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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



Water, Protecting Our Precious Resource � Part 1

By Ventra Asana, D. Min., Community Liaison

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.�

October 13, 2021


The Problem with City Trees

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


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!


May 25, 2021: It is national black birder's week May 30 - June 5 !!!. Black Birders Week

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.”

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.”

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.""

This study was also featured on News Center Maine’s page

This study was also featured on Quirks and Quarks.

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”.

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

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

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

This study was also featured in Cosmos: The science of everything. ? This study was also featured on CTV news in Canada.

This study was also featured in MentalFloss.
Holiday Tip Sheet Title Graphic
by Dr. Ventra Asana, Field Team Manager, StAND
We are now several months into the Covid-19 pandemic and as the holidays beckon, we must be extremely careful to limit our exposure to anyone outside our immediate “pod” of friends or family. Nevertheless, scary as this is, we must hunker down and figure out ways to thrive the next few months. Here are a few things to help you plan ahead as winter approaches:
  • Make plans to enjoy the holiday season: Even though we’re unable to spend the holidays like in the past, we can still have a good time. Plan a contest with friends and family on who can assemble the prettiest (or weirdest) holiday decorations and share them on social media. Don’t forget to plan for a festive meal, whether you cook it yourself or support local businesses using carryout.
  • Devise a health plan: Ask yourself, “what are my plans to get healthy or stay healthy”? Plan to “go outside” even when it’s cold. Just getting fresh oxygen has many benefits, including increasing energy, and improving mental sharpness. Include a new winter activity like ice skating, building a snowman, walking in the snow, or exploring a park in your neighborhood.
  • Make plans for the New Year: What do you envision for the coming year? At some point a vaccine will have arrived and we will slowly come out of restrictions. Plan for what you want to accomplish in 2021, especially the first six months. Will you go see family when it’s safe again? Or will you finally explore your own city’s cultural and historical sites? Dream about what might be next for you.
These are a few ideas that I believe will contribute to a more meaningful holiday experience under the current conditions. Yes, we are all tired, but making plans can help us to cope better. And one day very soon, we’ll look up and we will be able to come outside again to be together with each other, and to never forget how precious we really are to one another.

The Nature Gap (July 21, 2020)

Clean drinking water, clean air, public parks and beaches, biodiversity, and open spaces are shared goods to which every person in the United States has an equal right both in principle and in law. Nature is supposed to be a “great equalizer” whose services are free, universal, and accessible to all humans without discrimination. In reality, however, American society distributes nature’s benefits—and the effects of its destruction and decline—unequally by race, income, and age.


A symbol of spring and a sign of hope -- Daffodils bloom across Detroit. Get outside and enjoy nature! Watch this video highlighting the work of Barry Burton of Detroit Parks and Recreation Department.


Community Supporters

The following organizations and businesses have supported our research in Detroit neighborhoods.