The Global Change and Conservation lab counts a number of senior/postdoctoral researchers and PhD researchers, but also visiting scholars, master students and field assistants who are closely intergrated to the group. There are also several affiliated researchers with whom we have very close collaboration.

The group pays special attention to equity, striving to be an inclusive, gender-balanced and culturally diverse research team.

Mar Cabeza - group leader

Mar Cabeza is an established PI at the University of Helsinki leading the “Global Change and Conservation” team. After completing her PhD at the University of Helsinki, MC conducted a postdoc at the Biodiversity and Global Change lab in Spain. She then returned to Helsinki to establish her own research team. Most of the research projects that MC currently leads fall under the conservation effectiveness umbrella, by which she attempts to address both ultimate and proximate causes of success and failure of conservation actions. Her current research interests include basic field ecology needed to understand processes at local scales, large scale macroecological studies involving projections of climate change, and the integration of these in conservation assessments and planning. Mar also has passion for education. She is involved in education initiatives at a variety of levels, from school children to advanced PhD students. She is especially interested in capacity building in developing countries. This education passion is also shared by other members of the team.

Tuomas Aivelo - Academy Research Fellow

Tuomas Aivelo is interested in disease ecology and multidisciplinary research. He did his PhD in University of Helsinki on intestinal parasite of mouse lemurs, then a postdoctoral project in University of Zürich on tick-borne pathogens and he returned to Helsinki in January 2018 to work for the Helsinki Urban Rat Project.

Helsinki Urban Rat Project has grown as a thriving team within GCC encompassing ecology, history, social sciences and educational sciences. In addition to all things rats, Tuomas' current research projects include biology education, such as genetics literacy in upper secondary school students and teachers and citizen science in learning.

Tuomas is also active in science outreach, including his popular science book on parasites, Loputtomat loiset, which has been now translated to Japanese, Hungarian and Spanish.

  • Disease ecology and parasitology
  • Urban ecology
  • Biology education
  • Science communication
  • Multidisciplinary animal studies
Karolina Lukasik - Post Doc

Karolina Lukasik is a postdoctoral researcher in the Helsinki Urban Rats Project, where she studies the conflicts between the gardeners and non-human animals in urban allotment gardens. She completed her PhD in psychology at Åbo Akademi University and then conducted postdoctoral research at SWPS University of Humanities and Social Sciences in Warsaw, Poland, in the project “Whom to trust? Cognitive determinants of learning from others”. She also graduated from the School of Ecopoetics, where she researched the history of laboratory rats. Karolina is especially passionate about the animals that we label as “pests” and building biocentric, multispecies communities.

  • Urban ecology
  • Environmental humanities
  • Posthumanism
  • More-than-human conflicts
Heta Lähdesmäki - Post Doc

Heta Lähdesmäki is a historian specializing in human-animal studies, human-wildlife conflicts and conservation. She completed a PhD in cultural history in 2020 at the University of Turku, studying human-wolf relations in 20th century Finland. After that, she has studied the relationship between humans and nature in Seili island in a multidisciplinary research project Seili - Elämän saari funded by the Kone Foundation and led by the Biodiversity unit at the University of Turku. She is part of the Academy of Finland funded HumBio-project, investigating the human relationship with the disappeared, endangered, introduced, and non-native as well as invasive marine animals and plants in Finland. Currently, as a postdoctoral researcher in the project ’Cohabitation with undesired others in urban spaces – from theory to practice’ funded by HELSUS, Lähdesmäki studies the history of bird feeding and rat conflicts in Helsinki. She is interested in multidisciplinary research and believes that historical knowledge is an important tool when tackling present-day environmental problems.  

