Paula Kankaanpää appointed as new director of the Finnish Museum of Natural History

The rector of the University of Helsinki has appointed Paula Kankaanpää, PhD, as the director of the Finnish Museum of Natural History Luomus.

Paula Kankaanpää, PhD in physical geography, previously served as the director of the Marine Research Centre of the Finnish Environment Institute starting in 2015. Prior to that, she worked as the director of the Arctic Centre at the University of Lapland for 15 years. She has also served as the vice-rector for research at the University of Lapland and as a senior adviser at the Ministry of the Environment.

“Everything that Luomus represents wonderfully matches my previous career. The role of Luomus to society as an increasingly important producer and transmitter of information and knowledge related to nature is truly significant,” Kankaanpää notes.

Luomus combines the development of natural science collections, research and diverse public attractions. As the director of a science centre in the Arctic Centre, Kankaanpää has gained experience in exhibition activities, in addition to which she is familiar with research infrastructures and the monitoring of the state of the environment.

As an example of Luomus’s role in society, Kankaanpää points to the Finnish Biodiversity Information Facility.

“The digital information facility, and the data it openly distributes, are a prime example of the long-term and societally significant work that Luomus is doing. It’s an honour to have the opportunity to carry on with its development,” Kankaanpää says.

Strong support for basic research and long-term monitoring

Climate change and biodiversity loss have markedly increased the value of the long-term species monitoring coordinated by Luomus and the data produced through these activities.

“Monitoring cannot be carried out with competitive project funding. This is fundamental and necessary work that takes decades and centuries,” Kankaanpää says. 

She also emphasises the importance of basic research.

“Applied research supports decision-making, and these days it has a high profile. However, basic research is the foundation of everything. You have to invest in it and share its results with everyone in an interesting way.

“Nature fascinates people. I’m sure that, thanks to this inspiration, there will be motivation for nature conservation and public engagement,” Kankaanpää says.

Aino Juslén, who previously served as the head of Luomus, was appointed as the director of the Nature solutions unit of the Finnish Environment Institute at the turn of the year, while Kankaanpää assumed her new position on 16 January 2023.