HELSUS funds research in the field of sustainability science. During the year 2020 a total of eight post-doc level fellows will start their 2-year research projects at HELSUS. Here’s our first Helsus fellows introduction!
Johanna Eklund 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.
What first got you interested in your field of research?
“I have always been a little bit of a weirdo, I guess. When I was nine years old, I read Dian Fossey’s and Jane Goodall’s books about their work on Great Apes and since then I have wanted to become a researcher. It is easy to smile at these memories now, but I think it shows the importance of role models for children. I was very lucky to find strong female role models in science at such an early age. Since then of course, the dream has grown with me and evolved. Later I have focused on research questions of what works in conservation and how we could improve practices so that they are more sustainable, especially when establishing and managing protected areas. My curiosity for these types of questions really started when I was living in Tanzania so my work has a strong Global South focus. Since then I have also worked in Madagascar.”
What has been a single most significant moment in your scientific career so far?
“I guess this is where I should highlight some significant scientific achievement. Instead, I would like to share the moment I consider most significant for taking me on the trajectory I am now. I remember interviewing for a Master’s thesis topic for Mar Cabeza and Anni Arponen (Dept. of Biosciences, UH) and they accepted me as their student, even if I don´t think I did very well in the interview. I had just returned from an exchange year in Tanzania and had all these ideas of how socio-political factors should be incorporated into conservation planning… I just had no idea how and I am eternally grateful for them taking me under their wings and mentoring me though the process of becoming a researcher. Collaboration really is key in science.
As it is now, I really feel I have found my dream job. Being a scientist is balancing curiosity, insane creativity and critical thinking. It is a fascinating process and at the same time, a journey into one’s mind: always pushing forward, never being ready. Sometimes when I walk into the office I just cannot stop secretly smiling.”
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 then worked with both Development Studies and now the Digital Geography Lab at the University of Helsinki.
We wish Johanna luck on her career!
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.