Second Birgit Elands Award goes to Van Hall Larenstein students

December 1, 2023

Anouk van Heugten and Else Vermeulen from Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied Sciences jointly received this year’s Birgit Elands Thesis Award, the second such award given to inspiring BSc or MSc theses on human-nature relationships.

They received a price of one thousand euros and planted a walnut tree in the Droevendaal Food Forest in Wageningen during the Transforming Forests Conference held in Wageningen on 17 November.

Anouk and Else designed a prototype tool to simulate using green premises in mental healthcare institutions, based on a framework of eight perceived sensory dimensions of nature. The jury praised their excellent practical research on a highly relevant topic which has a clear contribution to a nature-positive society. The tool can be used by both mental health practitioners in their health care practices, as well as by managers of mental healthcare premises to improve the design of the areas.


The runner-up was Beatriz Lopes Cerqueira from Wageningen University. Her thesis ‘Zapatistas: new environmental subjects?’ is an intriguing in-depth study of views and practices of a marginalized group in Mexico towards nature and preservation of the environment. The thesis makes a strong theoretical and methodological contribution, based on political ecology and social movement. Beatriz creatively makes use of stories that follow the rhythm of nature and thereby stimulates a deeper understanding of alternative and more caring ways of thinking about and relating to nature.

The Birgit Elands Thesis Award is a collaboration of Wageningen University, Nature College and Staatsbosbeheer. Human-nature relationships may include topics such as biocultural diversity, active citizenship, nature education and spiritual values of nature. The award has been initiated last year in loving memory of the late Birgit Elands, who initiated this kind of research at FNP and Wageningen University.

The award was open to students at all Dutch universities and universities of applied sciences for the first time this year. The submissions from various universities show that not only students in Wageningen, but also students throughout The Netherlands are aware of the relevance of human-nature relationships for understanding and stimulating transformative change.

Last year’s award recipients.