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Perth Pot Plant PhD Study

ECU PhD candidate is calling all Perth apartment dwellers.

Danica-Lea Larcombe will be gathering quite a collection of pot plants for her PhD. Photo Credit: Kimberley McGivern

Danica-Lea Larcombe will be gathering quite a collection of pot plants for her PhD. Photo Credit: Kimberley McGivern

Danica-Lea Larcombe will be gathering quite a collection of pot plants for her PhD. Photo Credit: Kimberley McGivern

Kimberley McGivern, Reporter

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Do you love the idea of  owning indoor plants, but can’t even be trusted with a cactus?

Then PhD candidate Danica-Lea Larcombe, of ECU, has an offer for you.

Ms Larcombe is calling on Perth citizens to participate in her PhD study, that will explore the possible relationships between the microbiota on human skin, and plants.

“We need 99 participants, who live above the third floor,” Ms Larcombe told ECU Daily.

“We will give 33 participants real plants, 33 fake plants and 33 will have no plants at all.”

The study is the first of its kind and will begin to explore a new field of science.

“Skin microbiota, which is the bacteria on our skin, and biodiversity is a very new area of research,” said Ms Larcombe.

“We already know that we all have a microbial cloud around us, all the time.

“We give off bacteria wherever we go. To whoever we meet.

“What we don’t know, is if plants give off their bacteria to us, and whether it is beneficial to us or not.”

“That’s what I’m trying to find out – is there a causal link between having access to plants and our health.”

Participants will complete a comprehensive survey at the beginning and end of the study, and smaller quarterly surveys throughout the year.

“We want to find out what lifestyle apartment dwellers have,” said Ms Larcombe.

“How much time they spend at home, going to social events and where they are being exposed to different types of bacteria.”

Michael Walton, a Perth stylist with a fast-paced lifestyle,  told ECU Daily, “I’ve been apartment living for years and I do have plants as I like the addition of greenery to the home.

“While I think it’s more attractive for apartments to have gardens on the grounds, I’m not one to go out and enjoy it.

Sharon Walsh, a Perth fashion store manager, told ECU Daily incorporating nature into apartment living was  all about balance.

“I love apartment living,” said Ms Walsh.

“I do have a few plants, but I look out on to greenery and the Swan river as well.

“The apartment foyer also has plants and I always feel wonderful when I have fresh flowers in.”

The study will also monitor whether the presence of fake plants has the same effect as real plants on human mental health.

“It’s going to be really interesting to find out how our lifestyles are moving away from nature,” said Ms Larcombe.

“We are disconnecting from nature, and there has been a lot of research done on that, in terms of our mental health.”

Author, Abigail Tarttelin has lived in apartments in cities around the world.

“I love my plants,” Ms Tarttelin told ECU Daily.

“I have seven. I keep them on my windowsill and take a lot of joy from watching them grow.

“I couldn’t live in an apartment without a garden.”

The number of apartment dwellers in Perth has doubled in the last 20 years and more apartment building developments are underway throughout the city.

Currently, there is nothing in place to ensure green space is incorporated in their design.

“The study may help to influence local government policies for developers, to insure they include greening in their apartment developments,” said Ms Larcombe.

The results of the study could also have implications in the medical field.

“If there is a link, chronic illness sufferers may be given a prescription from their doctor for plants in their home, or to facilitate access to parks,” said Ms Larcombe.

“The study will help to educate apartment dwellers about how plants in their home may benefit their health.”

Whilst the study’s findings may highlight the importance of indoor plants, Ms Larcombe said it will be up to individuals to find time for them.

“Particularly if they are busy with work and other commitments, and don’t get to parks or bushland.”

Kirri-lee Ghergori, a Perth Mum of three, told ECU Daily, “I used to live in an apartment when I was single and cashed up.

“I loved that it had a courtyard with only a few small cacti in it.

“As a renter, low maintenance was the best. If I wanted to see a tree, I went to the park.

Keeping plants alive in the harsh Australian climate can be a challenge, as Perth student Jacinta Payne told ECU Daily, “I used to live in apartment.

“It was a bit run-down and we attempted growing stuff on our balcony.

“Unfortunately, the sun was so harsh, and there was so little shade, everything we attempted to grow, died.

“We didn’t have room for plants inside.”

For more information about the study, and how to become a participant, head to:

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Perth Pot Plant PhD Study