HELSUS Fellows

HELSUS funds research in sustainability science, and during 2018 a total of 10 new post-doc level HELSUS fellows started their 2-year research projects. The international and multidisciplinary group of HELSUS fellows includes expertise from various disciplines within sustainability research and their research areas cover all HELSUS thematic areas. Read more about the researchers and their projects.

My research project entitled “Towards wetland sustainability: operationalizing socio-ecological indicators in Europe” aims to provide decision-makers with a complete set of socio-ecological indicators in order to inform a European-level strategic plan to address wetland sustainability. The present work will serve to broaden the scope of policy options available to address the current drivers of wetland loss and degradation in Europe. By feeding the results of this project into science-policy interfaces, the impact of the project will be directly channelled into producing policy-relevant science and stimulating transformative change towards wetland sustainability in Europe.


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Global Change and Conservation

My postdoctoral research “Revitalizing the connection with the Earth: Walking and becoming Earth” is an autoethnographic project, where I examine, move, and imagine towards embodying and reconceptualizing the sustainable connection with the Earth. This re-thinking, re-searching, and re-vitalization is done in Sápmi (Sámi land) with Sámi traditional knowledge holders, artists and other researchers, while being inspired by both Indigenous and posthumanist theorizations and methodologies. I am highly interested in social and ecological justice, as well as maintaining and celebrating diversities in human and more-than-human entanglements. With explicating and playing with creative scientific writing I dream to invite readers to feel, think, and act differently.





The overall aim of my research is to contribute towards mainstreaming the collection and use of high-quality forest and environmental resource-related socioeconomic data to inform policy and sustainable development processes in the Global South.

My current research activities include a multi-scale analysis of energy and forest use in Laos and Cambodia (GET-LDC), a global Systematic Review of the socioeconomic impacts of large-scale tree plantations, and a conservation-development project measuring the impact of regulations and policies on panda habitat and local livelihoods in China.

I’m also working on two forestry higher-education capacity-building projects in the Mekong Region, and in collaboration with the FAO on collecting and analysing nationally-representative socioeconomic data on forest-use from several countries.

Link to my research group: Viikki Tropical Resources Institute (VITRI)

Trees managed by smallholders in a diverse range of systems can contribute towards meeting the Sustainable Development Goals by providing vital ecosystem services and supporting smallholder livelihoods. Yet, smallholder forestry in the Global South is far from being optimal, and there is a need to: (i) systematically identify the knowledge gaps and bottlenecks that are still preventing trees on farms and smallholder forestry from becoming a more inclusive, sustainable and profitable livelihood option; (ii) and to identify the opportunities and innovative ways forward. The aim of my research is to help to fill these knowledge gaps by identifying the keys to smallholder tree growing in the Global South by: 1) conducting a systematic literature review; (2) designing and pilot-testing a Global Comparative Study (GCS), and; 3) developing a funding proposal and multidisciplinary partner network for the GCS. The results will allow decision makers to adjust and formulate sustainable policies, strategies and support mechanisms to better meet the actual needs of farmers.

Read more about Maarit's research:



In my postdoctoral research project "Aesthetic Sustainability in Urban Transformations: Intergenerational Perspective to Creating Experiential Value” the focus is on developing the concept of aesthetic sustainability to support urban sustainability transformations. My current research interests revolve around philosophical and applied environmental aesthetics, the experiential sphere of urban life, urban futures, and philosophy of technology. I have a special interest in finding out how environmental and urban aesthetics can support different types of collaborations in- and outside academia. 






My research project is about exploring, both conceptually and empirically, agroforestry practices in Brazil. Within the conceptual dimension of the research my aim is to uncover the uses of the concept in academic and general discourses––and not only in Brazil. Scholars have insisted that using trees within cultivated landscapes delivers a range of social, ecological as well as economic benefits, such as biodiversity conservation, soil enrichment, air and water quality and carbon sequestration and due to such positive impacts agroforestry appears to have gained legitimacy over the recent decades. But what kind of referents does the term have and toward what types of ends have the concept been harnessed? In empirical terms, I plan to conduct fieldwork in Brazil, mostly in the North and Northeast of the vast country, studying the various forms, methods and practices agroforestry is worked with. I make two fieldwork travels to Brazil in both two years of the project.

