The ECHOLAB research group includes members from PhD students to principal investigators working at the University of Helsinki. Affiliated members are graduated PhD students at their current workplaces and adjuct professors.
PETRI PELLIKKA is a professor of geoinformatics since 2002. Petri leads Earth Change Observation Laboratory and has a double affiliation between ECHOLAB and the Institute for Atmosphere and Earth System Research (INAR) of the University of Helsinki. His research focuses on the application of remote sensing data and other geospatial data for land cover change detection. He is interested in the causes and consequences of land change to climate, water resources, biodiversity, and livelihoods. Being the director of the Taita Research Station of the University of Helsinki he focuses on environmental studies especially in Kenya. He is cooperating with many Chinese universities, and namely being co-coordinator of Joint Center in Earth System Science between the University of Helsinki and Beijing Normal University, College of Global Change and Earth System Science. Petri carried out his Ph.D. studies at Ludwig-Maximilian-Universität in Munich in the 1990s on on spectral and geometric corrections for airborne video camera data for land cover studies. He has worked earlier at the Academy of Finland, Finnish Geodetic Institute and is an adjunct professor at the University of Turku. He has been visiting scientist at Carleton University, Cambridge University, Lund University, University of Ghent, Peking University and the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. In the early 2000s, he was working on remote sensing of glaciers as indicators of climate change by leading an international FP5 project OMEGA. Petri understands environmental change in a holistic way, and not just as pixels and coordinates. He has been funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland to develop strategies for food security and ecosystem resilience in order to adapt to climate change, but also to come up with mitigation solutions.
JANNE HEISKANEN is a university researcher in the Institute for Atmosphere and Earth System Research (INAR) of the University of Helsinki and in ECHOLAB. He has MSc degree from the University of Turku in 2004 and Ph.D. in geography in 2008 from the University of Helsinki. After his Ph.D. studies, Janne had a post-doctorate period at the Department of Forest Sciences of the University of Helsinki and at the Swedish Agricultural University in Umeå before returning to the research group in 2012. His research has focused on mapping land cover and forest attributes, such as aboveground biomass, canopy cover, leaf area index and biodiversity measures using various remote sensing techniques, particularly optical satellite imagery, imaging spectroscopy and airborne laser scanning. He is also interested in the time series analysis of satellite imagery for land cover monitoring, and validation of remotely sensed data products using field measurements. In recent years, he has been working in BIODEV and AFERIA projects with developing methodologies for carbon assessment and capacity building in forest inventory, remote sensing and GIS in Kenya, Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone.
MIKA SILJANDER is a university researcher at the University of Helsinki. He is an expert in GIS modeling and spatial statistics. After MSc studies in geography at the University of Helsinki, he started as a researcher in 1998 at the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) and moved later on to the Metapopulation Research Group led by professor Ilkka Hanski working as a GIS- and database specialist. He took a sabbatical leave in 2003-2004 and traveled around Asia, Africa, and Eastern Europe returning back to Finland in December 2004. He joined the research group as a Ph.D. student in 2006 and received his Ph.D. degree in 2010. He has worked on research and development projects such as TAITATOO, TAITAWATER, AFERIA and CHIESA funded by the Academy of Finland and Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland. His main research interest includes forest fires, species distribution, land cover change, and search and rescue services modeling. He has almost 20 years of experience in teaching GIS and remote sensing and is now coordinating TAITAGIS project in cooperation with Taita Taveta University, Kenya. When he is not working he is spending equal time with his Les Paul Standard 1986 and with his wife.
PEKKA HURSKAINEN is a project coordinator and joined the University of Helsinki in 2011. Pekka has 17 years of experience in geoinformatics and remote sensing, both from the private sector and higher education institutes. Pekka is highly interested to link development co-operation and partnerships with geoinformatics. He is coordinating GIERI (Strengthening Geoinformatics Teaching and Research Capacity in Eritrea Higher Education Institutions) funded by Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland under the Eritrea-specific HEI-ICI programme. GIERI is building the capacity of geoinformatics teaching and research in Eritrean Higher Education Institutions through a newly developed MSc degree programme in geoinformatics, at Adi Keih College of Arts and Social Sciences, Department of Geography. Twelve MSc staff members from different Eritrean higher education institutions are as students. From 2018 Pekka contributes also to TAITAGIS capacity building project, which builds geoinformatics capacity for Taita Taveta University, Kenya. He carried out him MSc studies geography at the University of Helsinki making his MSc thesis about change detection of informal settlements of Voi in the Taita Hills in 2005. Pekka’s current research interests are in land use/land cover mapping and change analysis and its interactions with biodiversity and ecosystem services in East Africa. He is preparing Ph.D. thesis on this particular topic focusing on Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania in cooperation with the University of Bayreuth.
