue groups
  • Salvation Army
  • Kiwanis clubs
  • University and high school alumni associations
  • Faith communities: churches, mosques, synagogues

  • Many people can use a little help this time of year. Be as generous as you can, because even a little bit can help. Happy Holidays!

    Happy Holidays: Recycling Oddities

    By Ventra Asana, D. Min, Community Liaison

    StAND, MSU Submitted November 3, 2023

    As the year counts down and holidays loom, it might be a good idea to think about some clever ideas to recycle accumulated stuff. There are several ways to accomplish the task – all geared to coaxing a smile and generating a bit of fun. For example, did you know that you can help damaged turtles repair their shells? Some wildlife rescue groups use the clasping hooks to knit together portions of the shell for faster healing(

    Another helpful tool is discarded mascara brushes, that when cleaned, help wildlife rescue organizations to groom the fur of small animals ( Rescuers report that the wands have just the right properties for removing larvae and other unwanted items from the animals.

    Finally, there’s a wonderful method to donate good used items after you’ve removed your Amazon orders. The company participates in the “Give Back Box” program that allows you to print out a mailing label, fill the box back up with great items (please make sure they’re useable and clean), then mail the contents for others to use.( In this giving season, why not do something good for Planet Earth by adopting one of these practices? It might be just the thing to get us in the holiday mood, and in this way, everyone wins!

    Regenerating Soils

    By Ventra Asana, D. Min, Community Liaison

    StAND, MSU Submitted October 16, 2023

    Amidst numerous dire reports about climate change, a recent study reveals new hope for soil fertility, that can help restore the carbon sink. Scientists report that people in the Kuikuro Indigenous Territory of the Amazon rainforest have been long been employing methods of soil regeneration in their waste removal practices. Geographers and archaeologists have discovered that ancient groups used the practice of cultivating middens – areas set aside to contain wastes of the society, including human wastes, food scraps, etc. These middens over time began to enrich the soils in which scraps were buried, resulting in a carbon sink dynamic that provided for successful planting for cassava and other foods necessary for survival (

    This research portends hope for renewal energy, in that carbon sink reservoirs can contribute greatly to mitigating climate change. Similar to the middens that ancient (and present) peoples of the rainforest utilized, another modern-day practice is the use of bokashi methods for food wastes. Here, soil is regenerated by using bokashi microorganisms to act as fermenting agents to develop faster usable soils than traditional methods of composting. Whether constructing middens or using bokashi methods for soil regeneration, it is essential to continue identifying new best practices to add to the carbon sink for earth renewal.

    Moss: Carbon Sink Wonder

    By Ventra Asana, D. Min, Community Liaison

    StAND, MSU Submitted September 15, 2023

    Moss Image with violet mushrooms
    Image Source:Pixabay

    The next time you go walking – whether through the neighborhood or in your own backyard – look down and observe the lowly tuffs of moss you see there. It’s recently been discovered that soils containing moss have properties that can be vastly beneficial to ecological balance.

    Sara Klimek reports in the online magazine, The Cooldown (www.the that geoscientist David J. Eldridge et. al additionally found that “mossy soils had greater cycling of essential nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous … [acting] as a carbon sink by keeping … 7 billion tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.” Further, mossy soils have the potential to help restore soils that have been destroyed or degraded because of fires, desertification, and other climate disasters. With so many dire reports afloat, it’s truly refreshing to learn that this discovery points the way to some good news to mitigate some of the damages related to climate change.

