At the Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science (HELSUS) researchers do not only talk the talk but they also walk the walk. Just as science can offer ways forward in tackling current socio-ecological challenges, the scientific community can also work as a trailblazer in day-to-day sustainability practises. The HELSUS Sustainability Champion award celebrates the work of individual researchers who work for sustainability in exemplary ways. This year’s HELSUS Sustainability Champion award was given to Dr. Mar Cabeza.
Among her colleagues, Cabeza is known to be an adamant supporter of both good community practices and environmentally conscious action. One HELSUS-member voting for Cabeza said that “she [Cabeza] is truly interdisciplinary, not just on paper, but in practice - She pays a lot of attention to impact and the needs of local communities (also non-human). Her research projects address very complex challenges through impressively holistic approaches. She has developed very strong and empowering long-term partnerships with a number of students, teams, professionals, communities, and institutions. Her work ethic is truly one of collaboration, inclusion, and supportive of those most in need. I have never sensed an ounce of competition in her.” Many other nominators emphasized Cabeza’s work to support younger researchers, colleagues and students.
In addition to working towards a more inclusive and sustainable working community, Cabeza is said to promote better practices and sustainability within academia in general. Many of the people who voted for Cabeza talked about her dedication to promote sustainability both in her research within conservation science, but also in her everyday actions;
“Her ground-breaking research has contributed to paradigm shifts in conservation practice. Her research group is one of the most international, dynamic and interdisciplinary of the whole university. I particularly applaud her strong philosophy of developing research-informed policy recommendations for people and nature, and her integration of social and ecological data at multiple scales. She cares for her students and she promotes sustainability at work. To increase the well-being of her students, she filled their office with plants, brought a sofa to think and arranged a tea corner. Sustainability at its best!”
“Mar is a group leader who takes sustainability of research work also seriously: from packing lunch in reusable materials to participating in demonstrations, she is an exemplary leader in everyday sustainability.”
“Mar is always very supportive of her students/team, she works for creating a welcoming and engaging atmosphere, promoting cooperation above competition in academia and at UH [the University of Helsinki]. She encourages a healthy work-life balance and thus sustainable values, which I think is really important for all of us researchers with families and kids. I think she would deserve the HELSUS price because she has also for long promoted interdisciplinary approaches in ecology/conservation science. People like her are key in building a vibrant HELSUS community.”
Cabeza works as an Academy Research fellow in biology and a researcher at the Metapopulation Research Centre, Department of Biosciences, University of Helsinki. She also leads a research team “Global Change and Conservation”. This year Cabeza was one of the most highly cited researchers within the fields of biology and environmental research at the University of Helsinki, as she is one of the pioneering researchers championing dynamic conservation. In her doctoral dissertation Cabeza suggested a model of conservation areas in which species could move from one area to another, as they usually do in real life. This way of thinking has since become commonplace in conservation area planning. In addition to being a researcher, Dr. Cabeza values good education and has been a committed teacher and supervisor of multiple courses and students.