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University of Helsinki Department of Geography
Department of Geography
Petri Pellikka

Department of Geography
PO Box 64 (Gustaf Hällströmin katu 2)
00014 University of Helsinki

Tel: +358 (0)9 191 51068
Fax. +358 (0)9 191 50760
GSM +358-50-4154701



Research interests

Environmental remote sensing including

  • land use change detection
  • glacier monitoring
  • vegetation phenology monitoring
  • forest damage studies
  • calibration of optical remote sensing data

Areas of interest: Northern Finland, East Africa, Alps, Canada


Current activities

As a professor of geoinformatics I coordinate the geoinformatics and remote sensing teaching at the department. We provide basic courses in geoinformatics, courses in visualisation and cartographic presentation of geographic data and courses in spaceborne and airborne remote sensing. We host two geoinformatics laboratories equipped with Erdas Imagine, ER Mapper and Idrisi for image processing and remote sensing and ArcGIS, ArcView and MapInfo for GIS. For the fieldwork we have ASD field spectrometer, GPS receivers and traditional mapping devices. For remote sensing data acquisition we have our own EnsoMOSAIC airborne digital camera system with flight planning, navigation and mosaicking tools. For teaching and research we have extensive geographic datasets over Finland.

My research career has focused on remote sensing and GIS applications on wide range of applications related to physical geography and environmental studies. My current personal research interests are forest damage, land use change, vegetation phenology and glacier changes. These topics can be related to climate change and other driving forces impacting our environment.

A recently finished project dealing with glacier monitoring was finished in 2004 ( Current research projects are related to glacier monitoring, boreal and semiarctic vegetation monitoring and land use change detection in Eastern Africa. (

Other development activities are related to development of virtual geoinformatics teaching in Finland ( and GIS teaching at European schools (



The starting point for my interest in remote sensing was the land use and forest classification at the National Land Survey of Finland in 1989 in which I was involved. In my MSc thesis I combined development studies and remote sensing by studying land use in the Taita Hills, Kenya interpreted from SPOT XS satellite image. After completing the studies I worked as an assistant land use planner in a development project in the Sudan.

I started my academic career in 1992 at the University of Oulu, Finland teaching cartography, physical geography and remote sensing and studying reindeer pastures using SPOT XS data in Finnish-Norwegian border. I spent three years between 1992-1995 in Munich, Germany for my PhD studies for developing a calibration chain for multitemporal airborne video camera data under supervision by prof. Wolfram Mauser of the Department of Geography. The video camera data were applied for phenological studies of beech forests in the German Alps. The main achievement of the work was to develop a correction for bi-directional effects (BRDF) in frame format airborne imagery.

In 1997 I transferred to University of Turku in order to take part in landscape ecological studies carried out by the team led by prof. Risto Kalliola. I defended my PhD thesis in 1998 at the University of Oulu after which I started research collaboration with prof. Douglas King at Carleton University, Canada. During 1998-1999 in Canada I studied forest damage in maple forests caused by freezing rain. The work involved setting up 70 research plots, extensive and intensive field work with hemispherical photographic methods, and analysis of aerial photograph spectral and textural variables for detecting damage level.

In 1999 I returned to University of Turku and in 2001 I started as a coordinator of EU funded OMEGA project about remote sensing of glaciers ( The project involved applying all the potential airborne and spaceborne remote sensing data for elevation model generation over glaciers, glacier delineation and development of a monitoring system for glacier changes. The project did not just take me to glaciers in the Alps and Norway, but also to a new field of application.

I was nominated as a professor of geoinformatics at the University of Helsinki, Department of Geography in 2002.

Selected recent publications

Pellikka, P.K.E, M. Lötjönen, M. Siljander & L. Lens, 2009. Airborne remote sensing of
spatiotemporal change (1955-2004) in indigenous and exotic forest cover in the Taita
Hills, Kenya. International Journal of Applied Earth Observations and Geoinformation
11(4):221-232. DOI: 10.1016/j.jag.2009.02.002 (PDF)

Gonsamo, A. & P. Pellikka, 2008. Methodology comparison for slope correction in canopy
biophysical parameters estimation using hemispherical photography. Forest Ecology and
Management 256:749-759. (PDF)

Anttila, S., T. Kairesalo & P. Pellikka, 2008. A feasible method to assess inaccuracy
caused by patchiness in water quality monitoring. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment
142:11-22 (PDF)

Hendriks, J.P.M. & P.K.E. Pellikka, 2007. Semiautomatic glacier delineation from Landsat
imagery over Hintereisferner glacier in the Austrian Alps. Zeitschrift für Gletscherkunde
und Glazialgeologie 41:55-75. (PDF)

King, D.J., I. Olthof, P.K.E. Pellikka, E.D. Seed & C. Butson, 2005. Modelling and mapping forest ice storm damage using remote sensing and environmental data. Natural Hazards 35:321-342. (PDF)

Hendriks, J. & P. Pellikka, 2004. Estimation of reflectance from a glacier surface by comparing spectrometer measurements with satellite-derived reflectances. Zeitschrift für Gletscherkunde und Glazialgeologie 38(2): 139-154.

