Our aims are to model environmental change via Earth observation data and methods, to understand the driving forces of changes and to model their consequencies.

We apply Earth observation techniques and geographic information systems by collection, analysis, and presentation of the data and results. We focus on status and changes in natural, rural environments, and built-up environments, and we link our research in development and sustainability science context. Our geographical focus is especially in sub-Saharan Africa, but we are operational worldwide.

Our research approach includes the robustness of the conceptual framework and experimental set-up and coherence of the hypothesis, research questions and methods.

In the past 20 years, the team has focused on understanding the changes in Africa caused by climate, agricultural expansion, conservation, and international development with the funding provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland, Academy of Finland, University of Helsinki and European Commission. The research combines geospatial land cover data with measurements of microclimate, gas exchange, water, soil, vegetation biomass and characteristics, and socio-economic surveys and interviews applying participatory GIS methods. The objective is to study in an integrative way the consequences of land change to climate, water resources, carbon sequestration, biodiversity, food security, and livelihoods. Moreover, the strategies to adapt to land change and climate change are developed.

Taita Research Station of the University of Helsinki in Kenya is a central research infrastructure for the team. Our research work uses remote sensing sensors, such as hyperspectral Aisa sensors, multispectral and thermal infrared sensors and laser scanner mounted either on aerial vehicles or on the land surface. ECHOLAB also employs various instruments in environmental sensing in Taita Taveta County in cooperation with local research organizations, universities and Kenya Meteorological Department.