keynote speakers

Professor Catharine Ward Thompson
University of Edinburgh
OPENspace Research Centre

Dr Catharine Ward Thompson is Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Edinburgh and directs OPENspace – the research centre for inclusive access to outdoor environments – based at the University of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt University. She is a qualified landscape architect and a Fellow of the Landscape Institute. She has directed over £4m worth of research grants and projects since 2001. She has led several multidisciplinary research collaborations investigating relationships between environment and health, including I¹DGO (Inclusive Design for Getting Outdoors) and Mobility, Mood and Place, which focused on access outdoors and quality of life for older people. She has also led teams in developing innovative research techniques and programmes to elucidate causal links between landscape and health, including the use of biomarkers to investigate environment-body interactions and development of longitudinal studies based on natural experiments to investigate the effects of environmental interventions on wellbeing. She was a member of the Scottish Government¹s Good Place, Better Health Evaluation Group. In 2014 she was awarded the European Council of Landscape Architecture Schools Outstanding Researcher Award for her continuing contribution to European research. She is currently a member of RCUK/Innovate UK Urban Living Partnership Advisory Group and Advisory Board member for the NIHR Sponsored Health Protection Research Unit in Environmental Change and Health.

Professor Robin C. Moore 
North Carolina State University
Natural Learning Initiative

Professor Robin Moore is an international authority on the design of children’s play and learning environments, user needs research, and participatory public open space design. His designs for children’s spaces in the USA include the well-known Environmental Yard, in Berkeley, California (recipient in 1988 of the Outstanding Contribution to the Practice of Design Research by the Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA)).
As director of the North Carolina State University Natural Learning Initiative, Moore is currently involved in the design and/or renovation of dozens of outdoor spaces for preschools, special education facilities, and schoolgrounds in North Carolina.

Moore has won many awards for his contributions to the field of design. The American Society of Landscape Architects awarded him an Honorary Membership in 2012. Countries including Sweden, Japan, and Argentina have honored him, where his work in the design of outdoor play facilities for children and families is used as a model. Moore has many years of international experience in design facilitation and participatory design program development, including the North Carolina Botanical Garden, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the Museum of Natural Sciences, Raleigh, N.C.  He is a member of the eight-country ‘Growing Up in Cities’ action research project sponsored by UNESCO and is co-director of the Argentina and Jordan field projects.


Dr Nilda Cosco

North Carolina State University
Natural Learning Initiative

Nilda Cosco, Ph.D., is the Director of Programs for The Natural Learning Initiative; a Research Associate Professor at the College of Design, North Carolina State University; and former Director of the Center for Universal Design. She holds a degree in Educational Psychology, Universidad del Salvador, Buenos Aires, Argentina and a Ph.D. in Landscape Architecture, School of Landscape Architecture, Heriot Watt University / Edinburgh College of Art, Scotland. Her primary research interest is the impact of outdoor environments on child and family health outcomes such as healthy nutrition, active lifestyles, attention functioning, and overall well-being, particularly as they relate to natural components of the built environment. She is also involved in direct intervention and pre/post evaluation of outdoor improvement programs in childcare centers. In January 2000, Dr. Cosco co-founded with Professor Robin Moore the Natural Learning Initiative (NLI) at the College of Design, NC State University. Her responsibilities include: design programming and research of outdoor environments for children with and without disabilities; development of training activities for designers, educators, and community members interested in creating high quality outdoor environments for children and families; development of printed and online dissemination materials; and coordination of state-wide comprehensive projects (design, environmental intervention, training, and evaluation).  (source:

Professor Carlos Neto
Universidade de Lisboa
Motor Behavior Laboratory

Dr. Carlos Neto is a full professor at the Human Movement Faculty (FMH) of the Universidade de Lisboa. He is a member of the Motor Behavior Laboratory and of the General Council of the Universidade de Lisboa. Prof. Neto is the Portuguese representative of the International Play Association (IPA) and the coordinator of the Master in Child Development degree program of FMH.  He was the founder of the Portuguese Association of Physical Activity, and he is a board member of several scientific journals.  Prof. Neto’s main research interests are the (1) the game and children’s development, (2) daily routines and independent mobility in children and adolecents, and (3) bullying in schools.
Between 1998 and 2013, Prof. Neto worked as the coordinator of the Lisbon team of the international project “TMR Network Project – Nature and Prevention of Bullying: the causes and nature of bullying and social exclusion in schools, and ways of preventing them.”  He has also collaborated with various Portuguese-speaking universities as a consultant on postgraduate teaching and research. Prof. Neto is the author of several books including “Jogo e Desenvolvimento da Criança” (“The Game and the Child’s Development”), “Motricidade e Jogo na Infância” (Human Movement and the Game in the Infancy”) and “Tópicos em Desenvolvimento na Infância e Adolescência” (“Developing Themes in Children’s and Adolescent’s Development”).