Study tracks

The Master’s programme in Geography is divided into three study tracks. The study tracks offer students the opportunity to specialise in different areas of geography. The Master’s programme contains both general and study track-specific courses.

Teaching within the Master’s programme in Geography is seamlessly connected with the Master’s programme in Urban Studies and Planning (USP), which is jointly implemented with Aalto University.

Physical geography at the University of Helsinki brings together researchers and students who seek to improve holistic understanding in the fields of biogeography, geomorphology, hydrogeography and climate change. In biogeography, we investigate key drivers governing the distribution of species, habitats and biodiversity, with strong focus on spatial and temporal modelling. In geomorphology, we study the main factors controlling earth surface processes and landform patterns in cold regions. We develop novel approaches in predictive geomorphic mapping. In hydrogeography, we analyse and model physical and chemical quality of water and ecological status of lakes and rivers based on aquatic organisms. Our main focus areas are the low-energy regions, particularly Arctic and other high-latitude and mountainous areas. These areas are undergoing rapid and significant changes associated with climate warming. We are particularly interested in 1) investigating dynamics and key drivers of recent changes in the Arctic vegetation and ground-surface conditions; 2) modelling atmosphere - ground-surface climate feedbacks, and 3) develop projections of the changes in the Arctic landscape patterns and processes and their interactions under future climates.

To analyse these research questions, we utilise extensive GIS and remote sensing data sets (e.g. climate, topography, geology, land cover and biodiversity information) and empirical data based on large field surveys. Most research in physical geography involves statistical analyses of spatial and temporal data, including data mining, multivariate modelling, and mathematical simulations. Additionally, we utilise modern field and laboratory techniques: miniature data-loggers, gas flux chamber techniques, soil moisture sensors, multispectral camera, atomic absorption spectroscopy, and very high resolution remote sensing based on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).

Human & urban geography and spatial planning is a study track, where regional structures and related planning is studied. Urban structures, regional social structures, statewide regional structures, the regional development in the European Union, and globalisation are studied. At the core of the study track is the spatial transformation of society. The Master’s programme studies such phenomena as the divergence of regional and urban structures, urban culture, as well as the political-geographical dynamics of regions. In addition, sustainability, multiculturalism, segregation, housing, and migration are at the core of the study track. Relevant themes for the study track are also regional and urban planning, the political ecology of use of natural resources and land, and gobal development issues. These geographical phenomena and themes are studied through both theoretical and empirical questions, which can be analysed with different qualitative and quantitative methods.

The programme goes into how theories on cities and regional systems can be transformed into empirical research questions. After completing their Master’s theses, students can independently gather empirical data on the main dimensions of regional and urban structures and regional development, they can analyse these data with both qualitative and quantitative methods, and they can evaluate the planning practices connected with regional and social structures. After graduating from the Master’s programme, students will be able to communicate about phenomena and research findings in regional and urban structures, both orally and in writing.

Geoinformatics is an effective approach to the study and understanding of complex regional issues. Geoinformatics studies and develops computational methods for gaining, processing, analysing, and presenting positioning data.  As a part of geography, geoinformatics is a research method on the one hand, to be used in the study of complex regional issues from urban environments to natural ones, from studying local environments to issues of sustainability in developing countries. On the other hand, the methods are the object of research. In urban environments, the methods of geoinformatics can be used to study accessibility and mobility, for example, or to plan a good park network. In the context of developing countries, the research into climate change, land use, or interaction between humans and environment with the help of quantitative, qualitative, and involving methods rises into the front. Students in geography reach a basic understanding of geoinformatics methods in the study of geographical issues, the sources and use of different sets of data (remote sensing, global and national databases, geographical Big Data), analysis methods, and effective visualisation of results.

At the Master’s level, as a student specialising in geoinformatics you will advance your skills both theoretically and technically, developing your methodological expertise from data acquisition to data refinement and visualisation with the help of geoinformatics methods. The instruction is directly connected with the work of research groups and theses are often written as a part of research work. After graduating, you will be able to utilise versatile approaches in geoinformatics in research into geographical questions. You will be able to follow the rapid development of the subject independently, and participate on your own.