Joint director appointed for the biological research stations of the University of Helsinki

Jouni Heiskanen wishes to make more station resources available for research and local networking as well as take responsibility for long-term planning.

In the beginning of March, the three research stations operated by the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences of the University of Helsinki will gain a new and shared director. The Tvärminne Zoological Station in Hanko, the Lammi Biological Station in Hämeenlinna and the Kilpisjärvi Biological Station in Enontekiö will be headed by Jouni Heiskanen (born in 1983), who graduated with a doctorate from the Faculty in 2015.

Up to now, each station has had a director of its own. This smooth transition was made possible by temporarily having deputies taking care of the duties at two of the stations.

Earlier, the research station directorships involved both coordinating the stations’ everyday operations as well as drawing up more comprehensive guidelines and carrying out strategic planning. The purpose of appointing a joint director is not to force the stations into a single mould. Indeed, the differences between the stations would make that impossible.

Instead, Jouni Heiskanen sees it as his duty to free up station resources for conducting research and operating with relevant stakeholders, as well as to take up the responsibility for positioning the stations’ more general shared policies and duties related to Finnish and international science policy.

“The stations have a lot to contribute in terms of networking and providing services to visiting scholars. In this, I have my work cut out for me. For instance, now we have to see how to attract new users and what kind of services we can offer for different user groups,” Heiskanen states.

As an example, Heiskanen points to the research datasets available at the stations. In addition to a range of research projects, the stations are tasked with serving as repositories for a multitude of datasets collected over long periods of time. Typically, such data includes observations pertaining to the climate and ecosystems, in some cases regularly collected over more than a century. Such long time series are invaluable, for example, in assessing climate change and its effects.

The data stored varies greatly by station, and is not so often easy to get to. Heiskanen aims to make the data collected at the stations better available so that they can be accessed from outside the stations, and even from abroad. He would also like to develop cooperation between research stations across organisational and state boundaries.

“Our stations are a local link to the global challenges in the environment. The research helps better to understand the climate change and the loss of biodiversity. On the other hand, the stations are in a position to find local solutions to these challenges, as well as to sustainable development. Multidisciplinary collaboration and joint projects with local communities and national actors are essential."