TINO JOHANSSON holds a Ph.D. in geography, specializing in environment, development and natural resource management. His research areas include climate change adaptation, food security, climate-smart landscapes, and human-wildlife conflicts. He has worked at the University of Helsinki since 2001, managing national and European projects related to GIS and climate change, and teaching participatory GIS. Tino has worked as a research coordinator at the Department of Geosciences and Geography since 2010 with plenty of skills and knowledge in research administration, project management, and capacity building. In 2011–2015, he coordinated a research and development project CHIESA – Climate Change Impacts on Ecosystem Services and Food Security in Eastern Africa at the International Center of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) in Nairobi. He coordinates the AFERIA – Adaptation for Food Security and Ecosystem Resilience in Africa project, and currently works as a coordinator of the Taita Research Station of the University of Helsinki in Wundanyi, Kenya. He is also a visiting scientist at icipe.
Andrew Rebeiro-Hargrave received his Ph.D. degree on modeling large-scale gully erosion from King's College London in 2001. He applied an innovative cellular automaton to simulate channel network evolution under different forcing conditions in SE Spain. He taught Geocomputation at the Department of Geography, the University of Helsinki whilst employed at Nokia Networks between 1999-2006. He was involved in the opening of the Nokia office in Nairobi, Kenya in 2006 and developed core network solutions for African cellular operators until 2012. He moved to Fukuoka, Japan and worked as a lecturer in eHealth at the Institute of Decisions Science for a Sustainable Society (IDS3), Kyushu University until 2015. He maintains research collaboration links with IDS3 and continues to contribute to the programme. He is a visiting academic at Aalto University (DIEM) with a remit to study social business. He represents the Department of Geosciences and Geography at the University of Helsinki as consortium project coordinator for CAMEOS and LEAP-Agri Earth observation and food security EU-AU submissions and other projects. His expertise and research interests include telecoms, geocomputation, Earth observations and food security, gully erosion, geomorphology, and decision science.
PETTERI MUUKKONEN is a university lecturer in geoinformatics having a strong background in geography, biogeography and in geoinformatics. He has mainly studied various biogeography and forestry themes in the boreal forest environment, for example, carbon sequestration and carbon cycle, biomass surveys and monitoring, spatial autocorrelation of soil characteristics, landscape fragmentation, habitat changes and remote sensing of the forest landscape. Geoinformatics (GIS and remote sensing) has been present in some way in all of his research topics. He has also a teaching qualification to act as a subject teacher of geography and biology in Finnish schools. He is preparing a doctoral thesis in pedagogy and namely in teaching geography.
EDUARDO received his Ph.D. in Geoinformatics from the University of Helsinki in 2011. He is currently an Academy of Finland Research Fellow and a Docent in remote sensing at the Department of Geosciences and Geography. He is the Principal Investigator in the project “Understanding mechanisms of habitat change in fragmented tropical forests for improving conservation”, in which he leads a small group of researchers and coordinates international collaboration with leading scientists in Brazil, Australia, Japan and many European countries. His current research topics focus on the understanding of environmental change processes in tropical regions, mainly using remote sensing and modelling tools. He works in close collaboration with ECHOLAB, particularly in the supervision of PhD and MSc thesis of group members.
Matheus is a postdoctoral researcher in the Earth Change Observation Lab since April 2019, whose research focuses on understanding what determines the structure and function of plant communities. His work uses remote sensing and field surveys to explore how tropical vegetation respond to global changes. His current project revolves around the use of terrestrial LiDAR to predict the effects of climate and fragmentation on tree canopies and ecosystem functioning in the Amazon forest. He received his PhD on Forest Ecology from the University of Cambridge in March 2019, where he used airborne LiDAR and field spectroscopy to investigate forest responses to El Niño events and oil palm expansion.
