Learn to Tackle Current Ecological Challenges – Study Ecological Informatics in the Life Science Informatics Master’s Programme

Global warming and the biodiversity crisis are examples of contemporary issues researchers around the globe are trying to tackle. Students of Ecological Informatics in the Life Science Informatics Master's programme approach these ecological challenges with the help of statistics, computer science or mathematics.

To learn more about what this means in practice, we interviewed current student Arttu Soukainen from Finland and Jarno Vanhatalo, Associate Professor in Statistics and Programme Director of the Master’s programme in LSI. Vanhatalo leads also a research group in Evironmental and Ecological Statistics at the Department of Mathematics and Statistics and at the Organismal and Evolutionary Biology Research Programme.

Who is the Master’s programme in LSI and the study track Ecological Informatics for?

Arttu Soukainen: “Issues like global warming or the biodiversity crisis are problems my generation currently faces. New technologies and applications in informatics are at the core of tackling these issues, both in current and future research. I have always been interested in mathematics but chose this programme because I'm genuinely fascinated by biology and the way ecosystems work. The Master’s programme in LSI allows me to combine all the things I am very passionate about.”

Jarno Vanhatalo: “In Ecological Informatics, we focus on the specific tools and methods that contemporary ecology uses, such as statistical and informatics tools. Students in the programme usually have a background in either statistics, computer science or mathematics but are also keen on applying those skills in ecology. Other students have a background in ecology or biology and a strong minor in statistics or computer science.”

What is it like to study LSI and Ecological Informatics in practice?

Jarno Vanhatalo: “There are very few programmes in the world that would be comparable to our study track Ecological Informatics. In our courses, we combine theory with practical implementation, which we then tie with relevant questions from ecology.

I love to teach in the LSI programme because from a teacher's point of view, students matter a lot. Our students are enthusiastic about the topics we teach and form a good community.”

Arttu Soukainen: “Many of the courses in the programme are challenging, but at the same time they are extremely rewarding. Within a year, I have advanced many of my skills and have also had the opportunity to acquire more skills that will be of great use within my future work-life.

Students in LSI have such different backgrounds, so it is easy to learn from others and their experiences, and it’s very beneficial to brainstorm together. I have enjoyed those moments of group work. The programme has brilliant teachers, who are top scientists from different fields. That's something you probably won’t find anywhere else.”

What kind of career opportunities does the programme open?

Jarno Vanhatalo: “Our Life Science Informatics programme is very research-oriented, and we hope that many of our students continue for PhD studies either in the life science fields, computer science, statistics, or mathematics. There are also a lot of research-oriented opportunities for our graduates outside academia, for instance, in the field of medicine or governmental agencies. They often hire people with good quantitative skills in life sciences. From the Ecological Informatics study track specifically, students typically either continue for PhD or go to environmental and ecological research agencies or industry to work as statisticians or data scientists.”

Arttu Soukainen: “The LSI programme has helped me make a childhood dream come true: For my master’s thesis, I will conduct EU-funded research in Ghana, Africa. I will work on developing an Artificial Intelligence-based tool to identify pest species in a Mango orchards farm that can later be used for smart pest management. I am very excited to work on the project since I will be working on finding a practical solution for a real-life problem.”



Are you interested in finding out more about the other study tracks in the LSI programme? Read interviews with students and teachers from the other tracks:

Derive Models From Real-Life Biological Processes – Study Biomathematics in the Life Science Informatics Master’s Programme

Learn to Draw Conclusions From Biological Data Sets – Study Biostatistics in the Life Science Informatics Master’s Programme

Tackle Biological Data with Computational Methods – Study Bioinformatics and Systems Medicine in the LSI Master’s programme

The Master's Programme in Life Science Informatics

The multidisciplinary Master’s Programme in Life Science Informatics (LSI) provides the tools to gain knowledge from models and data. The programme integrates research excellence across the Faculties of Science, of Medicine and of Bio- and Environmental Sciences with the Helsinki Institute of Life Sciences (HiLIFE) to provide cutting-edge education from experts in the life sciences, medicine, mathematics, statistics, and informatics.

The programme has four study tracks to specialise in

  • Biomathematics

  • Biostatistics

  • Ecological Informatics or

  • Bioinformatics and Systems Medicine.

While gaining deep knowledge in your specialisation, you will also get a broad overview of several fields to support your future career.

Read more about the programme