Kick-off event 7th May 2024

Research in action: Global challenges and multispecies justice - Launch of the RESET Project

The RESET kick-off event presents the project both to the academic community and to a wider audience. The programme highlights the value of transdisciplinary research in tackling global socio-ecological challenges and in finding solutions that are just and sustainable.
About the event

RESET is a University of Helsinki profiling action seeking solutions to the major challenges of our time. These challenges, such as the deepening climate crisis with biodiversity loss and related impacts on health and welfare, and unevenly distributed and utilised resources including food and water, just to name a few, are complex and intertwined issues, which affect both the human and non-human species of our planet. Finding solutions to these intersecting wicked challenges requires holistic action built on research-based knowledge to enable and guide much needed sustainability transformations. Generating such new knowledge, in turn, inevitably requires novel transdisciplinary collaboration across both life and social sciences as well as reach beyond academia. RESET brings together eight faculties and HiLIFE to tackle the attested global socio-ecological challenges – and, importantly, to find solutions that are just and sustainable.  

Event details

1.    Keynote session: 9:00–12:00, Porthania PIII (onsite only, no stream or record)

The session features keynote presentations by three prominent international scholars with wide experience in transdisciplinary research on pandemic preparedness, interactions between the human population and earth systems, and socio-ecological conflicts.

9:00-9:05 Professor Olli Peltoniemi, Dean, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine: Welcome words

9:05-9:10 Professor Anne Portaankorva, Vice Rector for Research, Doctoral Education and Sustainable Development: Opening remarks

9.10-10:00 Professor Martin Beer, Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut
From zoonotic to panzootic to pandemic

10:00-10:50 Professor Matti Kummu, Aalto University
Opportunities towards sustainable food future

10:50-11:40 Professor Kristina Lyons, University of Pennsylvania
When world(s) push back on our disciplinary assumptions: Towards decolonial social scientific praxis and more-than-human aspirations for justice

Session chair: Professor Tarja Sironen, University of Helsinki

2.    Panel discussion and reception What can transdisciplinary research offer towards building a more healthy, just, and sustainable world? 13:00–16:00, Think Corner (onsite and live stream)

The session invites wider audiences to think together what transdisciplinary research has to offer in terms of solutions for sustainable futures.


Professor Martin Beer, Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut
Professor Matti Kummu, Aalto University
Knowledge Broker Linda Lammensalo, Finnish Academy of Science and Letters
Professor Kristina Lyons, University of Pennsylvania
Program director Ines Montalvao, Artists with Evidence

Tuomas Lähteenmäki - Moderator


The discussion will be followed by a networking reception at Think Corner.

Martin Beer, Professor, Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut

From zoonotic to panzootic to pandemic

Since 2016, highly pathogenic avian influenza A viruses have been circulating worldwide. These viruses are descendants of the original Asian HAIV  from China in 1996 . Over the past 20 years, these viruses have become increasingly adapted to wild birds and have spread not only to Europe and Africa, but since 2021 also to North America, South America and even Antarctica, leaving only Oceania remaining as an unaffected continent. In the course of this global panzootic, hundreds of millions of wild birds and poultry have fallen victim to the virus, and in recent years there has been an increase in infections in wild carnivores and occasionally in possible chains of infection, e.g. in fur farms in Finland or in marine mammals in South America. Since 2024, the first cases have also been reported in dairy cattle in the USA, with very high virus titres in the milk of dairy cows. More than 9 US states have been affected so far (as of 25.04.2024). A particular feature of the panzootic HPAIV H5 viruses is the large number of reassortants. In most cases, these are the result of mixing with es wild bird influenza A virus. The number of different reassortants is very high, but all HPAIV H5 viruses share a low zoonotic risk. Since 2016, fewer than 15 human cases have been described with this virus clade, and most of them were mild. One reason for this may be that the virus has adapted to wild birds and has only managed to overcome the first hurdle in its adaptation to humans, i.e. improved replication in mammalian cells. However, the species jump to ruminants in the USA and the first transmission to a farm worker show that a high level of vigilance is absolutely essential to detect possible pre-pandemic developments and to prevent further adaptation to mammals at all costs.

Matti Kummu, Associate professor, Aalto University 

Opportunities towards sustainable food future

This presentation addresses one of humanity's greatest challenges: 
meeting the future demand for food while remaining within the local and 
global safe operating boundaries for exploited natural systems amidst 
rapid population growth and societal change. It presents both the global 
environmental pressures of food production as well as the opportunities 
within the global food systems for addressing this challenge, drawing on 
the most recent research.