    Hope for Ocean

    By Ventra Asana, D. Min, Community Liaison

    StAND, MSU Submitted June 28, 2023

    While dire reports proliferate about the acceleration of climate change, it is refreshing to also learn that nature is creating its own defenses to save the planet. One such example is the existence of “Neptune Balls” – seagrass spheres that form under certain ocean conditions to capture floating pieces of plastic. In an exciting article on the subject marine biology scientist Anna Sanchez-Vidal, from University of Barcelona, reports that “…plastic debris in the seafloor can be trapped in seagrass remains, eventually leaving the marine environment through beaching" ( Not only are the spheres beautiful, but they also restore polluted water, which authors Macnamara and Hood report “…absorb CO2…exude oxygen and are a natural nursey and refuge for hundreds of species of fish.”
    In this summer season that has just begun, it might prove greatly advantageous to consider how much plastic we consume, as homage to continuing the fight to keep it out of our waterways. In that effort, it is hopeful to discover that nature is assisting us by absorbing as much as it can.

    SHAC lab research

    StAND, MSU Submitted June 1, 2023

    SHAC lab research highlighted in MSU Today: This research was conducted by current and former lab members, Katie Brown, Aaron Reuben and Kim Clevenger, with mentorship from Dr. Pearson and Dr. Pfeiffer. We found that nature views from classrooms, and trees in particular, may lower behavior issues in young children. Check out the article!

    Assisting Green Science

    By Ventra Asana, D. Min, Community Liaison

    StAND, MSU Submitted May 10, 2023


    If you re like some people distressed at the accelerating travesty of earth destruction in its many forms like increasingly shrinking animal populations, polluted waterways, extremes in weather, and more then you may not be aware of a dynamic way to help mitigate these problems. Citizen Science is a burgeoning field of practical application to assist scientists in their overall data collection. It is described as scientific research conducted with participation from the general public (See In this practice, ordinary citizens can choose an area of science to monitor and partner with professionals in that field to record data on the subject.

    There are numerous such avenues, resources, and references for novice citizen scientists to get started. However, the most important task is to first identify what most interests you. Are you passionate about birds extinction? Then the Cornell Lab of Ornithology ( provides opportunities to log bird migrations. Or if you want to help ensure more plastics reduction, contact the Oceanic Society in their project Global Ocean Cleanup ( Maybe you want to monitor the skies? Head on over to The American Association of Variable Star Observers to become part of their Citizen Sky group ( Additionally, many resources exist to inform citizen scientists including organizations like Citizen Science Association ( and others, and references like The Field Guide to Citizen Science (Cavalier, Hoffman, and Cooper). Take some time to explore ways you can get more involved in active earth care by considering if the arena of citizen science interests you.

    # # #


    Greening the Roof

    By Ventra Asana, D. Min., Community Liaison

    March 30, 2023

    Reducing or mitigating climate change is a long game, with no quick fixes. Though it may seem easier to adopt behaviors like using recycle bins, consuming products that promote “zero waste”, or reducing carbon overloads by walking, biking, or carpooling – everyday realities often find us slipping back into habits that may be easier. That’s nothing to fret about. Improving the planet will require all these actions and more, as each of us explore new paths.

    Adopting green roof technology is one such method that can considerably assist the planet. A green roof contains vegetation that is supported by a growing medium, rather than soil, under which a waterproof membrane is created to support the structure. While there are many methods that contribute to green roof construction, one source reports that there are at least five advantages to them (1) reduction of water runoff, (2) energy efficiency, (3) improved air quality, (4) beneficial to habitat and, (5) being longer lasting than regular roofs (

    Image Source:Shutterstock

    While it will require considerable physical and financial input to implement sustainable technologies like installing a green roof, the planet will do better overall. In this way, planning strategically in the present can help to ensure that future generations experience improved climate conditions. The present sacrifice is worth it, for long term climate gains.

    Sustainable Coffee

    By Ventra Asana, D. Min., Community Liaison

    February 23, 2023

    Countless controversies swirl as to whether folk should be drinking coffee. Some specialists opine that it is detrimental to the nervous system, while others insist that it sharpens mental acuity. Former White House chef Sam Kass reports that coffee is one of the world’s foods that will become scarce, along with others like rice, wine, chocolate, and shellfish ( But if you enjoy the taste of a freshly brewed “cuppa jitter juice” it is extremely important to sustainably support the farmers who grow coffee.

