Nancy Wells is an environmental psychologist who studies people's relationship to the built and natural environment through the life course. Her studies have focused on residential environments -- housing and neighborhoods -- and more recently schools. Dr. Wells completed a joint PhD in Psychology and Architecture at the University of MIchigan; and then NIMH post-doctoral training at the University of California, Irvine.
Research in the Wells lab focuses primarily on the effects of the environment on health and health behaviors. Current projects explore the role of nature in human health as well as how environment and policy can affect ecological behaviors. Past projects have examined the influence of housing quality on mental health; the effect of nature on children's cognitive functioning and psychological well-being; as well as the influence of neighborhood characteristics on physical activity. Recently, efforts focused on a large study of school gardens' influence on children's physical activity, fruit and vegetable consumption, and ecological literacy. Using a combination of surveys, direct observation, accelerometry, photography, and interviews, the team's efforts aimed to understand what makes a difference in children's health.
Rollings, KA & Wells, NM (2018). Cafeteria Assessment for Elementary Schools (CAFES): Development, reliability testing, and predictive validity analysis. BMC Public Health,18 (1), 1154. doi: 10.1186/s12889-018-6032-2
Pinter-Wollman, N., Jeli? A., & Wells, N.M. (2018). The impact of the built environment on health behaviors and disease transmission in social systems. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B., 373 (1753), 20170245.
Wells, N. M., Myers, B. M., Todd, L. E., Henderson, C. R., Barale, K., Gaolach, B., Ferenz, G., Aitken, M, Tse, C.C., Pattison, K.O., Hendrix, L., Carson, J.B., Taylor, J.B., & Franz, N.K. (2018). The carry-over effects of school gardens on fruit and vegetable availability at home: A randomized controlled trial with low-income elementary schools. Preventive Medicine, 112, 152-159.
Razani, N., Morshed, S., Kohn, M., Wells, NM, Thompson, D., Alqassari, M., Agodi, A., Long, D., Rutherford, G. (2018). Effect of park prescriptions with and without group visits to parks on stress reduction in low-income parents: SHINE randomized trial. PLoSONE, 13 (2), e0192921.
Brittin J, Frerichs L, Sirard JR, Wells NM, Myers BM, Garcia J, Sorensen D, Trowbridge MJ, Huang TTK (2017). Impact of Active School Design on School-Time Sedentary Behavior and Physical Activity: A Pilot Natural Experiment. PLoSONE 12(12): e0189236. doi 10.1371/journal.pone.0189236
Rollings, K.A., Wells, N.M., Evans, G.W., Bednarz, A., & Yang, Y. (2017). Housing and neighborhood physical quality: children ‘s mental health and learned helplessness. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 50, 17-23. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvp.2017.01.004
Todd, L.E., Wells, N.M., Wilkins, J.L., & Echon, R.M. (2017). Digital Food Image Analysis as a measure of children’s fruit and vegetable consumption in the elementary school cafeteria: A description and critique. Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition, 4, 516-528. doi: 10.1080/19320248.2016.1275996
Rollings, K.A. & Wells, N.M. (2017). Effects of residential kitchen floor plan openness on eating behaviors. Environment & Behavior, 49(6). doi 10.1177/0013916516661822
Pillemer, K., Wells, N.M., Meador, R.H., Schultz, L., Henderson, C.R., Cope, M.T. (2017). Engaging Older Adults in Environmental Volunteerism: The Retirees in Service to the Environment (RISE) Program. The Gerontologist, 57 (2), 367-375. doi: 10.1093/geront/gnv693.
Razani, N., Kohn, M.A., Wells, N.M., Thompson, D., Flores, H.H., Rutherford, G.W. (2016). Design and evaluation of a park prescription program for stress reduction and health promotion in low-income families: the Stay Healthy in Nature Everyday (SHINE) study protocol. Contemporary Clinical Trials, 51, 8-14. doi: 10.1016/j.cct.2016.09.007
Myers, B.M. & Wells, N.M. (2015). Children’s physical activity while gardening: development of a valid and reliable direct observation tool. Journal of Physical Activity & Health, 12 (4), 522-528.
Rollings, K.A., Wells, N.M., Evans, G.W. (2015). Measuring physical neighborhood quality related to health. Behavioral Sciences, 5, 190-202. doi: 10.3390/bs5020190
Demment, M., Wells, N., and Olson, C. (2015). Associations between the rural middle school nutrition and physical activity environment, family income trajectory, and change in BMI z-scores during adolescence. Journal of School Health, 85(2), 100-108.
Wells, N.M., Myers, B.M., & Henderson, C.R. (2014). School gardens & physical activity: A randomized controlled trial of low-income elementary schools. Preventive Medicine, 69S, S27-S33.
Olson, C.M., Baker, I., Demment, M., Graham, M., May, J., Strawderman, M., Wells, N.M. (2014). The healthy start partnership: An approach to obesity prevention in young families. Family and Community Health, 37 (1), 74-85.