Kristina Lyons, Professor, University of Pennsylvania

When world(s) push back on our disciplinary assumptions: Towards decolonial social scientific praxis and more-than-human aspirations for justice

Evolving fields such as the environmental and medical humanities are premised on the conviction that technoscientific, engineering, medical, and legal actors alone cannot address the problems that these same modern disciplines have produced or perpetuated in terms of the ongoing injustices and climate crisis characterizing our contemporary planetary situation. Long before the emergence of this scholarship, Indigenous peoples and diverse local communities have made similar arguments calling for broader public participation and recognition of the role of ancestral and popular know-how despite the structural marginalization and recurrent historical criminalization of their practices. Many feminist and Indigenous scholars have signaled that as researchers we are relationally complicit and accountable to the troubled ecologies we inhabit and study.  No outside exists from where we can observe the world with moral and epistemic authority imagining that we both know the problems that need to be solved and are necessarily best equipped to provide their resolutions.  In this talk, I will discuss the possibilities for public engaged scholarship and anti-colonial and decolonial social scientific research.  I base these reflections on decades of ethnographic experience collaborating with district attorneys, lawyers, soil scientists, engineers, glaciologists, and other professional fields to build spaces for intercultural, horizontal, and transdisciplinary dialogues with diverse local communities and grassroots initiatives in South America.  I also introduce concepts of mourning, memory, and reconciliation as more-than-human processes, and propose methodological roles for the arts and sciences in aspirations for what some have called multispecies justice.

Martin Beer, Professor, Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut

Martin Beer received his PhD from the Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich studying the T-cell immunity against bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV). In 2000, Martin Beer moved to the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut (FLI) as head of the reference laboratory for bovine herpesvirus type 1 infections and continued his work on BVDV and other pestiviruses. Since 2004, he is head of the Institute of Diagnostic Virology at the FLI, working with transboundary animal diseases, zoonosis and emerging diseases like avian influenza virus, Schmallenberg virus or bornaviruses. Modern diagnostics, molecular epidemiology and pathogenesis studies with transboundary viral diseases (e.g Bluetongue Disease virus and African swine fever virus) and viral zoonoses (e.g. poxviruses and influenza viruses) are a major focus of his research since more than 20 years. For selected viruses, also the development of strategies for immunoprophylaxis is an important research goal. A special feature is the work with animals including livestock animals under BLS3 and BSL4 (animal) conditions. During the past years, especially workflows for virus discovery using next-generation sequencing (NGS) based metagenomics were developed and several new viruses could be identified and further characterized. NGS was also used to generate whole-genomes of important viruses for phylogeny and molecular epidemiology. In addition, new vaccine strategies were developed, e.g. for classical swine fever virus or avian influenza viruses.

Matti Kummu, Associate professor, Aalto University 

Associate professor Matti Kummu works with global sustainable food 
systems. He and his team aim to find solutions on how we could at the 
same time produce enough food for the growing population while staying 
with the safe operating space for humanity. He has published over 140 
peer-reviewed articles and is an ERC consolidator grant holder.

Kristina Lyons,  Associate professor, University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Kristina Lyons is associate professor of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania with affiliations with the Center for Latin American and Latinx Studies, Center for Experimental Ethnography, and the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities.  Her research is situated at the interfaces of socio-ecological conflicts, feminist and decolonial science studies, and legal anthropology in Latin America.  Her award-winning manuscript, Vital Decomposition: Soil Practitioners and Life Politics (Duke 2020), moves across laboratories, greenhouses, forests, and farms in the capital city of Bogotá, Colombia and the Andean-Amazonian department of Putumayo. It weaves together an intimate ethnography of two kinds of practitioners – state soil scientists and peasant farmers – who attempt to cultivate alternatives to commercial coca crops and the military-led, growth-oriented development paradigms intended to substitute them. Her current work focuses on the memory and mourning of water, hydrogeological processes, participatory forms of territorial planning, socio-natural disaster, and water-inspired subjectivities.  She has also worked on the creation of soundscapes, street performances, photographic essays, graphic novels, community radio programs, digital storytelling platforms, and various forms of literary, journalistic writing, and public engaged scholarship. Kristina has engaged in participatory action research in South America for over twenty years. 

Registration deadline was 26th April.