    Studies show that the coffee most consumed by drinkers is of the “coffee Arabica” varietals. Many blends of coffee derive from this main type. However, it is a crop more adversely impacted by certain factors, including climate change (extreme temperatures, drought) and excess deforestation. Experts are urging coffee producers to diversity their crops by planting coffee Robusto. This type of coffee has been shown to stand up more strongly against destructive forces than does coffee Arabica ( However, currently the production of this coffee varietal is more expensive for farmers to grow. It will require sacrifices on the part of consumers to support those who sustainably grow coffee, by purchasing it in our grocery stores and markets. While this sacrifice directly affects our budget, it is one small way to contribute to the continued production of good coffee, so as to push back against the stoppage of coffee, altogether.

    Black History Month!

    Black History Month

    Feet, Hearts Forward!

    By Ventra Asana, D. Min., Community Liaison

    January 25, 2023

    Here we go again, into the wild blue yonder, challenged by a New Year. Like me, you may be considering what will be the actions you’ll undertake as goals in several areas: personal, societal, spiritual, etc. I see 2023 as a chance to add to this list the intention to create an “earth care” plan that will make sense to you, and that will actually be doable.

    For me, this earth care plan includes shoring up/improving tasks already done inp revious years. For example, continuing community gardening work with Keep Growing Detroit, where we pay memberships to obtain quality seeds and hot and cold crop plants, and attend specialized workshops in canning, mushroom growing and so much more. I also want to keep supporting the butterflies through the auspices of LaNita’s Butterfly Garden, to help the creatures find the best habitat to thrive. There may be more I can do, but I think these are agood place to start.

    How about you? Have you thought about what earth care assistance you can provide in the city? You don’t have to take on the whole world of ecology reform – just deciding to do something can make all the difference to improve our environment!

    Loving Earth, Recycling Trees

    By Ventra Asana, D. Min., Community Liaison

    November 25, 2022

    It’s that time of year again when our thoughts and actions turn to celebrations of the holidays. It’s astounding that decorations for them start cropping up in stores right after Halloween. We can scarcely catch our breath for one season before we’re being pushed into the next, and the next. But it’s as important as ever to hold fast to our determination to engage critical earth care at year-end, as we have throughout the year.

    One thing that can greatly benefit the planet is to recycle our living Christmas trees. There are several uses for leftover trees that serve the natural habitat, contribute to landscape restoration and more. Several great tips for recycling trees suggested from The National Christmas Association ( include

    • • Leaving trees at curbside for pickup
    • • Drop-off at recycling centers
    • • Donating them for municipal mulch programs
    • • Donation to nonprofits for fundraising projects
    • • Adding to the compost bin

    With so many opportunities to carefully consider keeping trees out of the landfill, we are practicing yet another aspect of intentional earth care. If you are setting up a live tree this year, take some time now to choose one of these ideas to implement. The earth and its creatures will thank you.

    Biophilic Design

    By Ventra Asana, D. Min., Community Liaison

    October 25, 2022

    You may have heard the saying: “There’s nothing new under the sun”, thought to have had origins in the ancient biblical text of Ecclesiastes and probably overused today. But recently while attending the 6th Annual Sustainable Detroit Forum of the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) held at Wayne State University, I discovered an earth-friendly building practice being used more frequently across the globe: biophilic design. Biophilic design is an architectural strategy that combines elements of nature and space to afford beauty and well-being for human occupants. While the term itself is new to me, research reveals that the idea has been around since the “hanging gardens of Babylon” (, while Wikipedia discusses psychoanalyst Eric Fromm having first evolved biophilia as a theoretical framework wherein humans express a profound passion for life “whether…person, plant, idea or social group”, modern day architects attribute its origins to Edward O. Wilson (1984).

