Carling Matthews

Carling Matthews

UNBC student makes Vanderhoof focus of her thesis project.

Carling Matthews of Prince George is focusing her masters thesis on the relationship of Vanderhoofians and nature.

Vanderhoof is the subject of an ongoing thesis study by a student of UNBC’s Natural Resources and Environmental Studies program.

Carling Matthews, a graduate student at UNBC, has begun a research for her masters degree thesis project titled A northern rural perspective: Exploring the connections between the outdoors, nature connectedness, and well-being in Vanderhoof, BC.

Matthews is studying the relationships of northern and rural residents with the environment around them.

“The goals of this thesis are to explore how various people in the community of Vanderhoof view their relationship to nature,” Matthews says. “what types  of outdoor activities rural residents participate in, what outdoor activities help cultivate connections with nature and in what ways.”

Matthews also hopes to discover what types of benefits rural residents reap from their interconnectedness with nature.

Matthews research into Vanderhoof’s love affair with the outdoors began in June when she travelled to Vanderhoof from Prince George to conduct a series of 16 interviews with locals about their outdoor activity.

“Based on those interviews I developed an online survey which has been online for about a week,” said Matthews of the initial stages of her project.

The survey is targeted at outdoors enthusiasts, be them hardcore hikers or just someone who enjoys going for a walk in the outdoors. She has polled 23 people so far but doesn’t  feel that amount is enough and hopes to get “as many as I can” to take part in the survey.

Matthews is not a Vanderhoof baby, she was born in Quesnel, B.C. prior to moving to Prince George to attend classes at UNBC. She chose Vanderhoof as the base for her research after becoming acquainted with the town during a UNBC summer program. “The first master’s course I took was an eco-health program. We came to Vanderhoof and met with Wayne Salewski and went to Murray Creek and Saik’uz,” says Matthews. “I was inspired by what I saw in the community and I was building a network of partners to work with, so it was an easy and great place to pick.”

Matthews said she chose to undertake the topic for her masters thesis because it was something she was very passionate about, “I did my undergraduate degree in a similar area.”

Matthews says that while the study of natures effect on well-being is by no means new, research on it has been primarily conducted in relation to an metropolitan areas and cities. “Its mostly been researched in urban places, so I was interested in how it was different in northern, rural communities. I wanted to know if urban research was applicable to rural environments,” says Matthews.

Vanderhoof has left it’s mark on Matthews already, “Vanderhoof is a great community,” says Matthews. “There is so much access to it [the outdoors], most people in town live within five minutes from a trail and there is great hunting in the area… There are great opportunities in Vanderhoof, enjoy it and don’t take it for granted.”

When finished, Matthews will compare her data with existing research before compiling it into a written document which will be presented to UNBC and published in the UNBC library. “Following completion of the thesis, a community presentation will be organized and a fact sheet summarizing the research finding will be distributed amongst the community,” Matthews says.

Matthews will also present her thesis at the 2014 EcoHealth conference that takes place in Montreal, Que.