Steering Committee

The steering committee helps guide the direction of nature and health particularly focusing on research.

Jesús Aguirre, M.B.A.

    Jesús Aguirre began his career as a middle school science teacher in Los Angeles in the early 1990s. Since then, he has worked in a variety of roles in both the education and the public sector, working to serve the community. He has previously served as the State Superintendent of Education for the District of Columbia and as the Director of the District of Columbia Department of Parks and Recreation.

    Aguirre has been Superintendent of Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR) since May 2015 and takes great pride in the agency’s focus on healthy people, a healthy environment, and strong communities. The SPR portfolio includes 6,200 acres of park land (11% of the city’s land total), 24 miles of shoreline, 27 community centers, and environmental education centers.

    Aguirre is a proud father of three children (two graduates of, and one currently attending Seattle Public Schools). He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Biology from the University of Texas at Austin and an MBA from the WP Carey School of Business at the Arizona State University.

  • Jesús' website
Gregory Bratman

Greg Bratman, Ph.D.

    • Interim Director
    • Assistant Professor
  • Greg’s work takes place at the nexus of psychology, public health, and ecology and is focused on investigating the ways in which the environment is associated with human well-being. He is also working to inform the ways that the mental health effects of nature can be incorporated into ecosystem service studies and in efforts to address health inequities.

  • Greg's website

Howard Frumkin, M.D., Dr.P.H.

    • Professor Emeritus, Env. and Occ. Health Sciences
  • Howie is a physician and epidemiologist with a longstanding interest in the health benefits of nature contact.  He also works on the health implications of climate change and of the built environment.  He realized, embarrassingly late, that these topics are all connected.  He pursues these connections through a Planetary Health framework, working toward a vision of a healthy, sustainable, and equitable world.

  • Howard's website
Michelle Johnson-Jennings, Ph.D., Ed.M. (Choctaw Nation)

Michelle Johnson-Jennings, Ph.D., Ed.M. (Choctaw Nation)

    • Professor Clinical Health Psychologist
  • Dr. Michelle Johnson-Jennings, a Choctaw Nation-enrolled tribal member, serves as a UW full professor and director of the division of environmentally-based health and land-based healing at the Indigenous Wellness Research Institute. She holds joint/affiliate appointments at the University of Colorado’s School of Public Health, University of Saskatchewan, and the University of Waikato. As a clinical health psychologist, Her therapeutic expertise lies in working with Indigenous communities and decolonizing healing approaches. She has partnered and received large-scale funding with many international and national Indigenous nations, organizations, and communities. Together they have co-developed health interventions entrenched in ancestral guidelines to encourage a renewed commitment to health and revitalize land-based healing practices.

    Dr. Johnson-Jennings recently served as the Canada Research Chair for Indigenous Community-Engaged Research at the University of Saskatchewan, founded and directed the Research for Indigenous Community Health Center at the University of Minnesota, and was awarded a U.S. Fulbright Scholarship to research in Aotearoa/New Zealand. She has been invited to present her research at numerous professional conferences held in the Philippines, Italy, Czech Republic, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Canada, and the U.S. She received a Biomedical Research Excellence postdoctoral fellowship with the University of Montana, her doctoral degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a master’s degree from Harvard University, and a BS from the University of Oklahoma.

  • Michelle's website
Peter Kahn

Peter Kahn, Ph.D.

    Psychologist Peter Kahn is the Director of the Human Interaction with Nature and Technological Systems (HINTS) Lab at the UW, where he explores two trends that are reshaping human existence. One is the rapid degradation of the natural world. The other is the speed of technological development, both in terms of its computational sophistication and pervasiveness. Peter and his team look at how interaction with nature benefits people physically and psychologically, the psychological effects of technologies that simulate, mediate, or argument nature, and using deep and meaningful interaction with nature to revision and contribute to urban sustainability.

  • Peter's website
Josh Lawler

Josh Lawler, Ph.D.

    • Professor, Environmental and Forest Sciences
    • Director, Nature and Health Program
  • Josh is an ecologist driven by applied conservation questions and their real-world applications, with a focus on climate change and land-use change. His work explores how climate change affects animals and plants as well as the ways that human health, climate, and the environment are connected.

  • Josh's website

Carolyn Parsey, Ph.D.

    Carolyn Parsey, Ph.D., is a clinical neuropsychologist at UW Medicine’s Memory and Brain Wellness Center at Harborview and an assistant professor of Neurology at UW. Her interdisciplinary research includes development of assistive technologies to help patients with memory difficulties remain engaged mentally and physically. She is interested in how technology can improve access to nature for those who have cognitive or behavioral symptoms. Her latest research pursuits include virtual reality nature experiences for people with Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders, as well as their care partners.

  • Carolyn's website

Usha Varanasi, Ph.D.

    Usha Varanasi was the science and research director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Northwest Fisheries Science Center from 1994-2010, where she was the first woman to lead a fisheries field office. She also served from 2004-2010 as the director of NOAA’s Westcoast Center of Excellence for Ocean and Human Health which was dedicated to studying and informing policymakers how the degradation of oceans and aquatic ecosystems can affect the health and well-being of people. Currently, as the College of the Environment Distinguished Scholar in Residence, she is interested in the projects on the boundary of science and policy that define and encourage positive engagement of people with nature.

  • Usha's website

Spencer Wood, Ph.D.

    Spencer is a senior research scientist with EarthLab in the UW College of the Environment, where he studies the ways that people interact with and benefit from nature. Recently he has been researching outdoor recreation, using empirical and mathematical approaches to model the distributions, behaviors, and preferences of park visitors.

  • Spencer's website
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