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Believe it or not, I have submitted my PhD dissertation. Yes, like you, I was starting to think we would never hear those words but there they are in writing. This, of course, is the outcome of the research which many of you contributed to - or expressed an interest in - in one way or another sometime between 2009-2012 and which I remain deeply grateful for. It seems a long time ago now and it has been a bit of an arduous process but I am almost there: we just need to hope that the examiners review it favourably and I defend my work well enough in order to graduate in March 2014.

So, in focusing on finishing up, I have not been able to dedicate much time (or "mojo-vation") for other more popular writings, news, creative pieces or updates such as this. However, this overdue newsletter summarizes some of the posts over the past months which you may have missed or may alternatively be keen to revisit.

Ebbs and lulls in my world don't imply that the same is happening in the big outside world. On the contrary, recently there has been a flurry of studies, films, popular news and initiatives related to connectedness with nature, nature experience and its implications for human wellbeing. I've listed some in the "Around the Web" section below.

Throughout the coming year, I hope to make digestible snippets of my voluminous dissertation available to readers through more easy to access media (e.g. writings, videos). This will be alongside a few other plans currently in the making. In the meantime, please take some moments to view the presentations, films, writings and news below.

~ Matt Z

Connectedness as a core conservation concern
I recently delivered a presentation at the Fynbos Forum which summarizes results of a literature review carried out on connectedness with nature as part of my PhD research. This paper has also been submitted as a detailed manuscript (co-authored by my supervisors) to an academic journal and is currently under peer review.
view presentation ≫

Connectedness with Nature: Part 3
What commonalities are there between connectedness with nature (CWN) and spirituality? This third installment in the CWN series touches on a few key dimensions.

Reflections & Perfections
On rare occasions the mind attunes to sense an indescribable harmony with nature's rhythms and patterns…

The Problem with 'eyes4earth'
A reliance on our eyes as our primary way of sensing the world inhibits our engagement with people and nature.

Ecologist or Tree-hugger?
We might all love 'nature' but battle lines are drawn when it comes to invasive alien species...

Learning in the Field? "Yalada"
Lying on the beach, we gazed up at the configurations of stars which had staved off the earlier cloud cover...

Catch of the Day
Mardi shares her experience about the one that didn't get away…but not without some assistance from above.

Around The Web
The Animal Communicator
What if you could talk to animals and have them talk back to you? Anna Breytenbach has dedicated her life to what she calls interspecies communication. She claims to send detailed messages to animals through pictures and thoughts and then receive messages of remarkable clarity back from them. For a short time, this thought-provoking and belief-challenging film is free to view online as part of the Culture Unplugged film festival. view film ≫

Dancing With Thoreau
View the trailer and support this promising upcoming feature film about connectedness with nature, its benefits and how, as "a different kind of environmental activism", connectedness can be optimized through our encounters with nature to become healthier and better people. read more and view trailer ≫

Project Wild Thing
David Bond is concerned. His kids' waking hours are dominated by a cacophony of marketing, and a screen dependence threatening to turn them into glassy-eyed zombies. In an attempt to compete with the brands, which take up a third of his daughter's life, Bond appoints himself Marketing Director for Nature. Like any self-respecting salesman, he sets about developing a campaign and a logo. With the help of a number of bemused professionals, he is soon selling Nature to British families. His product is free, plentiful and has proven benefits - but is Nature past its sell-by date? read more and view trailer ≫

Intuitive Tracking: An Ancient Practice Finds New Life
"Intuitive" wildlife tracking is a perceptual art form that opens a compelling doorway into connecting with the natural world. This article also includes an audio interview with Jon Young who features in The Animal Communicator (see above) and thus provides additional context and rationale to some of the premises covered in the film. read more ≫

Connecting to Nature – What Does This Mean and How Do You Do It?
Facilitator Erica Gurner gives her interpretation of connectedness based on her experience: "People ask me what I do in my work and I tell them that I run programs that are about connecting to nature for wellbeing and sustainability. After almost a year of doing this under my own steam, I'm still not comfortable with that response because people find it hard to understand what is meant by connecting to nature; wellbeing and sustainability. read more ≫

4 / 5 UK Children Disconnected From Nature
A groundbreaking three-year research project undertaken by the RSPB has found that only 21 per cent of children in the UK have a level of connectedness with nature that can be considered 'realistic and achievable' for all children. The report's findings were released at an event at the British Houses of Parliament on the16 October, 2013. read more ≫

Rewild The Child
Investigative journalist George Monbiot outlines why a week in the countryside is worth three months in a classroom by citing studies which show that children who spend time learning in natural environments not only perform better in a range of standard school subjects but exploring the natural world makes other subjects relevant and gets apathetic students more excited about learning. read more ≫

Art, Science & Nature: A Compelling Fusion
Check out these articles and initiatives which explore the nexus of art, science and the environment:
Are Artists the Ultimate Environmentalists? read more ≫
The University of California (Davis) offers an Art/Science Fusion program to bring the creative energies of the arts and the sciences into a mixture that catalyzes change and innovation in learning for people of all ages. read more ≫
Balance-Unbalance is a major International Conference designed to use art as a catalyst to explore intersections between nature, science, technology and society as we move into an era of both unprecedented ecological threats and transdisciplinary possibilities. read more ≫

Plus... stay connected with this news and more via the eyes4earth Facebook page too!

eyes4earth.org acts as an outreach portal for research being led by Matthew Zylstra and based at Stellenbosch University (Department of Conservation Ecology & Entomology and Faculty of Education) and housed within the TsamaHUB's trandisciplinary doctoral programme in sustainability. Between 2009 – 2011, Matthew's PhD research was funded by the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology (C•I•B). The views, opinions and material contained on eyes4earth.org are of the researcher and not necessarily endorsed by the C•I•B, TsamaHUB, Stellenbosch University or other listed collaborators. eyes4earth.org is supported by the EarthCollective Network.

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