Portrait of Holly Harris

Holly Harris

PhD student, Human Ecology


PhD project: Wild Harvesting in Kent - human-nature interactions along the Kent coastline

Foraged foods enjoy a particularly ‘gourmand’ status among the gastronomic markets in urban Euro-American contexts due to consumer interests in local, artisanal and sustainable foodways. In the UK, foraging as a livelihood has grown exponentially over the past decade with increasing numbers of individuals making a living by foraging commercially to supply the restaurant trade or through teaching foraging through field and online courses. As a result of the growing interest and demand in ‘wild’ food, environmental authorities have become increasingly concerned that wild harvesting could be unsustainable. This research examines the cultural and environmental significance of wild harvesting along the Kent coastline in the UK and critically examines the question of its sustainability. 

The new foraging movement intersects with cultural, political, environmental and economic domains, making it both a complex and dynamic area to study. Adopting a multidisciplinary methodology that includes critical human geography, environmental anthropology and human ecology, the research focuses on coastal habitats and the plant, marine algae and marine mollusc populations that are wild harvested from these areas. To understand the socio-ecological significance of foraging as an articulation of human-nature relations, professional foragers, members of the public and conservation professionals will be interviewed for their views on foraging as a sustainable 21st century practice. 

Holly Harris is a member of the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology.   


Dr Robert Fish
Dr David Roberts


Vice-Chancellor's Scholarship, University of Kent  



  • Harris, H. (2017). The social dimensions of therapeutic horticulture. Health & Social Care in the Community [Online] 25:1328-1336. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/hsc.12433.
    Harnessing nature to promote mental health is increasingly seen as a sustainable solution to healthcare across the industrialised world. The benefits of these approaches to well-being include reduced symptoms of anxiety, depression and improved social functioning. Many studies assume that contact with nature is the main therapeutic component of these interventions yet ‘green care’ programmes typically include activities not based on ‘nature’ that may contribute to positive outcomes. This study explored the views of service users participating in a Therapeutic Horticultural programme on what factors promoted their engagement in the project, to identify variables other than ‘nature’ that may be responsible for successful engagement in these programmes. A secondary aim was to assess the significance ‘nature’ plays including, for example whether a prior interest in horticultural-related activities, such as gardening, is significant. Two focus groups were held with mental health service users (n = 15) attending a gardening project in south-east England. Findings revealed that the social element of the project was the key facilitator to engagement; the flexible structure of the gardening project was also significant and allowed service users to feel empowered. ‘Nature’ evoked a sense of calm and provided participants with a non-threatening space that was engaging.
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