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UMD scholar's work with nature leads to Fulbright

Tom Beery

DULUTH - Tom Beery, a doctoral student at the University of Minnesota Duluth, will travel to Sweden as a Fulbright Scholar in the upcoming school year.

Beery will take part in the international education exchange program that awards about 7,500 grants annually for the opportunity to study, do research, teach and interact in a foreign country. The program through the U.S. State Department began in 1946 and operates in more than 150 countries.

Beery, also an environmental education instructor at UMD, will be

stationed at the University of Gothenburg in Gothenburg, Sweden, to study young people's relationship with nature and how environmental surroundings correlate with lifestyle choices. His stay will last from August 2009 to June 2010.

Beery, 46, answered a few questions for the News Tribune this weekend via e-mail.

Q: Why Sweden?

A: From canoeing, backcountry skiing and hiking in Canada to extensive travels in Scandinavia, I have a lifetime interest in the geography of northern places. When many go to Florida for spring break, I grab my skis and head north!

The Swedes are engaged in an innovative study of the nation's relationship with the natural world. The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency has sponsored a 6-year national research program.

This program is a comprehensive investigation of outdoor recreation, environmental connectedness and lifestyle.

Q: Explain the nature of your research?

A: I am primarily interested [in] the relationship between proximity and access to urban green space/nature with measures of environmental connectedness. Eco-psychologists contend that connection to nature is an important predictor of ecological behavior, thus my interest lies in how our lifestyle -- daily interaction with the natural world -- may relate to human behavior. In addition, I am interested in the Swedish laws of universal access and how this almost unlimited public access to all land in Sweden may impact the relationship Swedes have with the natural world.

Q: What excites you about this opportunity?

A: I am excited to consider how Minnesotans may be able to benefit from some of the ground-breaking research coming out of Sweden.

For example, if you compare the goals of the [Minnesota Department of Natural Resources] Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan with the work in Sweden, there is extensive overlap. I hope that I can bring research back to Minnesota that may be of use and value in our efforts to promote healthy active outdoor lifestyles.

Q: What does the Fulbright mean to you?

A: This opportunity means that I join a community of scholars that see the value in global understanding, a community that knows that we continue to have much to learn from one another around the world. It is a privilege to be a part of the global-American tradition during a time when our country seems to once again be seeking solutions as world partners.

Further, as we consider the great environmental challenges of our day, I don't believe we can make progress toward solutions unless we consider how our experiences, attitudes and behaviors with the natural world are interconnected. The Fulbright means I can continue to be a part of seeking solutions to the environmental challenges of our time.