ATHANASIOS VOTSIS is a researcher at the Socio-Economic Impacts group of the Finnish Meteorological Institute. He holds a Ph.D. in Geoinformatics from the University of Helsinki in 2017, which focused on urban economics and spatial planning in relation to climate-sensitive environmental risks and amenities, and a Master's in urban and regional planning from Virginia Commonwealth University, the US in 2006. His research activities include urban and regional planning focusing on applied urban economic modelling and housing market analysis; economic impacts of environmental risks and amenities, like flooding and green infrastructure; application of GIS and spatial analysis and simulation in the adaptation of cities and urban regions to climate and ecosystem change; and application of computational intelligence and complexity science to urban studies. He is part of projects dealing with economic impacts assessment of improving urban air quality, integration of urban growth and urban microclimate scenario modeling, and dust-and-sand-storm -related climate services for the aviation and solar energy sectors. Athanasios teaches applied spatial statistics and urban modeling and simulation.
Alireza Hamedianfar is a visiting researcher at the Department of Geosciences and Geography at the University of Helsinki. He received his Ph.D. degree from the Universiti Putra Malaysia in 2015. He is interested in the use of machine learning and data mining techniques for feature and target extraction, such as detailed urban land use/land cover mapping, tree species discrimination, and oil palm tree characterization. He has strong knowledge and experience in very high resolution remote sensing data, image classification and advance processing techniques including GEOBIA, deep learning, feature selection, and optimization. Moreover, he has experience working with LiDAR and hyperspectral data.
HARI ADHIKARI is a Ph.D. student at University of Helsinki since 2014. He completed his Bachelor in forestry at Tribhuvan University, Nepal and MSc studies in Sustainable Resource Management from Technical University Munich (TUM), Germany with specialization in landscape management, forestry, and wildlife management. His study area for the master thesis was Southern Leyte, Philippines where he spent 6 months in collecting data and working as Intern in Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). After his MSc degree, he worked in various organizations in Germany, for example, Hochschule Weihenstephan-Triesdorf, Remote Sensing Solutions GmbH, and Bavarian State Institute of Forestry. He has international working experience in REDD+ and forestry, especially in Nepal, Philippines, Germany, Kenya and now in Finland. His Ph.D. topic is the remote sensing of forest via multispectral, hyperspectral and airborne laser scanner for forest structure mapping and ecosystem services, namely monitoring aboveground biomass. He is also working in collaboration with professor Mikael Fortelius on applying GIS on teeth related to evolutionary paleontology.
Matti Räsänen is a Ph.D. student at the Department of Physics since September 2013. He has a master's degree in environmental engineering from the University of Eastern Finland. His main interest is carbon and water exchange at African savannas. He has used eddy covariance and chamber measurement techniques. He is also studying fog deposition at tropical forests in Taita Hills, Kenya.
TEMESGEN ALEMAYEHU ABERA is a Ph.D. student at University of Helsinki since 2016. He holds MSc in remote sensing and GIS from Addis Ababa University with a background in geology and geophysics. His MSc thesis was on identifying the role of geological structures on groundwater flow and occurrence in the tectonically complex area of the main Ethiopian rift valley. After his MSc degree, he worked in different organizations in Ethiopia as a GIS expert and as a lecturer in geoinformatics at Adama University in 2008, and as a team leader and acting director for Ethiopian National Spatial Data Infrastructure Program in Information Network Security Agency. Currently, he is doing a Ph.D. research on modeling of vegetation-climate interaction in eastern Africa using remote sensing data.
EDWARD AMARA received his BSc (2005) and MSc (2010) degrees from Njala University in Sierra Leone. He worked in BIODEV project funded by Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland as a Ph.D. student candidate enrolled at the University of Helsinki. His home organization is Sierra Leone Agricultural Research Institute. He is preparing his doctoral thesis within the Doctoral Programme of Atmospheric Sciences on assessment of land cover change impacts on ecosystem services.
SHEILA WACHIYE received her BSc degree in environmental studies in Kenyatta University and MSc degree in GIS & Remote Sensing at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, both in Kenya. She has worked as GIS specialist at Kenya Forest Service and has currently a position as junior research fellow at School of Natural Resources, Kabianga University, Kenya. She started her Ph.D. studies within ECHOLAB and Doctoral Programme in Atmospheric Sciences in October 2017 under funding from Schlumberger Foundation. Her research concentrates on investigations of greenhouse gas emissions from various land cover and land use types in the Taita Taveta County, Kenya in cooperation with Lund University and International Livestock Research Institute, having HQ in Nairobi.