My research is part of bigger literature/activity attempting to find alternative models of development, particularly to the ruralities of the Global South, but also with regard to the globe at large. Differently put, this research belongs to the critical agrarian studies that has kept problematizing the state of affairs and the directions the food systems have taken since in the post-war era. It has become evident that modern agriculture with its heavy dependence on fossil fuels, toxic chemicals, onslaught on animals, and expansion of the cultivated area are not sustainable at all due to their insidious impacts on the climate, soil fertility and inequality, to mention some examples. Furthermore, the entire technoscience structure dominated by few agrobusiness giants has long since divorced from any inclusive type of socioeconomic development.

The focus of my research is on agroecological agroforestry practices with which I refer to the various means through which genuinely ecological, socially driven or sustainable intensification can be reached through using trees within pluricultural farming. It implies of reducing the dependence of peasants, small farmers, family farmers or such from the system through reducing the use of externally produced inputs, cultivating the soil ecosystems, shortening the supply chain, ‘nichifying’ the produce etc. I theorize such agroforestry practices as a development strategy that can be transplanted at various policy levels. Agroecological agroforestry can be seen as a natural enemy of the practices related to modern industrial agriculture and the development models that presuppose them.

This research project builds on my earlier research in which I have crafted conceptual understanding of the current environmental predicament that aims to understand how we actually produce environmental changes through the ordinary and how important environmental changes really are in different life-worlds, especially in the Global North: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/23251042.2015.1114207. Such a nonideal account attempts to understanding what really goes on in our social lives, what are actually relevant issues in the life-worlds and our societies here and now, rather than prescribing how humans and groups should ideally act. With another essay of the same linage I conceptually clarified what is at stake with the virtualization of the life-worlds: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10746-017-9455-3.

The title of my research project is "Values in Model Integration for Sustainability: Principles, Practices, and Problems." Effectively tackling pressing environmental problems and finding pathways towards more sustainable resource use requires recruiting the knowledge and expertise from researchers from a wide range of disciplines belonging to both natural and social sciences. In sustainability science this has often taken the form of developing integrated models that borrow components from different disciplines to represent and explore human-nature interactions. Hence an important methodological issue in sustainability science is how, more precisely, models should be integrated. The interdisciplinary challenge emanates from the fact that normative evaluation of models and modelling practices is usually carried out within the context of a particular discipline. The norms, values, and conventions that underpin such evaluation can be highly idiosyncratic and difficult harmonize across disciplines. Moreover, the transformative and social aims of sustainability science as whole means that ethical and social values also come into play and the way such values inform, or are obscured by, various modelling practices and choices is of great relevance. This project seeks both to examine and describe models and modelling practices, and to adress normative issues concerning model integration in the context of sustainability science. 

I did my undergraduate degree in both Umeå and Gothenburg, although mostly the latter where I majored in Theoretical Philosophy. I also studied History, International Relations, Logic, and Music. In 2009 I moved to Lund to do my doctoral degree there and managed to secure a position on the then newly started sustainability science centre of excellence LUCID. I got my doctoral degree in Theoretical Philosophy in 2015 with a thesis that concerned interdisciplinarity and scientific integration in sustainability science. Since then I have completed a post doc in Lund, also under the auspices of the LUCID programme, and have held two shorter duration research positions working on e.g. the uncertainty framework of the IPCC.

My research involves the application of network methods to the study of climate politics and the policymaking process. I work on the Comparing Climate Change Policy Networks project – an international comparative research project seeking to explain the variation in national responses to climate change.

The project examines the causes of this variation from the perspective of networks of discourse and policy-making interactions among relevant organizations and knowledge brokers. By integrating theories and methods from political science, sociology, and network analysis this research aims to contribute to HELSUS' objective to be at the forefront of theoretical and methodological developments in the sustainability sciences. 