    In the session “Rooftop Oasis: A Transformation for Health and Wholeness” biophilic architect Anne M. Cox discussed that one of the key components is to provide nature-oriented design for effective health and wellness. This is accomplished by using features of water, plants, air, light and direct views of nature, as well as artworks that incorporate these elements in the design. As viewers in the session, we were privy to the effectiveness of biophilic design, in that the lecture room was created to focus our gaze on plants and direct light from the campus. This allowed a sense of calmness, helping me to even transcend the frantic pace of the Forum, itself. I departed with a renewed hope that this type of design can be used to restore cities and their residents to spaces of increased tranquility, even in the midst of excessive urban noise and chaos.

    HELL STRIPS: An Undersirable Name for a Desirable Outcome

    By Ventra Asana, D. Min., Community Liaison

    September 27, 2022

    Whatever you might contemplate when you hear the word “hell”, it probably conjures unpleasant thoughts and images. Many of these derive from depictions of torture and agony inflicted upon ne’er-do-wells, doomed to suffer eternally in the next life, because of their misdoings in this one (think Dante’s The Divine Comedy in literature and Ebenezer Scrooge in film). Probably few people would equate notions of hell with “the good life”–and it’s doubtless the same for anything with the word hell as a description.

    It’s no less so for an area of landscape called “hell strips”. These scant patches between the street and sidewalk are most often littered with ugly weeds, litter, and other debris. Most of us walk past them without any regard to their potential. But hell strips can offer great contributions to air quality, habitat for bees and butterflies, and visual enjoyment.

    young girl drawing with chalk

    Image Source:iStock

    Because the soil may be of poor quality it’s important to build it up a bit before planting. And be sure to check with municipal authorities before putting in plants, as well. A thorough study of the best perennial plants for pollinators can be found through the Michigan State extension at and for a great read on hell strips, visit this website Let’s hope that the next time you hear “hell”, you’ll equate it with the opportunity to do something good for the environment and neighborhood!

    On Water, Part 2: Those Incredible Beavers!

    By Ventra Asana, D. Min., Community Liaison

    September 1, 2022

    I've recently been astonished to learn that the odd-looking beaver could be the antidote to stem some of the disastrous effects of the world's current drought conditions. It seems that the beaver–though often considered a nuisance to private property owners and land management systems such as U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (Department of the Interior)–can still be viewed as conducive to restoring natural water systems such as rivers and lakes.

    It cannot be ignored that the destructive traits of beavers are worrying. For example, one study demonstrates that they can “cause damage by 1) gnawing on trees or crops; 2) flooding trees, crops, property, or transportation corridors (roads, airports, railways) through dam building; and 3) degrading and destabilizing banks and levees through burrowing” (See: These types of infrastructural devastations not only destabilize the natural environment, but also result in astronomical costs to revitalize the landscape.

    However, it is imperative to also acknowledge the ways in which beavers help to restore droughted land to flourished conditions. For example, as beavers build dams they improve the landscape by 1) causing streams of water to go deeper, which allows them to be cooler, 2) improve groundwater by cooling it down and forcing it to the surface, resulting in cooler air temperatures, and helping to slow fire burns by flooding land with water (See: All these improved conditions, assisted by the enterprising work of beavers, point to some good news for mitigating climate change because of drought conditions. Well done, beavers!

    On Water, Part 1: In the Face of Severe Drought Consider the Art of the Bund

    By Ventra Asana, D. Min., Community Liaison

    July 27, 2022

    There is a huge need for ecological restoration for the earth to replenish its water reserves. In the U.S. and globally, skirmishes over who “owns” water resources often degenerate into the issue of “water conflict”. This term describes “a conflict between countries, states, or groups over the rights to access water resources” (See: Wikipedia, Water Conflict). Currently in the U.S. several states have long jealously observed that Michigan, as one of eight states situated within the Great Lakes Basin, should share its water with less arid areas including California and Nevada. Legal battles are being waged as to how much, if any, Michigan water should be shared.

