Research in geosciences and geography

The Department of Geosciences and Geography is an extensively multidisciplinary unit that conducts research in both natural sciences and social sciences. Our internationally recognised, high-quality research is supported by our modern laboratories and research stations.

The BioGeoScience research programme investigates interactions between the biosphere and geosphere, including the impacts of human actions. The research areas span the entire history of our globe, from the distant past to future scenarios.

The research programme is led by Professor Petri Pellikka (deputy: University lecturer Olli Ruth). The leader and deputy are chosen among the academic staff of the research programme (four-year term, 2022-2025).

The Aquatic community ecology group studies aquatic community ecology, biogeography and macroecology and uses unicellular organisms as model system to test general ecological theories. The studies are also useful for biodiversity conservation in freshwaters and for biological monitoring.

Group leader: professor Janne Soininen

The BioGeoClimate Modelling Lab is focused on the spatial and temporal modelling of Earth systems, particularly patterns and processes concerning biogeography, geomorphology, and climatology, and their interactions. GIS and remote sensing methods, such as remotely piloted aircraft systems, are used to study the drivers governing ecosystems and landscapes.

Group leader: professor Miska Luoto

Earth Change Observation Laboratory applies remote sensing sensors and geospatial data for studying Earth’s physical, biological and societal systems and how they change our environment and livelihoods especially in Global South. Remote sensing data collected from satellite, airborne and terrestrial sensors is supplemented by geospatial data from environmental sensing, field sensors and interviews from communities.

Group leader: professor Petri Pellikka

The Evolutionary palaentology group focuses on the fossil record and evolution of mammals and their relationship with habitat and climate change. The group is particularly interested in mammalian teeth, how they form, how they work, how they wear down, and how their shapes evolve in evolutionary time.

Group leader: professor Mikael Fortelius

Long Terrestrial Archives group's research interests span a broad range of geological and palaeontological questions largely related to Cenozoic climate and environmental changes. We work with a number or terrestrial archives including Neogene deposits in the Chinese Loess Plateau and NW Iran, and Eocene-Oligocene sequences in Inner Mongolia.

Group leader: Associate Professor Anu Kaakinen

The Hominin Ecology group explores human-environment interactions across large temporal and spatial scales to better understand how humans have taken their dominant role in the global change. Our interest range from Early Pleistocene humans to modern ethnographically documented hunter-gatherers. In the interdisciplinary framework, the group studies how biotic and abiotic environments have influenced human evolution and socio-ecological systems and how humans, in turn, have impacted other species.

Group leader: Assistant professor Miikka Tallavaara.

The Palaeoclimatology and Palaeoecology group studies long-term climate change and the associated ecological and biogeographical responses. The group combines methods and research data from geology and biology and produces information on, for example, ecological changes during the ice ages and between them, and the evolution of the boreal biomass. The group works in close collaboration with climate scientists, ecologists and data processors.

Group leader: professor Heikki Seppä

The Evodevo-research group uses fossil and recent mammalian teeth ranging in size from elephants to mice to study organ evolution and development. The research of the group is phenotype-driven and combines 3D-analyses, computational modelling, wet-lab methods, and bioinformatics.

Group leader: academy professor Jukka Jernvall

Collaboration groups

The data science and evolution group operates in the Department of Computer Science and works in close cooperation with the BioGeoScience research programme, especially in questions involving modelling and data.

The group is led by Associate Professor Indrė Žliobaitė


The palaeontology group at the Finnish Museum of Natural History specialises in the macroevolutionary processes of palaeozoic marine ecosystems and collaborates with the BioGeoScience programme especially in the creation of taxonomies and databases.

The group is led by Curator Björn Kröger.

The Geology and Geophysics research programme focuses on a wide range of topics in the fields of petrology, mineralogy, geochemistry and ore geology.

The research programme is led by Professor Christoph Beier (deputy: Associate professor Tom Jilbert). The leader and deputy are chosen among the academic staff of the research programme (four-year term, 2022-2025).

Research groups

The geochemistry and petrology group conducts wide-ranging research into geochemistry, petrology, mineralogy, and ore geology. We use state-of-the-art technology and methods to obtain new, precise information about the lithosphere. Our research provides further insight into tectonic processes and changes related to both volcanic activity and stable cratons.

Group leaders: Professor Tapani Rämö and professor Christoph Beier.

The environmental geochemistry group focuses on the understanding the cycles of key elements in the Earth surface system and biosphere.

Group leader: associate professor Tom Jilbert


HelLabs is a laboratory infrastructure for geophysics, environmental research and mineralogy. It provides analytical services and various opportunities for physical and chemical analyses. 