Wells, N.M. (2013). The role of nature in children's resilience: cognitive and social processes. In: K. Tidball & M. Krasny (Eds.) Greening in the Red Zone. Springer.
Wells, N.M. and Lekies, K.S. (2012). Children and nature: following the trail to environmental attitudes and behavior. In: J. Dickinson and R. Bonney (Eds.) Citizen Science: public collaboration in environmental research. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Wells, N.M. & Rollings, K.A. (2012). The natural environment: Influences on human health and function. In S. Clayton (Ed.) The handbook on Environmental and Conservation Psychology. Oxford University Press.
Wells, N.M. & Donofrio, G.A. (2011). Urban planning, the natural environment, and public health. In: J.O. Nriagu (Ed.) Encyclopedia of Environmental Health, volume 5, pp.565-575. Burlington: Elsevier
Pillemer, K., Wells, N.M., Wagenet, L., Meador, R.H. and Parise, J.T. (2011). Environmental sustainability in an aging society: A research agenda. The Journal of Aging and Health, 23(3), 433-452. doi: 10.1177/0898264310381278
Gantner, L.A., Olson, C.M., Frongillo, E., Wells, N.M. (2011). Prevalence of non-traditional food stores and distance to healthy foods in a rural food environment. Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition, 6, 279-293.
Wells, N.M., Evans, G.W., Beavis, A. & Ong, A.D. (2010). Early childhood poverty, cumulative risk exposure, and weight gain trajectories through young adulthood. American Journal of Public Health. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2009.184291
Wells, N.M., Evans, G.W. and Yang, Y. (2010). Environment and health: Planning decisions as public health decisions. Journal of Architectural and Planning Research, 27 (2), 124-143.
Pillemer, K. A. Fuller-Rowell, T. Reid C. & Wells N.M. (2010). Environmental volunteering and health outcomes over a twenty-year period. The Gerontologist, 50(5), 594-602.
Wells, N.M. and Laquatra, J. (2010). Why green housing and green neighborhoods are important to the health and well-being of older adults. Generations. 33(4), 50-57.
Wells, N.M. and Yang, Y. (2008). Neighborhood Design & Walking: A quasi-experimental longitudinal study of low-income Southern women moving to neotraditional or suburban neighborhoods. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 34(4), 313-319.
Wells, N.M. and Harris, J.D. (2007). Housing quality, psychological distress, and the mediating role of social withdrawal: A longitudinal study of low-income women. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 27, 69-78.
Brown, B.B. and Wells, N.M. (Eds.) (2007). Environment, physical activity, and diet. Special Issue of Environment and Behavior, 39 (1).
Wells, N.M., Ashdown, S.P., Davies, E.H.S., Cowett, F.D. and Yang, Y. (2007). Environment, Design and Obesity: Opportunities for interdisciplinary collaborative research. Environment and Behavior, 39 (1), 6 - 33.
Wells, N.M. and Olson, C.M. (2007). The Ecology of Obesity: Perspectives from life course, design and economics. Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition, 1 (3), 99-129.
Wells, N.M. and Lekies, K.S. (2006). Nature and the Life Course: Pathways from childhood nature experiences to adult environmentalism. Children, Youth, and Environment, 16 (1), 1-24.
Wells, N.M. & Evans, G.W. (2003) Nearby Nature: A buffer of life stress among rural children. Environment and Behavior, 35 (3), 311-330.
Nancy Wells is a member of the Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA) and the International Association for People - Environment Studies (IAPS). She is a frequent presenter at national and international conferences related to residential environments and health-related outcomes.
Although Dr. Wells does not have an extension appointment, nearly all her projects include an extension and outreach components.
Professor Wells teaches graduate Research Methods and courses focused on the influence of the environment on public health. Her classes include the graduate seminar, Environments and Health (DEA 6610), Healthy Places (DEA 2700), graduate research methods (DEA 6560), and Health Impact Assessment (DEA 5560). Dr. Wells strives to identify synergies in teaching, mentoring, research and outreach. These connections are exemplified in the Wells research lab which serves as a teaching and mentorship laboratory aimed at doing research well, and doing good through research. Nancy Wells' courses typically include a community outreach component to emphasize real world challenges and potential solutions.
DEA 2700 Healthy Places
DEA 6560 Research Methods in Social Sciences
DEA 6610 Environments and Health
DEA 5560 Health Impact Assessment
Dr. Wells received a joint PhD in Psychology and Architecture from the University of Michigan and completed a NIMH post-doctoral fellowship in the School of Social Ecology at the University of California, Irvine. Nancy also received a Master's degree in Design and Environmental Analysis from Cornell University and a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from Connecticut College.
Director of Graduate Studies (DGS), Design + Environmental Analysis
Department Extension / Engagement Leader (DEL), Design + Environmental Analysis