    However, there is some good news. One exciting exception to this problem is the cultivation of a method to restore water by creating bunds. Bunds are “semi-circular shaped pits that capture rainwater” ( In Tanzania and other African countries, the nonprofit Just Dig It trains residents to dig bunds to regreen areas where previously there was no vegetation. The process is successfully growing green landscape, and even protects against flooding. How can we learn from this and reflect on our water abundance in Michigan?

    before and after picture of a field
    Image Source:Justdiggit

    Petosky Prize Winner 2022

    By Dr. Amber Pearson

    June 30, 2022

    Diane Cheklich accepting the Petosky Prize 2022

    Detroit Audubon's Diane Cheklich is awarded the Petosky Prize 2022 from Michigan Environmental Council. Diane has worked tirelessly to establish Detroit Bird City, in an effort to conserve bird habitat in Detroit, a major flyway for hundreds of bird species annually.Click here to view article.

    Learn more about Detroit Bird City here:


    By Ventra Asana, D. Min., Community Liaison

    June 15,2022

    There is so much that is devastating in today's world, that it often feels overwhelming to the point of no return. Yet again, the economy is in dire straits, with inflation adversely tanking our savings, running up grocery bills and severely curtailing the use of our gas-guzzling vehicles. And there is yet another war draining the nation’s coffers, between Russia and the Ukraine. At some point one could wonder: how are we ever going to right these wrongs?

    Well, while it’s understandable that despair might be the order of the day, there are many things we can do to stem the negative emotional tide. Getting into nature doesn’t require any depletion of our money reserves – it’s free for the taking. A very effective technique for restoring our emotional timbre is to practice “earthing”, sometimes called “grounding”. It’s the process of walking or standing barefoot on the earth, and it’s deemed as extremely beneficial to the body. Studies reveal that it connects the body to free electrons in the earth’s magnetic field such that maladies like high blood pressure, depression, sleeplessness and more, are rerouted to improve overall health. There is a maelstrom of disagreement about whether earthing is real or a hoax. But what I know is this: when I take off my shoes and stand on the cool grass or walk on the warm sand at the beach at Belle Isle, I can almost hear my body’s cells singing praise to me. It is just a momentary reprieve. But I begin to relax. I feel at peace and exhilarate from this small act of enjoying nature. And the noise of daily life is silenced in the doing of nature encounter, rather than all the relentless talk about it. Try it…you will be pleasantly surprised.

    Forest Bathing

    By Ventra Asana, D. Min., Community Liaison

    May 2,2022

    Recently, there has been a surfeit of ecological articles on the trend of “forest bathing” and its beneficial attributes. Forest bathing – derived from adherents in Japan – is the term given to describe the practice of connecting to the beauty of nature by immersing oneself in woodlands, be they forests, parks or wilderness landscapes. Practitioners claim that it can restore one to increased health, particularly in the areas of sharpened focus to observe nature, restore the body to more optimal functioning, lessen anxiety and other depressive maladies.

    Like many, I sometimes grow weary of the seemingly unending admonishments to do more to steward the earth, for there is so much to do. We are constantly bombarded with the need to recycle, reuse, redo – to be steadfast in our efforts as eco-contributors. So, I skeptically categorized this idea of forest bathing as one more thing to add to my bucket list. But Im willing to undertake the challenge. The closest “forest” in Detroit is Belle Isle Park, a 982-acre island and city-owned park run by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Whenever I venture out to the park, I’m newly amazed at its beauty and diversity of bird life, insects, and flowers. And while it’s presently too chilly for me to stand in a thicket of trees with high winds blowing, I’m rather curious to see how I’ll feel when the weather warms up. I want to give myself the gift of nature washing over me, helping me to reduce stress and come further alive. This is one challenge I want to undertake – how about you?