My research focuses on marine oil spill risks in the Arctic. The ice-free period is lengthening in many high-latitude areas, which opens new opportunities for maritime traffic as well as oil drilling. This development increases also the risk of accidental oil spills. I will develop quantitative risk estimates and ecological loss functions for arctic marine species at risk, and apply these in a decision theoretic framework. I aim to identify the most critical components of ecosystems and to combine this knowledge with other information to identify the most risk-prone areas. This type of knowledge is relevant information for decision-making when, for instance, different management measures are to be compared. 



Özlem Celik is a post-doc researcher at HELSUS and Development Studies at the University of Helsinki. She works with Franklin Obeng-Odoom on Social Sustainability of Urban Transformations in the Global South. Özlem's research concerns the political economy of urban development and change, including the politics of urban economic relations, housing, state interventions, rescaling of the state, and urban social movements. She is also interested in using participatory and collaborative methodological approaches in engagement with housing movements and activist groups. Özlem’s  previous research has focused on the financialisation of housing, and the limitations and possibilities of spatial politics of solidarity through commoning practices in Turkey.

She is currently completing a book on ‘Theories of the Spatiality of the State’, editing a special issue, which brings together a set of papers that examine financialisation of housing and violation of housing rights at the time of crisis and which thereby explore the contemporary state of neoliberal urbanisation in divergent political economic contexts, and co-ordinating the Urban and Regional Political Economy Working Group, IIPPE.

She has previously worked at Lund University, Yasar University, Middle East Technical University and The University of Sheffield, after obtaining a PhD in Urban Studies and Planning, an MA in Sociology, and a BA in Urban and Regional Planning.

I am a conservation scientist with a PhD in Environmental Sciences from the University of East Anglia and the University of Lisbon (2015), currently working as a post-doctoral researcher in the project `Tracking societal responses to sustainability issues using social media data` funded by HELSUS. I am an interdisciplinary researcher with multiple interests including the use of digital data for conservation, human-nature interactions, land and protected area management and the impact of environmental change on biodiversity. My current research aims to explore how the digital revolution can contribute towards conservation science and practice. In particular, I am actively investigating how new digital data sources (e.g. social media platforms, search engines) and analytical methods (e.g. machine learning, natural language processing) can be used to generate novel insights on the relationship between humans and nature to inform conservation action and policy. I am also co-leading the Conservation Culturomics Working Group, part of the Society for Conservation Biology. In the past, I have also worked on areas as diverse as species distribution modelling, community ecology and animal movement, and have carried out research in multiple countries including Portugal, UK, Brazil, Spain and Morocco. Much of this work focused on minimizing and managing the impacts of human activities on natural ecosystems and demonstrating the multiple forms of value provided by nature to humans.

Helsinki Lab of Interdisciplinary Conservation Science

Johanna is a HELSUS postdoctoral fellow and is broadly interested in questions related to evaluating the effectiveness of conservation actions and especially how sustainable they are over the long term. Currently she is working on projects attempting to disentangle the many links between different levels of governance and ecological outcomes of protected areas and the role of funding to achieve sustainable outcomes. She is also interested in developing new tools and methods for the evaluation of protected area effectiveness. Johanna is keen to advance the uptake of robust impact evaluation techniques and is currently sitting on the board of the Impact Evaluation Working Group of the Society for Conservation Biology. In HELSUS she is active under the HELSUS Global South and Theory and Methodology- themes.

Johanna´s background is very interdisciplinary, she did her PhD with the Global Change and Conservation Lab at the Metapopulation Research Centre, University of Helsinki, and has since worked with both Development Studies and now the Digital Geography Lab at the University of Helsinki. She has experience of working with both protected area managers and local communities on the ground (Tanzania, Madagascar) and with a diverse set of methods (both quantitative and qualitative).

Find out more:

Johanna´s research profile

eklund_jo on Twitter  

Anna Hausmann has been a HELSUS post-doctoral fellow in conservation biology working with Dr. Enrico Di Minin at the Digital Geography Lab, University of Helsinki. Her current work aims to assess societal debates around key sustainability and biodiversity conservation issues on social media, and other online sources, in order to understand socio-economic and ethical constraints to achieving sustainability better. In particular, her research is mostly related to the HELSUS Global South and Theory and Methodology areas, as it focuses on developing new machine learning tools for assessing relevant online content related to conservation actions and policy interventions with a focus on southern Africa.