• Dermatology and skin cancer
  • Epidemiology
  • Mental health
  • Public health
  • Respiratory and thoracic

Location: School of Public Health (Herston)

Type of student: 

  • Both HDR and Extra-curricular
  • Honours students
  • PGY1: Post-graduate year 1
  • PGY2: Post-graduate year 2 

Type of work: 

  • Literature review
  • Secondary data analysis
  • Statistical analysis
  • Systematic review

Brief synopsis:

Greenspace is currently valued for its ability to reduce a variety of disease and increase wellbeing. Our novel hypothesis is that microbes from the environment influence our chronic disease outcomes. We will investigate how exposure to biodiverse ecosystems enables a healthier immune system and a decrease in inflammatory-linked chronic diseases. We will use the highly prevalent diseases asthma/atopy and psychological distress to assess the relationship and the potential for them to share a common pathological pathway.
New environmental DNA (eDNA) methods now allow for assessment of biodiversity of a greenspace and an individual’s exposure to it. This study will use citizen science collected data to better understand the value of highly biodiverse exposures. We will link greenspace data (meshblocks, satellite imagry, etc.) to participants in our study. We will value add to these existing measures of greenspace by assessing their biodiversity with eDNA measures. Using GIS we will link participant exposures to their health outcomes while adjusting for know confounders using spatial statsitical methods. Asthma/atopy and psychological distress variables will be collected including self-report, doctor-diagnosed, medication, validated questionnaires etc. To enable curation of these disparate datasets system dynamics modelling will be used to examine the complex linkages between greenspace and inflammatory disease-linked outcomes, while investigating the effects of other variables and confounders (with SES being the major one). Validation of exposure to biodiversity microbiota will be undertaking using nasal filters from participants spending time in greenspace to quantify biodiversity exposure. The data mashup of new and existing data will allow the answering of the question: does exposure to greenspace of high biodiversity decrease the risk of inflammation-related diseases using asthma and psychological distress as models?

New DNA technology allows us to measure how biodiverse a greenspace is and we will link that back to the health of those living nearby. We know exposure to greenspace/parks etc. is good for our health. The range microbes we are exposed in the outdoor environment governs the types of microbes we will have growing on our skin and in out guts. The diversity of microbes in people influences the health of their immune system and development of common diseases such as asthma and anxiety.


Associate Professor Nicholas Osborne

Associate Professor in Environmental Health
School of Public Health