The Mission of the Green Care Lab is to foster a collaborative environment where academic researchers and community healthcare professionals join forces to understand, solve, and communicate the benefits of Green Care using research, education, and public engagement with a deep commitment to social justice.
Dr. Rebecca Calisi Rodríguez has dedicated the past two decades of her career to exploring the multifaceted impact of stress on the neurobiology, physiology, and behavior of both animals and humans. This has led to a body of work characterized by groundbreaking discoveries, published by her and her research team (link to publications). Their investigations have delved into the diverse consequences of stress, spanning behavioral, reproductive, genomic, and proteomic dimensions.
And then the pandemic happened...
And then the pandemic happened...
Like many individuals, Dr. Calisi Rodríguez drew inspiration from the courageous healthcare professionals on the front lines. During this period, she took a reflective pause to reevaluate how her expertise in animal behavior, stress physiology, and behavioral neuroendocrinology could be harnessed to contribute more meaningfully to the well-being of both humanity and the environment. This introspective journey was driven by a genuine desire to align her skills and training with a deeper sense of purpose and intention in service to these noble causes.
In the summer of 2022, the Green Care Lab at UC Davis formed a collaboration with Pine Trails Ranch in west Davis, CA, to create safe, supportive spaces for people to do structured, nature-based projects. Our goals are:
- To investigate and pinpoint the specific scientific and beneficial components of these activities using neurobiological, physiological, and behavioral measures.
- To incorporate the surrounding Davis community in impactful ways and in line with UCD's Public Scholarship and Engagement initiative.
- To build and support meaningful relationships between local agricultural communities and UC Davis scholars, serving a primary mission of UC Davis as a land-grant university.
- To offer more in-depth, hands-on, service-learning and mental health-supporting opportunities for trainees, particularly undergraduate students at UC Davis.
- To connect with other Green Care researchers around the globe, joining together to conduct quality research in this burgeoning field.
- To make scientifically-supported Green Care therapeutic practices accessible to all by:
- supporting informed policy that would result in health insurance coverage of scientifically-backed Green Care.
- developing a non-profit organization to better serve the public by facilitating collaborations with healthcare professionals to make scientifically-backed Green Care more widely accessible.
The Green Care Lab at Pine Trails Ranch
Our research program operates at Pine Trails Ranch, a 22-acre animal sanctuary in West Davis that is home to about 80 horses, including two miniature horses, three miniature donkeys and three miniature pigs, dozens of geese and ducks, dogs and cats, the majority of whom were rescued, adopted, and/or re-homed. For over 30 years, the ranch has been owned by Matt and Michelle Haseltine, who run equestrian education programs for the greater Davis community. Their goal has always been to make nature and equine experiences as accessible as possible to the public. It was no surprise that they welcomed our lab's ideas with open arms, and we are incredibly inspired by and grateful for their generosity and willingness to collaborate. Conducting our research at Pine Trails Ranch (as opposed to an on-campus university facility) forces us as researchers to break out of the ivory tower, creating opportunities for daily contact with countless children and adults of all ages and backgrounds.
This in turn promotes more organic connections between our lab and the community, encouraging and facilitated by increased transparency, stronger feelings of trust, and a greater understanding of needs and intentions. We are excited to conduct our research within this vibrant community and beloved local institution!
Green Care Lab Undergraduate Research Program
At the Green Care Lab, we are committed to providing comprehensive opportunities for trainees, particularly undergraduate students at UC Davis. Our aim is to offer hands-on, service-learning experiences that also support mental health. Our undergraduate research and education interns play a pivotal role in creating and supporting various aspects of our work. Currently, we are focused on establishing our Green Care Lab research hub, offering positions in four key areas:
- Teaching and Curriculum Design/Development: In this role, students gain unique experience in shaping educational materials. They collaborate on developing clear objectives for courses, identifying high-quality resources, crafting meaningful content, designing assessments, exploring effective learning strategies, and proposing innovative teaching techniques.
- Animal Wellness, Cognition, and Behavior: This position involves caring for our animals and studying their well-being and behavior. Responsibilities include stall maintenance, feeding, habitat care, animal exercise, grooming, collaboration with veterinarians, behavior documentation, supply runs, and assisting in other lab projects.
- Agricultural and Therapeutic Garden Creation, Innovation, and Maintenance: Here, students participate in the maintenance and development of gardens designed for therapeutic purposes. Duties encompass assessing garden needs, managing weed growth, procuring materials, growing seedlings, maintaining irrigation systems, and contributing to other Green Care Lab initiatives.
- Social Media and Outreach: This role focuses on our digital presence. Interns assist in developing a comprehensive social media strategy, creating and distributing content, crafting engaging graphics, editing short-form videos, and managing various online platforms. They also engage with our online community, track performance metrics, and identify opportunities for enhanced social engagement.
Within these roles, we work with each student to tailor their experience to their specific field(s) of interest, including but not limited to animal science, veterinary medicine, psychology, neurobiology, botany, agriculture, geography, ecology, sustainable landscape design, and science communication. We also prioritize interaction with the general public, whether for experimental purposes or knowledge exchange, and we value building relationships with various local communities.
We offer compensated salaried positions as funding permits, as well as university course credit for undergraduate interns. Volunteer options are available as well. While we primarily post specific job openings on Handshake, we also accept job applications year-round through our application portal. for talented individuals seeking opportunities outside our regular recruitment periods. At the Green Care Lab, we believe in nurturing personal growth and development, valuing individuals over publications. Our hope is that each student leaves not only better equipped for their future careers but also as improved versions of themselves. Join us in shaping a holistic approach to research and well-being.
Our Current Areas of Inquiry:
Photography by Claire Short ©