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NatureRx@UMD Laboratory

Healing and Preserving the Health and Well-Being of Every Person in Nature 

NatureRx@UMD banner

NatureRx@UMD is a new and burgeoning movement, represented by numerous individuals and units within the University of Maryland College Park community, who have come together with a shared passion for the many ways in which the landscape of our campus arboretum and other recreation spaces can heal and preserve the health and well-being of every person. 

Department: Kinesiology 
Room Number: 2136
Directors: Jennifer D. Roberts and Shannon Jette

Office Phone Number: (301) 405-7748
Twitter: @ActiveRoberts

Park Rx America Poster

What is NatureRx@UMD?

Born out of Park Rx America, “a non-profit organization whose mission is to decrease the burden of chronic disease, increase health and happiness, and foster environmental stewardship,” NatureRx@ UMD is based on the premise that time spent in nature is therapeutic and contributes to personal contentment. Physicians and other health care providers in a number of U.S. and Canadian cities have now introduced this Park Rx approach to treating patients with an array of conditions. Multiple research studies have concluded that allocating even a few hours each week in nature can improve mood, cognitive ability, alertness, ability to concentrate, social connection and overall sense of well-being. Everyone can benefit from spending time exploring the great natural beauty of the UMD campus. As such, NatureRx@ UMD will serve as a living laboratory for the greater UMD community of students, faculty and staff, to facilitate our ability to self-reflect, connect, serve and thrive.

Also recognized as healing spaces are the extensive network of trails throughout Maryland, as well as other natural areas within the Mid-Atlantic, including the Chesapeake Bay.

See a gallery of UMD campus green spaces.


Jennifer D. Roberts
(301) 405-7748 

Shannon Jette
(301) 405-2497


Campus Partners

Off-Campus Partners

Jennifer Roberts, faculty member of School of Public Health at the University of Maryland

Jennifer D. Roberts, MPH, DrPH
Assistant Professor, Kinesiology

Dr. Jennifer Roberts' research has explored the dynamic relationship between environmental, social and cultural determinants of physical activity and used empirical evidence of this relationship to infer complex health outcome patterns and disparities.  Ongoing research, such as her Physical Environment and Active Transportation (PEAT) and Purple Line Impacts on Neighborhood, Health and Transit Studies incorporates state of the art techniques, such as spatial analysis and geographic information system modeling in order to objectively capture the role and relationship of physical activity determinants. 

Shannon Jette, faculty member of the School of Public Health at the University of Maryland

Shannon Jette, MA, PhD
Associate Professor, Kinesiology

Dr. Shannon Jette’s research focuses on social, cultural, and historical aspects of knowledge production in the disciplines of kinesiology, medicine, and public health. She is particularly interested in studying exercise and fitness practices as technologies of health that have the potential to shape how we understand and experience our bodies. She uses a range of qualitative research methodologies (including media and discourse analysis, in-depth interviews, focus groups, ethnographic techniques) to examine: the production of knowledge about health and physical activity; how this knowledge has been (and is) put to use in the operation of power in differing socio-historical contexts; and how individuals negotiate various health-related messages.


NatureRx@UMD Staff

Micaela Ada, alumna of the School of Public Health at the University of Maryland

Micaela Ada
NatureRx@UMD Coordinator

Micaela graduated from the University of Maryland School of Public Health in 2019 with a Bachelor's degree in Kinesiology. She plans to earn a Master's in Landscape Architecture and pursue that field as a career. Her interest in this field developed after taking the "Physical Activity and the Built Environment in Kinesiology" course during her undergraduate studies. Particularly, she is interested in the utilization of thoughtful urban design to create healthy communities that are simultaneously human-centered and considerate of the natural environment. She aspires to someday design active urban spaces with a mindful understanding of the impact of the built environment on public health.


