Dr. Matthew Zylstra is Programme Director with the Kwendalo Institute and coordinates the research, education and outreach programmes being implemented through the Institute. His is developing Nature Referrals (NRx) – a local multi-stakeholder programme that empowers primary healthcare professionals to formally ‘prescribe’ nature-based activities as part of a complementary lifestyle intervention for optimal wellbeing. Matthew is also creating education courses that speak to the Institute’s mission of promoting dynamic nature-inspired learning for human and planetary health. From a research perspective, Matthew tracks innovations in human-nature connectedness as well as evaluating the impacts of nature-based interventions for conservation, education and wellness.

Matthew Zylstra is a systems ecologist focused on deepening the human-nature relationship for the health of people and planet. He has over 20 years of international experience in social-ecological research and outdoor facilitation.  Matthew completed his MSc at Wageningen University (2005) and a transdisciplinary PhD at Stellenbosch University / The Sustainability Institute.  His research explored how meaningful nature experiences motivate pro-environmental behaviour for action in sustainability education. Insights from this research have informed several global initiatives, such as #NatureForAll and the Planetary Health Alliance’s education framework. He was a founding co-director for Living Lands (2007-2011), education associate with Sea Change Trust (2014-2019) and field lecturer for Wildlands Studies university programmes in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand (2009-2018).  Matthew is a Scientific Advisor for NatureFix and Research Fellow with the Centre for Sustainability Transitions (CST) at Stellenbosch University. He is also registered as a Professional Natural Scientist with the South African Council for Natural Scientific Professions.