    Jumpstarting Spring

    By Ventra Asana, D. Min., Community Liaison

    March 9, 2022

    In these early days of March, we may be chafing at the bit, eager to get on with the budding of flowers and trees, fresh breezes and sustained warmth. After prolonged ravages of snow and ice, it's no wonder that we want to jumpstart spring season. Whether you’re a gardener, a picnicker or even someone who just wants to take a good walk or run, it looks like the winter continues to obstinately cling to the calendar. But brighter days are imminent.

    One way to satisfy such longings is to visit a nearby botanical garden. These gardens – often administered by colleges and universities – were created to demonstrate the diversity of plants from local and global collections, with their botanical names displayed. One source says “... [they] may contain … cacti and other succulent plants, herb gardens … tropical plants, alpine plants, or other exotic plants” (See

    There are many botanical gardens that may satisfy that “spring itch”. In East Lansing, why not take in the views at the W.J. Beal Botanical Garden, located on the campus of Michigan State University? This garden identifies itself as the oldest in the United States, “established in 1873 by Professor William James Beal ( Another MSU botanical garden can be found at the Clarence E. Lewis Landscape Arboretum, which was found in 1984. This garden was uniquely established to assist landscape students in their careers. Finally, in Detroit, there is the beautiful Anna Scripps Howard Conservatory located on Belle Isle State Park. Created in 1904, the conservatory sits on 13 acres, features an 85-foot dome to accommodate tropical palms, and is touted as the oldest facility of its kind in the United States. I’m convinced that a visit to any of these magnificent gardens will instantly refresh our winter-worn souls.

    Anna Scripps Howard Conservatory at Belle Isle

    Image Source:

    Try a Rain Chain

    FOCUS: Raingardens, bioswales, rain chains

    By Ventra Asana, D. Min., Community Liaison

    February 15, 2022

    In the quest to work more sustainably with the environment to mitigate climate change ravages, the use of a rain chain presents a great opportunity to harvest water. The rain chain - increasingly becoming more popular in the United States - had its origins in Japanese culture. They are used in two main capacities: (1) as decorative items to adorn religious temples, and (2) residentially, to capture water for reuse in Japanese homes. In the classical structure, they consist of a series of bell shapes with a hole in the bottom, through which the rain can be directed. they can also be vertical chain links from which the rain cascades, freeform or into a catchment. Of course, rain chains can also be shaped in a variety of designs.

    Rain Chain

    Image Source: Pixaby

    Rain chains are not only aesthetically beautiful, but they also are a practical way to harvest rain reserves. Particularly, when coupled with a rain barrel, they can further provide much-needed water for the garden as well as preventing sewer overflows. Can you imagine how beautiful neighborhoods would be with the installation of rain chains? We might want to challenge ourselves this year to exchange a downspout with a rain chain as another viable method of earth stewardship!

    Water Remediation Part 2

    FOCUS: Raingardens, bioswales, rain chains

    By Ventra Asana, D. Min., Community Liaison

    January 4, 2022

    The problem of water excesses brought about by climate change is almost solely enough to discourage us from forming solutions to turn it around. To wit, the recent summer flood incidents in Detroit and its surrounding suburbs caused residents to lose not only material goods, but also resulted in structural damage to basement walls and home foundations. A few years earlier in 2018, residents of Michigan's Upper Peninsula experienced major roads washed away, homes saturated with mud, and sadly, the loss of lives. In both cases, Michigan was granted emergency relief status on recommendation of former Governor Rick Snyder and current Governor Gretchen Whitmer, which allowed federal assistance to provide relief.

    While federal relief is certainly foremost to help restore systems damaged by catastrophic rain events, there are some more immediate methods that we can do to help mitigate excess water runoff. Two of these include rain gardens and bioswales.