Pellikka, P., B. Clark, P. Hurskainen, A. Keskinen, M. Lanne, K. Masalin, P. Nyman-Ghezelbash & T. Sirviö, 2004. Land use change monitoring applying geographic information systems in the Taita Hills. Proceedings of the 5th AARSE conference (African Association of Remote Sensing of the Environment), 18-21 October, 2004, Nairobi Kenya. CD-Publication, no page numbers. (PDF)

Hurskainen, P. & P. Pellikka, 2004. Change detetection of informal settlements using multi-temporal aerial photographs – the case of Voi, SE-Kenya. Proceedings of the 5th AARSE conference (African Association of Remote Sensing of the Environment), 18-21 October, 2004, Nairobi Kenya. CD-Publication, no page numbers. (PDF)

Sirviö, T., A. Rebeiro-Hargrave & P. Pellikka, 2004. Geoinformation in gully erosion studies in the Taita Hills, SE-Kenya, preliminary results. Proceedings of the 5th AARSE conference (African Association of Remote Sensing of the Environment), 18-21 October, 2004, Nairobi Kenya CD-Publication, no page numbers. (PDF)

Valta-Hulkkonen, K., P. Pellikka & J. Peltoniemi, 2004. Assessment of bi-directional reflectance over aquatic macrophyte vegetation in CIR aerial photographs. Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing 70:581-587. (PDF)

Pellikka, P. & E. Järvenpää, 2003. Forest stand characteristics and snow and wind induced forest damage in boreal forests. In Ruck, B.: Proceedings of the International Conference on Wind Effects on Trees, 269-276. Karlsruhe, Germany, 16-18 September, 2003. (PDF)

Heiskanen, J., K. Kajuutti, M. Jackson, H. Elvehøy & P. Pellikka, 2003. Assessment of glaciological parameters using Landsat satellite data in Svartisen, Northern Norway. EARSeL eProceedings 2 1/2003, 34-42. Observing our Cryosphere from Space. Peer-reviewed Proceedings of EARSeL Workshop on Observing our Cryosphere from Space: techniques and methods for monitoring snow and ice with regard to climate change, 11-13 March 2002, Bern Switzerland.

Valta-Hulkkonen, K., P. Pellikka, H. Tanskanen, A. Ustinov & O. Sandman, 2003. Digital false colour aerial photographs for discrimination of aquatic macrophyte species. Aquatic Botany 75:71-88. (PDF)

Mikkola, J. & P. Pellikka, 2002. Normalization of bi-directional effects in aerial photographs to improve land cover classification accuracy of boreal and sub-arctic vegetation for pollen-landscape calibration. International Journal of Remote Sensing 23:4719-4742.

Chen, J.M., G. Pavlic, L. Brown, J. Cihlar, S.G.  Leblanc, P. White, R.J. Hall, D. Peddle, D. King, J.A. Trofymow, E. Swift, J. Van der Sanden & P. Pellikka, 2002. Validation of Canada-wide leaf area index maps using ground measurements and high and moderate resolution satellite imagery. Remote Sensing of Environment 80:1, pp. 165-184. (PDF)

Pellikka, P., 2001. Application of vertical wide-angle photography and airborne video data for phenological studies of beech forests in the German Alps. International Journal of Remote Sensing, 22:14, pp. 2675-2700. (PDF)

Hartvich, F, K. Koskinen & P. Pellikka, 2001. Change detection of urban areas using multitemporal Landsat TM satellite data in Turku Finland. Proceedings, The Nordic GIS Conference, Helsinki 8-10 October 2001, Session 2A, no page numbers.

Pellikka, P., D.J. King & S.G. Leblanc, 2000. Quantification and reduction of bidirectional effects in deciduous forest in aerial CIR imagery using two reference land surface types. Remote Sensing Reviews 19:1-4, pp. 259-291.

Pellikka, P., E.D. Seed & D.J. King, 2000. Modelling deciduous forest ice storm damage using aerial CIR imagery and hemispheric photography. Canadian Journal of Remote Sensing 26:6, pp. 394-405.

Pellikka, P., 1998. Development of correction chain for multispectral airborne video camera data for natural resource assessment. Fennia 176:1, pp. 1-110.

Pellikka, P., 1997. Stratified classification of digitized aerial photograph to avoid misclassification of subarctic vegetation in northern Finland . The Photogrammetric Journal of Finland 15:2, pp. 21-30.

Pellikka, P., 1996. Illumination compensation for aerial video image to improve land cover classification accuracy in the mountains. Canadian Journal of Remote Sensing 22:4, pp. 368-381.