ZHIPENG TANG received his MSc degree from Beijing Normal University in cartography and geographic information systems and his BSc in surveying and mapping engineering from China University of Mining and Technology. He started his Ph.D. studies in Doctoral Programme in Geosciences in November 2017. His research deals with the assessment of long-term changes in vegetation growth and carbon sequestration in the Taita Hills as a result of climate variation and land use/cover change. His Ph.D. studies are funded by China Scholarship Council.
Yang Liu received her MSc degree in Physical Geography at Beijing Normal University in 2018, and joined the research group in 2019. She is a Ph.D. student in Doctoral Program in Atmospheric Science. The aim of her dissertation is to estimate the isoprene emissions of different landscapes in Taita Taveta County, Kenya; based on satellite data, modelling and field observation. Her work focus on the amount and spatial-temporal patterns of isoprene that emit from forest, grassland and cropland in Taita during dry and rainy seasons.
PEIFENG SU is a Ph.D. student at the University of Helsinki since 2018. He is interested in remote sensing: image processing, especially in hyperspectral band selection and air pollution related techniques and applications. He has participated in several image processing projects and is familiar with hyperspectral data collection sensors. He is now conducting his research on air pollution image analysis and processing, trying to create a deep understanding about images properties and air pollution. He is also interested in Physics, Mathematics, and deep learning/machine learning.
RUUT UUSITALO graduated from the University of Helsinki and received her MSc in Geography in 2017. Her MSc thesis focused on modeling mosquito distributions in the Taita Hills, in Kenya, as a part of Wildlife screening- project, led by professor Olli Vapalahti from the Department of Virology. She is a Ph.D. student in the Doctoral Program in Interdisciplinary Environmental Sciences (DENVI) and is linked both to Vapalahti’s and ECHOLAB research groups. The aim of her dissertation is to apply GIS-analyses and virological approaches by focusing on modeling and mapping pathogen distributions and screening for vector-borne viruses in Finland and in Kenya. Currently, her activities include studying viruses from mosquitoes collected in Kenya and to link them with environmental parameters obtained by remote sensing, modeling, and environmental sensing. She aims to map and predict the distribution of vectors and vector-borne pathogens in the changing climate and habitat alteration patterns by using GIS and produce new information to promote public health.
Antti Autio is a Ph.D. student at the department of Geosciences and Geography since 2018. He holds a master’s degree in Development Geography from the University of Helsinki. He studies in the Doctoral Programme in Interdisciplinary Environmental Sciences (DENVI) and his research focuses on smallholder farmer’s adaptation to climate change in East Africa from the perspective of political ecology.
MARTHA MUNYAO joined the University of Helsinki in 2019 as a Ph.D Student in the Doctoral Programme in Interdisciplinary Environmental Sciences (DENVI). She holds a BSc degree in Wildlife Management from Moi University and MA degree in Environmental Planning and Management from the University of Nairobi, Kenya. She works as a Research Scientist at Kenya Wildlife Service, Kenya. Currently, she is doing Ph.D research on land use conflicts and implications on climate smart landscape planning with a special focus on human elephant conflicts.
VERONICA AHONEN began as a Ph.D student at the Department of Geosciences and Geography in 2020. She received her MSc from the University of Helsinki in 2019 in Environmental Change and Global Sustainability, where her Master’s thesis focused on climate change and Arctic wetlands. She is a student of the Doctoral Programme in Interdisciplinary Environmental Sciences (DENVI), and her research focuses on the sustainability of flight emission offsetting in the context of research organizations, using the University of Helsinki as a case example. Her goal is to combine participatory research, remote sensing data and existing literature to create a comprehensive strategy to ensure the responsible mobility of research organizations in the future.
RAMI PIIROINEN is a Ph.D. student at the University of Helsinki since 2014. He is interested in remote sensing techniques and applications, especially in the mapping of tropical land and tree cover. He has wide experience of operating different imaging spectroscopy and laser scanning sensors in over 10 different countries on three continents, as well as processing and analyzing the data for different organizations, universities, and his own work. Currently, he is focused on finishing his Ph.D. thesis and learning UAV-based remote sensing techniques. He is also interested in software development, machine learning, and big data analysis through various side projects.
