Roughly ten years ago, Ilona Ervasti-Vaintola made a worrying observation: it had become rare to catch pike in the sea. Her family owns an outer archipelago island in Velkua, southwest Finland where, among other activities, they fish.
“Even my 12-year-old grandchild, who is an avid fisher, said that you can’t catch pike in the Finnish Archipelago Sea anymore,” Ervasti-Vaintola says.
The decline of Baltic pike populations has been reported throughout the 2010s, with the disappearance of spawning areas as a result of construction considered a potential reason. The number of pike in turn affects, for example, the number of perch. This is how biodiversity works: the vitality of one species affects others.
Ervasti-Vaintola has followed with concern other signs of environmental degradation as well.
“One illustrative moment was a few years ago when I noticed the number of common eider chicks on our island had radically fallen.”
No longer did the charming cooing of eiders reach the habitants’ ears as loudly as it had in previous summers. News reports confirmed that the eider was in trouble.
“This summer, there was once again a large flock of eiders on the island. I was filled with hope: could it be that the situation is improving?”
The hope for a better future led Ervasti-Vaintola to become a sponsor for the Giving Day campaign of the University of Helsinki. The campaign invites people to support vital research on biodiversity loss. Read more about the campaign.
“When I read the message about the upcoming campaign, I immediately knew I wanted to be part of it.”
As a campaign sponsor, Ervasti-Vaintola has pledged to donate €1,000 to research on the topic and is inspiring others to donate too.
She says curbing biodiversity loss is the duty of all Finns, since as a nation we have a meaningful relationship with nature.
“Donations do not need to be large, but every donation is of great importance.”
A private conservation area on the island
Ervasti-Vaintola remembers having an interest in animals and nature as a child. A young Ilona wanted to subscribe to the Luonto (‘Nature’) magazine and be in the Scouts.
“I’ve been on the side of nature all my life.”
Her relationship with nature deepened in childhood and adolescence in the eight years that Ervasti-Vaintola lived in the Träskända Manor park in Espoo.
The park is a nature reserve where a nursing home operated at the time.
“My father used to work part time as a doctor at the nursing home and its hospital. We lived in the official staff residence in the park.”
In the park, Ervasti-Vaintola grew up literally surrounded by nature. There were lush woodlands and spruce forests, and the fine garden plots of the manor park.
“I kept up with the seasons according to the flowers and birds. The idea of all of this disappearing is distressing.”
After general upper secondary school, Ervasti-Vaintola applied to study law at the University of Helsinki. A group of students rented a small cottage together on the shores of Lake Päijänne. There too, Ervasti-Vaintola was happy to observe birds and grow vegetables.
The current island cottage has been in the Ervasti-Vaintola family for 15 years. The island is a 10-hectare area in the middle of nowhere. The closest neighbours are local white-tailed eagles and ospreys.
Ervasti-Vaintola calls the island her own nature reserve, only partly in jest.
“I’m growing flowers on the island to attract butterflies. Instead of intentionally doing any work in the pine forests and common alder groves on the island, we let them be in their natural state. In fact, in the past 15 years I’ve had the chance to see how different bird species have become increasingly abundant. There are woodpeckers, crested tits and a lot of aquatic birds on the island, and I record my observations of them in my little notebook.”
The trees will get to grow old to become hollow trees that promote biodiversity.
Donating is important
In addition to her own contribution, Ervasti-Vaintola wishes to promote knowledge pertaining to biodiversity loss, which can be done by donating to research. For more than 10 years, she has donated various sums to the University of Helsinki in a range of campaigns.
Seeing a campaign advertisement immediately gave Ervasti-Vaintola the idea to support biodiversity loss research through the Giving Day campaign.
She points out that there is no knowledge without research and science.
“By donating, I wish to boost the research conducted at the University. It produces information on biodiversity loss, as well as on what each of us could do to prevent it.”