How often have you spent time in the wilderness, whether it’s on a walk or spotting an animal in its natural habitat, and felt rejuvenated? Native South Alabamian and Harvard conservationist E.O. Wilson’s work, recently covered in the Washington Post, highlights the benefits of preserving wildlife’s natural habitat – which is our goal in the Gulf State Park Enhancement Project.

As we aim to serve as a model of resilient, environmentally friendly coastal development that encourages visitors to enjoy nature while also preserving the park’s wildlife, we draw from his research that shows how conservation land provides psychological and health benefits for humans and is also crucial to preventing animal extinction and preserving their habitats.

To preserve Gulf State Park’s native landscape and animals, our team’s experts are working to create a dunes system that encourages a connection to nature and restores the habitat for the endangered Alabama beach mouse, nesting sea turtles, and shore birds. Our work supports E.O. Wilson’s belief that natural protected areas have the power to drive down extinction rates and preserve the earth, which also proves advantageous to people through “ecosystem services,” the benefits that nature provides to humans like providing food, pollinating or purifying water.

Our proposed research and education center will educate old and young alike – another important tenant of E.O. Wilson’s research – providing visitors with an opportunity to engage with their environment and encourage future conservation. Wilson’s theory of biophilia, which focuses on human’s natural tendency to be drawn towards other living systems, believes that people instinctively want to be in the natural environments we evolved in. Ultimately, being in our most natural settings relaxes us, reminding us of the importance of natural places like Gulf State Park, where we hope to foster environmentalism to preserve nature, which is so central to the existence of humans and wildlife alike.

Read more about E.O. Wilson’s research and ideas in E.O. Wilson explains why parks and nature are really good for your brain.