MÅRTEN BOSTRÖM joined the group already in 2010 for preparing his MSc thesis on the use of GPS in field mapping in the Ngangao forest of the Taita Hills and Helsinki urban area. Mårten received his MSc in geography from the University of Helsinki specializing in geoinformatics and his BSc in geographic information science from Northern Arizona University, USA. He has been Ph.D. student in the Doctoral Program in Geosciences since 2012. He is researching the utilization of various remote sensing and field collected spatial data for terrain mapping and production of maps. Current activities include spatial distribution modeling of afromontane plant species using anthropogenic data in combination with ecographical factors. He has been involved in teaching Open Source GIS and remote sensing in CHIESA project led by International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology, Miti Mingi Maisha Bora project of the Kenya Forest Service and SMOLE2 project in Zanzibar, Tanzania.
JOHANNA HOHENTHAL received her MSc degree in physical geography at the University of Turku in 2009 and joined the research group in 2010. She is preparing her Ph.D. thesis about local ecological knowledge, environmental histories and inclusive water governance in the Taita Hills, Kenya.
DANIELA WELSCH studied geography, geology, and psychology at the Freie Universität Berlin, Germany. Her diploma thesis dealt with the rural development and change of the agricultural structure in Poland. She has acquired professional experience in various positions such as GIS and remote sensing project manager and geographical editor in various companies. Daniela was awarded a doctoral grant by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and she started her doctoral studies at the University of Helsinki in 2017. Her Ph.D. project aims at analyzing agricultural landscape change and adaptation strategies of smallholder farms in Kenya using remote sensing, GIS, and social research methods. Daniela is fascinated about inter- and transdisciplinary research which combines different methodological approaches from human and physical geography.
JINXIU LIU finished her master studies in GIS and remote sensing from Beijing Normal University, China in 2013, and her Ph.D. studies at the University of Helsinki in 2017 on Application of satellite image time series and texture information in land cover characterization and burned area detection. Her study focused on increasing understanding of land cover characterization by exploring the temporal profiles from time series data and spatial details contained in high spatial resolution imagery. Her main study area was savannah in Burkina Faso, West Africa.
XIAOCHEN ZOU received his BSc and MSc degree in cartology and GIS from China Agricultural University. He finished his Ph.D. studies at the University of Helsinki in 2016 on the use of hyperspectral AISA imaging spectroscopy data in agricultural studies. His thesis entitled Leaf orientation and the spectral reflectance of field crops. He works now as a lecturer at the School of Remote Sensing and Geomatics Engineering, Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology in China.
ALEMU GONSAMO GOSA carried out his BSc studies at Wondo Genet College of Forestry and Natural Resources in Ethiopia and MSc studies at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. He finished his Ph.D. studies at the University of Helsinki in 2010 with the thesis entitled Remote sensing of leaf area index: enhanced retrieval from close-range and remotely sensed optical observations. He has been working with professor Jing Chen as a scientist at the Department of Geography and Planning at the University of Toronto since 2011.
BINYAM TESFAW HAILU joined the research group in 2012 as a Ph.D. student of CHIESA project. He finished his Ph.D. thesis in 2016 defending his thesis entitled Multi-scale assessment of land changes in Ethiopia – understanding the impacts of human activities on ecosystems services. He has a position as assistant professor in the School of Earth Sciences at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia but is currently carrying out his post-doc studies at Philipps-Universität Marburg (http://bale.geographie.uni-marburg.de:12921/) studying how humans benefited from and re-shaped African high altitude ecosystems during Quarternary climatic changes.
MARK BOITT received his BSc degree in surveying from the University of Nairobi and MSc degree in photogrammetry and geoinformatics from Stuttgart University of Applied Sciences, Germany in 2010. He joined the research group in 2012 as a Ph.D. student of CHIESA project. In 2016, he finished his Ph.D. thesis Hyperspectral remote sensing for cropland assessment and modeling for agro-ecological zones: A case study of Taita Hills, Kenya at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology, Nairobi, where he works as a lecturer.
MEHRNOOSH GHADIMI is a visiting researcher at the University of Helsinki at the Department of Geosciences and Geography. She started her collaboration within ECHOLAB and with associate professor David Whipp in 2016. She received her Ph.D. degree from the University of Tehran, Iran in 2013. In 2012-2013 she spent a period at Zaragoza University in Spain. Currently, she performs as a lecturer at the University of Tehran. Her expertise and research interests include geomorphology, glacial geomorphology, karst, natural hazards, and remote sensing, and especially the application of radar data.