    A rain garden is a system that provides a catchment for rain overflow to collect in a shallow earth depression in which vegetation is planted, as well as drainage materials like a gravel bed and larger rocks. The depression should be approximately 8-10 inches, with a sloping portion that will allow rain to pool so as to absorb into the soil. It is helpful to know the exact composition of the soil, as clay soil will respond better with the addition of peat or gravel ( 

    Bioswales provide additional strong deterrents from overflooding, but they are much more involved than constructing a rain garden. They require a buildout of more at least 10 feet away from a home or building. Additionally, measurements must include necessary slope and depth of at least 6-10 inches, and account for center placement of the depression. This can be more easily determined by using a bioswale calculator (

    Whether deciding to build a raingarden or a bioswale, these are two viable solutions to mitigate storm runoff that will greatly benefit the landscape and contribute to healthy animal and bird life as well.

    Water, Protecting Our Precious Resource Part 1

    By Ventra Asana, D. Min., Community Liaison

    October 13, 2021

    Ask almost anyone their views on the worth of water and you’ll hear that it is valuable. We can survive in dire situations for a while without food, but most indicators show that people can endure for about three days without water. Not only is water central to the successful function of our vital organs and overall health, this natural resource is crucial to the restoration of the earth, overall. And as catastrophic climate change continues to rage, decimating forests, land masses, air and soil, water is equally caught in its ravages. Many global communities are being devastated by extreme water weather events like floods, mudslides, drought and much more – all precipitated by either the severe lack of, or too much water. In the case of the former, droughts are devastating life for villages in Madagascar, while the World Atlas reports that at least 10 countries have the greatest issues of water shortages, including Ethiopia, the Sudan, China, Iran, Uganda and others (

    Meanwhile, in the United States at least “…90 percent of what it considers the West — California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana — is in drought.” (see

    The problem of excess water is also worsening in the U.S. Increasingly, cities and rural areas are repeatedly experiencing the oversaturation of water runoff that floods basements, overruns seawalls and sewerage drains.

    What can we do to mitigate these problems?

    In the case of water excesses, green stormwater systems offer some indicators that excess water runoff can provide relief. While some systems like French drain installations, geothermal construction and installing meadows may prove cost prohibitive for most homeowners, there are some less expensive methods to contain rainwater. Particularly, constructing rain gardens and bioswales are two ways that can greatly contribute to green stormwater improvements. Stay tuned to more discussion on how these systems can be implemented.

    The Problem with City Trees

    by Ventra Asana, D.Min./Community Liaison-StAND

    September 7, 2021

    Environmentalists have long discussed this as a vital need to mitigate the harmful effects of catastrophic climate change, including rising land temperatures. While no one is exempt, for communities that are economically disenfranchised, especially those of color, the issue of hard concrete surfaces in city neighborhoods exacerbates the problem of rising temperatures, resulting in “heat islands”. Where there is a lack of tree canopies, residents suffer from the effects of heatstroke and other ailments directly related to extreme heat events. A recent article by Nina Ignaczak in Planet Detroit ( underscores the necessity to provide adequate tree cover for several impoverished urban areas in Michigan. Further, the nonprofit organization American Forests provides a “Tree Equity Score” for determining adequate tree cover in such communities, with a score of up to 100 wherein the lowest scale highlights the dire need to plant more trees.  Examining vastly differing economic extremes in two Michigan cities, Bloomfield Hills and Detroit (the articles lists several more), we learn that the suburb of Bloomfield Hills has a score of 100, while Detroit City hovers around 80. Though the lower score is not as bad as some cities, it highlights the problem of neighborhoods that have little housing and huge swaths of vacant land, without enough trees.

    white petaled flower

    There is some good news. Several community groups are working to restore tree canopy in urban areas. Residents are working with The Greening of Detroit ( in a series of tree plantings to share more trees. The organization has planted over 130,000 trees since 1989. Though the city will have to work very hard to restore its once lush tree canopy, there is great hope that tree restoration is well on the way!