NatureRx@UMD Steering Committee

Denise Lorraine McHugh
Coordinator, UMD Memorial Chapel

Patrick Smith
Instructor, Qi Circles

Meg Smolinski
Coordinator, UMD Arboretum and Botanical Garden Volunteers

Andrea L. Zukowski
Research Scientist, UMD Department of Linguistics

Ariana Sutton-Grier 
Associate Research Professor, UMD Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center

John Henderson
Executive Director, Park Rx America

Sarah Elaine Wilson
Coordinator of Health and Wellness, UMD

Amanda Mary Evens 
UMD Recreation and Wellness

Naomi Sachs, PhD, MLA, AIA, EDAC
Assistant Professor, UMD School of Argicuture and Landscape Architecture

Brit Irene Saksvig 
Associate Research Professor, UMD School of Public Health

Matthew Scribner 
Chief Technology Officer, Park Rx America


Scientific Research

Prescribing Nature-Based Activity for People With Mental Illness

This study from Ms. Julie Maier and Dr. Shannon Jette, both from the Department of Kinesiology, provides a new avenue through which to look at how underserved populations (especially those with mental illnesses) could be served through the ‘Exercise is Medicine’ initiative—a collaboration between the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Medical Association. The study highlights the mental health benefits of being in nature and draws attention to the issues of access to parks and nature for marginalized populations. 

ParkRx America has compliled substantial research on the therapeutic benefits of time spent in nature:

In the News

Baltimore Sun: Winter brings new chances for a nature escape at Patuxent Research Refuge

In this article from the Baltimore Sun, Department of Kinesiology Assistant Professor Jennifer Roberts and Research Assistant Julie Maier are discuss winter activities at the Patuxent Research Refuge. Dr. Roberts said spending time outdoors can help strengthen an individual’s immune system, as well as boost stress management and improve self esteem. Mier explains the spiritual component of spending time in such beautiful places as a national park or wildlife refuge, “You can have this sense of awe, this sense that there’s something bigger than you,” she said.

Upcoming Events 

NatureRx@UMD Spring 2022 Events | April 22, 2022
Event Speaker: Nature Therapist Dr. Heidi Schreiber Pan 

Time: 11:00 am - 12:00 pm
Location: SPH Friedgen Room 2236

Past Events 

NatureRx@UMD Fall 2019 Events| Thursday, November 14, 2019

Fall Harvest Volunteer Event
Time: 4:00 pm - 5:00 9m
Location: UMD Community Learning Garden

NatureRx@UMD Launch Date Events​ | Earth Day - Monday, April 22, 2019

1) RecWell Yoga Led by Tammy Lee
Time: 8:00 am - 8:45 am
Location: La Plata Turf

2) Qi Gong Session Led by Patrick Smith
Time: 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Location: Garden of Reflection and Remembrance -  Labyrinth

"Qi Gong is a system of movement designed to cultivate and stimulate the flow of our vital life energy or “Qi.” Combining gentle movements with attention to our bodies and breath, Qi Gong induces a state of relaxation and focus. Qi Gong forms have been practiced in China for thousands of years and are a vital part of traditional Chinese medicine. Practicing outside in nature is preferred, provided weather conditions are suitable. This aspect of Qi Gong practice lends support to the intent of the University of Maryland’s Nature Rx program.

I personally came to practice Qi Gong as part of treatment for a repetitive use injury related to playing guitar. Tendonitis in my left wrist became so intense that I had to stop playing for months. During this time, I was introduced to acupuncture and eventually learned that my acupuncturist Dr. Nianzu Li also taught Qi Gong. Under his guidance, I began a practice that has sustained me for the past 20 years. Part of this journey was to enroll in a teacher training program. I have been teaching Qi Gong with my wife, Joann Malone, since 2012, in conjunction with the recreation department of the city of Takoma Park. I have also taught Qi Gong on Guitar Craft Courses, Mindfulness retreats, and have given private lessons." 

— Patrick Smith

3) Volunteer Event
Time: 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Location: UMD Community Learning Garden

4) Climb and Clean
Time: 4:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Location: Behind the Eppley Recreation Center

NatureRX@UMD Post-Launch Date Event | Saturday, April 27, 2019

5) ParkRun
Time: 9:00 am - 10:30 am
Location: Acredale Community Park: 4200 Metzerott Road, College Park, MD 20740

NatureRX@UMD Post-Launch Date Event | Sunday, April 28, 2019

6) ParkRx Day – Wellness in the Woods
Time: 11:00 am - 3:00 pm
Location: Watkins Regional Park: 301 Watkins Park Drive Upper Marlboro, MD 20774