Current research projects

Measuring adolescents’ level of interest in nature: a prerequisite for effective nature protection

Studies indicate that learners are prepared to act with sustainable and enviromental awareness only if they are interested in nature and recognize it as worthy of protection. However, there is still no consistently used instrument to measure adolescents´interest in nature. To adress this, in this project we develop a new metric, the Scale of Interest in Nature (SIN). It can be used either in a research context or by educators in formal or informal learning settings, e.g. with a focus on Environmental Education or Education for Sustainable Development. For instance, it could be applied in interventions that address an adolescent´s interest in nature.

Project participants: Anna-Lena Neurohr, Andrea Möller

Cooperation partners: Nadine Pasch - University of Trier (DE); Siegmar Otto - Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg (DE)

Modeling developmental trajectories of an environmental competence

Environmental action competence represents the main construct of the proenvironmental competence model and serves as an intellectual precondition of proenvironmental behavior. The more pronounced this trait is, the more the realization of personal environmental goals is pursued. The link between nature connectedness and environmental behavior is primarily shaped by positive emotions evoked by direct experiences of nature. The effects of a developed emotional attachment and a resulting interest on the actions of children and adolescents are shown by the model for the explanation of nature-protecting or nature-endangering dispositions and decisions by Kals et al. (1998). According to this model, interest in nature is a particularly strong predictor of environmentally protective dispositions.

Within the framework of a large-scale cross-sectional study (grades 5-9), the various facets of environmental competence will be examined in more detail in order to further develop and empirically validate the model for explaining nature-protecting or nature-threatening readiness according to Kals, Schumacher, and Montada (1998), based on the model of environmental competence according to Kaiser, Roczen, and Bogner (2013).

Project participants: Anna-Lena Neurohr, Andrea Möller

Cooperation partners: Florian Kaiser and Siegmar Otto - University of Magdeburg (DE)

Austrian schoolchildren's students’ closeness connectedness to nature

The promotion of environmentally friendly behavior is one of the goals of education for sustainable development (ESD) worldwide. It is known that connectedness to nature correlates positively with environmentally conscious behavior. Therefore, it is important to learn more about students' nature connectedness and to gain insights into reasons and concepts.

This project investigates how connected 6th grade students (n = 676) are to nature. For this purpose, the reasons they give for their connectedness to nature and the way in which reasons and connectedness are related will be surveyed.


Project participants: Petra Bezeljak, Andrea Möller

Cooperation partners: Gregor Torkar - University of Ljubljana (SI)

What does nature mean to you? Perceptions, emotions and feelings about nature among Austrian students

Nature is a source of well-being for many people. Studies show that experiences of nature have positive effects on physical, emotional, intellectual and even moral development of humans.


The purpose of this study is to investigate students’ perceptions of nature and their feelings and emotions towards nature in urban areas. For this purpose, students were asked to take photos in their free time on the question "What is nature to you?" and to describe them. These descriptions will be analyzed qualitatively in combination with the respective photos. A better knowledge of students' understanding of nature can form the basis for specially tailored teaching concepts and environmental programs.

Project participants: Petra Bezeljak, Andrea Möller

Cooperation partnersBruce Johnson, Corey J. Knox - University of Arizona (USA)

Effects of long-term nature experiences on students' environmental attitudes, nature interest, connectedness to nature, and environmental knowledge.

Studies have shown that direct experiences with nature have a positive impact on children's and adolescents' pro-environmental behavior. However, most studies conducted in the school context describe only the effects of short-term interventions.

This study examines the potential effects of a three-year longitudinal intervention with direct nature experiences on middle school students (grades 6 and up). Specifically, we will analyze 1) how environmental attitudes, interest in nature, connectedness to nature, and environmental knowledge develop, 2) whether there are relationships between environmental knowledge, interest in nature, connectedness to nature, and environmental attitudes, and if so, how they influence each other. It is the first longitudinal study in the field of ESD conducted in Austria’s general track schools.

The project is done  in cooperation with the Umweltdachverband Austria and funded by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Regions and Tourism (LE-project in measure 16.5., 2b, Strengthening the cooperation of actors and structures for the conservation of natural heritage, field of environmental protection).

Project participants: Petra Bezeljak, Andrea Möller

Cooperation partners: Doris Pleyer and Anna Streissler - Umweltdachverband Austria; Alexander Bergmann - University of Leipzig (DE)

Influencing affective environmental attitudes and interests through exploratory nature experiences and original encounters at the educational apiary.

Using a mixed-method approach, the project investigates how original encounters with honey bees can be used to work towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)


Specifically, this project investigates how short-term and long-term interventions with honey bees (Apis mellifera) at school or out-of-school apiaries affect central characteristics of environmental competence (affinity with nature, interest in nature, environmental awareness, nature identity, environmental behavior and willingness to protect nature) in students of different ages and school types. In addition, indications of possible developmental stages and specific predictors of environmental literacy, such as age, school grades, or gender, will be obtained.

Project participants: Nadine Pasch, Andrea Möller

Cooperation partners: Ralph Plugge - Rhineland-Palatinate State Agency for Environmental Education Mainz (DE)

BAF - Biodiversity at the cemetery

Some of Vienna's cemeteries are several hundred years old. Their function as cultural heritage and places of rest make them a protected habitat for a wide variety of creatures, as well as a refuge in a growing urban environment. In fact, urban areas continue to grow with the need for housing, often creating a conflict with the desire to preserve natural landscapes. Parks and cemeteries therefore represent an important interface between urban design and biodiversity conservation. Although visitors to cemeteries have long enjoyed encounters with rare animals, an inventory of actual diversity has not yet been conducted.

As part of a Citizen Science approach, we investigate the biodiversity of Viennese cemeteries in cooperation with Viennese cemeteries, students and their teachers. The aim is to preserve, possibly even increase and, above all, protect biodiversity.



Project participants: Thomas Filek, Andrea Möller

Cooperation partners: Martin Scheuch - University college for agrarian and environmental pedagogy (AT)