Becky Mathers, Ph.D., is a 2020 graduate of the Ph.D. Program in Environmental Studies at Antioch University, New England

Dissertation Committee:

  • Alesia Maltz, Ph.D., Committee Chair
  • Jimmy Karlan, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Louise Chawla, Ph.D., Committee Member


profound nature experiences, significant life experiences, memory function

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This dissertation explores the long-term influences of a profound experience with nature—an experience that shifts an individual’s view of or relationship with the natural world. Significant life experience research investigates the associations between formative experiences in nature and resulting environmental concern and action, including both singular events and repeated experiences. In the case of a single, memorable experience with nature, little is known about the long-term effects of these experiences or how individuals use the associated memories in their lives. This research investigates these questions through semi-structured interviews with twenty-one adults who had a profound experience with nature, exploring how they make sense of their experience, the meaning they attribute to it, and the role it served in their lives. Thematic analysis was used to identify, analyze, and interpret the interview data. The findings demonstrate that a single profound experience with nature can have long lasting and significant effects on an individual. The associated memories serve self, social, and directive functions, including strengthening a sense of self, redefining relationships with people and nature as a whole, and promoting environmental decisions and behaviors. Findings also reveal a potential fourth use of memory: developing and appreciating relationships with other-than-humans. Understanding these long-term influences and uses of a profound experience with nature have implications for environmental educators, ecopsychologists, and memory scholars.


Becky N. Mathers

ORCID Scholar ID# 0000-0001-7278-9731