Research themes

We concentrate on several research themes from remote sensing to biogeosciences and sustainability science.

We aim to knowledge sharing with appropriate stakeholder engagement, capacity building, and communication strategy creating ownership.

Remote sensing of land cover

The group has a long history of mapping land cover and vegetation attributes, and large-area land use and land cover changes using remote sensing techniques. Our approach is to combine various airborne and spaceborne data with environmental sensing and field data collection, such as field spectroscopy, biomass inventories, and hemispherical photography. The group has high capacity in organizing airborne flight campaigns in Europe and Africa, and we hold various payloads, including aerial photography and hyperspectral imaging systems. Some of the current research interests include estimating vegetation attributes and tree species using airborne laser scanning and hyperspectral data, and time series analysis of satellite imagery for land cover characterization to support sustainable land management planning.


This theme is focused on the surface exchange processes in the Eastern African region. We want to understand the relation between rainfall and carbon and water fluxes; and vegetation. The ground-based measurements include weather stations, throughfall measurements, and fog measurements. In addition, carbon and water fluxes are measured using the eddy covariance method in savanna landscape. We are also carrying out manual chamber measurements of carbon fluxes. For large scale regional analysis, we apply global remote sensing data and products, such as MODIS vegetation indexes and TRMM precipitation models.

Food security in developing world

The scientific work of ECHOLAB generates new information and knowledge to address emerging challenges, such as the impacts of climate change amplified by human-induced land use and land cover change, in the developing world. The research group focuses on themes that help to improve food security through enhancement of biodiversity, and improvement of environmental health and natural resources management. Our contribution to research on food security mainly targets remote sensing of land cover changes and the ability of vegetation to sequester carbon, harvest water and evaporate water. In addition, we assess land-atmosphere interactions by environmental sensing to measure eddy covariance, soil respiration on various land cover types, and crop and tree transpiration on agricultural lands. Moreover, we aim to develop a model for climate smart landscape in sub-Saharan Africa.

Geoinformatics capacity building

Our Geoinformatics training contributes to enhancing the awareness of high-level policymakers of provincial governments, for the potential and benefits of Earth observation applications in various study fields such as: land use and land cover change, soil erosion, forest conservation and management, ethno-development and participatory forestry, species distribution and diversity, human-wildlife conflict, sustainable livelihoods, household economy, household energy supply, land conflicts, population growth, ecotourism, sanitation and water availability and accessibility. ECHOLAB has a long tradition in giving capacity building courses in geoinformatics and is committed to promoting Earth observation technologies and geospatial data management and analysis now and in the future. ECHOLAB has two ongoing capacity building activities, GIERI and TAITAGIS. GIERI (Strengthening Geoinformatics Teaching and Research Capacity in Eritrea Higher Education Institutions) is a two-year development and capacity-building project funded by Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, coordinated by CIMO under the Eritrea-specific HEI-ICI programme. GIERI is about building the capacity of Geoinformatics teaching and research in Eritrean Higher Education Institutions (HEI) through an MSc degree programme in Geoinformatics. TAITAGIS (Improving capacity, quality and access of Geoinformatics teaching, research and daily application in Taita Taveta County, Kenya) is a three-year development and capacity-building project funded by Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, coordinated by Finnish National Agency for Education (formerly CIMO) under the HEI-ICI programme. TAITAGIS project aims to develop Master’s degree programme in Geoinformatics for the young under and postgraduate students at the Taita Taveta University and building teachers capacity through Training of Trainers (ToT) education in Geoinformatics.

Human-environment interactions in the Global South

The research group applies cutting-edge tools to analyze and understand local dynamics and global processes as driving forces of human-environment interactions across different scales with multiple feedbacks. The local social-ecological context largely determines how global change leads to different trajectories of land change in different continents and regions, the consequences of changes to development, and how people respond and adapt to these changes. Earth Change Observation research group studies the complex human-environment interactions in the Global South in a transdisciplinary and integrative way, engaging citizens and stakeholders. Geospatial modeling of human-environment interactions contributes to informed decision-making and sustainable management of natural resources which are key to the restoration and protection of ecosystem health and services.