Basic research themes:

Plan­et­ary mass, fluid, and chem­ical fluxes (MASS)

Planetary systems are subject to a constant redistribution and exchange of matter internally and with their surroundings. Our research covers the causes and effects of processes in terms of mass (e.g., erosion, impacts), high-T fluids, and magmas (e.g., volcanic systems, ore formation, metamorphism), and Earth chemical fluxes in general, from subduction zones to groundwater and atmosphere. 

Identi­fy­ing fin­ger­prints of geo­lo­gical pro­cesses (PRO­CESS)

The chemical fingerprinting of the processes that form and modify solid Earth solid allows tracing the spatial and temporal evolution of the mantle and crust from μm-scale to 1000’s of kilometres and seconds to millions of years, respectively. Our research focusses on the processes that form Precambrian mantle and crustal lithologies and a comparison with the processes that occur along recent active plate boundaries. 

Times­cales of a dy­namic planet (TIME)

Dynamic processes in the Earth span timescales from earthquakes that occur in seconds to the assembly and breakup of supercontinents over hundreds of millions of years. Our research aims to link observations and models spanning these timescales to better understand Earth's evolution and potential societal hazards in the future. 

Dif­fer­en­ti­ation of Earth and life in deep time (LIFE)

From the early accreted blob of planetary material, Earth has gone through extensive differentiation to the complex spherical structure it has today. As Early life evolved to even more complex life forms, it also fundamentally changed the chemical differentiation of the Earth. We study the coevolution of the inorganic and organic worlds in deep time to shed light on the origins and evolution of life and our life-sustaining planet.

Applied research themes:

Plan­et­ary de­fence against in­ternal and ex­ternal threats (PLAN­ET­DEF)

Planetary defence identifies, evaluates, and mitigates threats represented by geological or planetary processes to our civilization. Internal threats include land stability, seismicity, volcanic activity, or climate change. External processes include impacts of asteroids or comets. 

Form­a­tion, ex­plor­a­tion, and re­spons­ible use of natural re­sources (RE­SOURCE)

Our research covers the formation, responsible exploration and use of natural Earth resources including metal and mineral deposits, hydrocarbons and water from a geochemical, geophysical and modelling perspective in a world of increasing demand. 

As­sess­ing and mit­ig­at­ing environ­mental im­pacts of geo­lo­gical and an­thro­po­genic pro­cesses  (IM­PACT)

The impact of geological processes and humans on the environment are manifold and complex. Our research focusses on changes in environmental conditions on geological and human timescales and centres around those processes involving the upper lithosphere/hydrosphere/atmosphere interfaces.

Human geography, planning and environment research programme studies geographical phenomena related to human communities and the built environment. The research topics and methods are diverse and often based on the use of cutting-edge technology and modelling.

The research programme is led by Professor Pia Bäcklund (deputy: University lecturer Juho Luukkonen). The leader and deputy are chosen among the academic staff of the research programme (four-year term, 2022-2025).

The Digital Geography Lab explores phenomena related to human geography with the help of big data and modelling. Its research focuses on human mobility and the conservation of biodiversity in regions characterised by extensive human activity. The goal of research is to produce information that can be used in sustainable spatial planning and decision-making.

Group leader: Professor Tuuli Toivonen

The Spatial policy, politics and planning group examines how decisions and practices affect the transformation of geographical spaces. The focus of attention is on spatial change that stems from political and economic activity, which also shapes the social environment and practices and influences the creation and evolution of networks linked to different types of spaces.

Group leaders: Professor Sami Moisio, Professor Pia Bäcklund and Assistant Professor Noora Pyyry


The Helsinki Lab of Interdisciplinary Conservation Science (HELICS) is an interdisciplinary team with expertise in conservation science, geography, computer science, social sciences and economics. We develop methods and analyses that can help investigate human-nature interactions to inform conservation policy-making.

Group leader: Professor Enrico di Minin

The dynamics of urban change and segregation group explores processes taking place in our cities both now and in the future. The group also strives to determine whether inequality is on the increase and what makes cities successful. The research group addresses these questions from a geographic and multidisciplinary perspective, working in close cooperation with a European and Finnish research network.

Group leaders: Professor Mari Vaattovaara and Assistant Professor Venla Bernelius

Institute of Seismology performs research, education, continuous Earth monitoring, and helps government and private organisations in their projects requiring seismological expertise. The institute belongs to the Department of geosciences and Geography within the Faculty of Science.

Read more about Institute of Seismology!

Research infrastructures

The Department of Geosciences and Geography has modern research laboratories, databases, and a national seismic station network. Our laboratories serve research groups and provide analysis services for various purposes. Some of our laboratories also produce data and time series for use in the Department’s research and teaching.

The operations of the University of Helsinki multidisciplinary Taita Research Station in the Kenyan Taita Hills are coordinated and led by our department’s personnel.

The department coordinates the participation of Finnish universities and research institutes on the European Plate Observing System EPOS research infrastructure.  The Finnish component of EPOS (FIN-EPOS) maintains geophysical observatories and laboratories in Finland.