    Black Birder's Week

    March 25, 2021

    It is national black birder's week May 30 - June 5 !!!. Birders Week

    Research Article: A synthesis of health benefits of natural sounds and their distribution in national parks

    By Rachel Buxton, Amber Pearson, Claudia Allou, Kurt Fristrup,& George Wittemyer

    April 6, 2021

    In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America peer reviewed journal, read the research article by Rachel Buxton (Carleton University), Amber Pearson (Michigan State University), Claudia Allou (Michigan State University), Kurt Fristrup (Colorado State University), and George Wittemyer (Colorado State University): A synthesis of health benefits of natural sounds and their distribution in national parks. “This study examines evidence of the health benefits of natural soundscapes and quantifies the prevalence of restorative acoustic environments in national parks across the United States. The results affirm that natural sounds improve health, increase positive affect, and lower stress and annoyance. Also, analyses reveal many national park sites with a high abundance of natural sound and low anthropogenic sound. Raising awareness of natural soundscapes at national parks provides opportunities to enhance visitor health outcomes. Despite more abundant anthropogenic sound, urban and frequently visited sites offered exposure to natural sounds associated with health benefits, making them a valuable target for soundscape mitigation. Our analysis can inform spatial planning that focuses on managing natural soundscapes to enhance human health and experiences.” 

    Listening to Nature Gives You a Real Rocky Mountain High

    April 5, 2021

    In read about how Listening to Nature Gives You a Real Rocky Mountain High: Sounds like birdsong and flowing water may alleviate stress, help lower blood pressure and lead to feelings of tranquility. Carleton University conservation biologist Rachel “Buxton teamed up with researchers from the National Park Service and Colorado State University to author a 2019 study documenting manmade noise in U.S. national parks. The study was part of a growing pile of research exploring noise’s negative impacts on animals and humans alike. Noise makes it hard for animals to find food and mates and can lead humans to suffer stress, high blood pressure and other ailments.” 

    Soothing Sounds of Nature Helps Boost Mental Health

    March 29, 2021

    Watch 9 News reporter Marc Sallinger interview Rachel Buxton (Carleton University) and George Wittemyer (Colorado State University) about the recent study A synthesis of health benefits of natural sounds and their distribution in national parks, published March 22, 2021 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "We actually have pretty good evidence that there’s major health benefits to being exposed to nature. The evidence is really clear. Listening to natural sounds reduces stress, reduces annoyance and it’s correlated with positive health benefits,” said Wittemyer….."They’ve really gotten a lot of us through this pandemic. Spending time in parks, spending time listening to natural sounds, they’ve really gotten us through," said Buxton. "Close your eyes and listen to what’s around you. Listen to the birds singing and the wind rustling the leaves in the trees."

    How Nature Sounds Affect Well Being

    March 26, 2021

    Treehugger, a blog that claims to be the world’s largest information site dedicated to driving sustainability mainstream, highlighted a paper by lead author Rachel Buxton (Carleton University) A synthesis of health benefits of natural sounds and their distribution in national parks.

    “For their research, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Buxton and her team identified three dozen studies that examined the health benefits of natural sound.... Some examples they found reported in those studies included decreased pain, lowered stress, improved mood, and better cognitive function. We found many health-bolstering sites in parks — sites with abundant natural sounds and little interference from noise. The importance of water sounds may relate to the critical role of water for survival, as well as the capacity of continuous water sounds to mask noise,” the researchers wrote, pointing out that water features are often used in landscapes to mask noise and to make urban greenspaces more pleasant…there was also some evidence that natural sounds have benefits over silence”. target="_blank">

    Additional Information on the Impact that Nature's Sounds Have on Mental Health

    This study is featured on News Center Maine’s page

    This study is featured on Quirks and Quarks.

    This is featured in HealthDay, the world’s largest syndicator of health news and content, and providers of custom health/medical content.

    This study is featured in Country Living UK, a magazine that features lifestyle advice on health and fitness, country travel, and rural real estate. Country Living UK

    This study is featured in Macau Business, Macau's oldest English language publication.

    This study is featured on CTV news in Canada.

    This study is featured in MentalFloss.


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