  • Environmental Humanities 
  • Human-Animal Studies 
  • Wildlife conservation 
  • Human-wildlife conflicts 
Tiago Monteiro-Henriques - Post Doc

Tiago Monteiro-Henriques completed his PhD in native vegetation at the Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal, in 2010. He is a postdoctoral researcher since 2017 (FCT grant ref: SFRH/BPD/115057/2016; 2017-2023), based at the Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro, but in association with GCC Lab, where he conducts short-term stages. He has a background in native vegetation and landscape research with particular interest in numerical analysis and classification of vegetation data, flora and vegetation mapping, ecological modelling, nature conservation, and ecological restoration.
His current research activities focus on native forests from the Iberian Peninsula and aim to create i) a general systematization of forest types using combinatorics and optimization; ii) spatially explicit models of their potential and actual distributions; iii) an endangerment assessment of those forest types, linked with fire patterns and global changes and iv) disseminate all of the produced information on the web along with specific tools to support management and conservation actions and respective prioritization.

● Native forests conservation
● Vegetation classification
● Vegetation modelling and mapping

Pablo Manzano - Post Doc

Pablo Manzano completed a PhD in Ecology and the Environment in 2015 at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, researching seed dispersal ecology in Spanish sheep-grazed rangelands. Since finishing his MSc in 2004, he has been working first on his PhD field work and then in a series of international development initiatives that took him from the Western Balkans to two global positions in IUCN in Nairobi and in FAO in Rome, both related to pastoralism. In these years he has kept his research agenda on rangeland ecology but expanded into other disciplines of the pastoralist domain, including economics, sociology and anthropology. His research approach aims to integrate the social, economic and environmental livelihood dimensions. He is currently a HELSUS fellow addressing global pastoralism sustainability.

  • Rangeland ecology
  • Pastoralist systems


Viktor Zöldi - Post Doc

Viktor Zöldi joined the Helsinki Urban Rats Project in September 2023 as a Postdoctoral researcher. He graduated from the Eötvös Loránd University (MSc in biology) and as well from the University of Debrecen (MSc in epidemiology). He completed his PhD at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Budapest, investigating a natural tick-borne encephalitis focus in Western Hungary. He completed the two-year European field epidemiology training (EPIET) program at the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) in Helsinki. Besides his scientific work, he has worked in biocidal product authorization for many years. Also, he has developed the current Rat Control Program for the City of Budapest. His research interests:

  • Disease ecology
  • Epidemiology
  • Parasitology
  • Integrated Pest Management
  • Citizen science
Vasco Branco - PhD researcher

Vasco Branco is a doctoral student, working on automation in conservation biology through a variety of methods, including statistics, machine learning, etc. He was a master student at the University of Lisbon’s Faculty of Sciences where his thesis “Red list of Portuguese spiders: spatial patterns and conservation” sought to participate in the the first edition of the national invertebrate Red Book by updating the Iberian Spider Checklist, producing species risk assessments for 32 species of spider endemic to Portugal and analysing their diversity. Vasco is funded by the Kone Foundation.

  • spiders
  • Araneae
  • machine learning
  • artificial intelligence
  • data extraction
Aina Brias - PhD researcher

Aina Brias-Guinart (MSc in Environment and Development, 2014, Lancaster University) is interested in the social dimensions of conservation interventions. Since 2018, she has been conducting her interdisciplinary PhD research that focuses on the links between education and biodiversity conservation. She is particularly interested in how conservation NGOs implement education programmes in rural communities in Madagascar and how they affect local cultures, environments and knowledge systems. Through this process, she wishes to promote ethical practices in concrete and meaningful ways when doing research, and to bridge the gap between academia and practice. What she loves most about her work is the joy of sharing meals while conducting long periods of research in Madagascar.

  • environmental education
  • impact evaluation
  • theory of change
  • local knowledge


Moustapha Itani - PhD researcher

Moustapha Itani completed his MSc in Environmental Sciences at the American University of Beirut in 2015. In the years that followed, Moustapha acquired research experience and interdisciplinary research skills. He developed vegetation management plans for archaeological sites, assessed conservation potential of two Important Plant Areas and developed vegetation description methods for conserving rare plants in cities. Simultaneously, he did research in public and mental health that targeted refugees and victims of regional conflict in the Middle East. In his PhD, Moustapha will combine natural and social sciences in order to tackle timely matters regarding adaptation to global changes. By focusing on pastoralism’s challenges and sustainability in the Global South, he capitalizes on robust interdisciplinary science to address societal and environmental issues. In seeking solutions for a sustainable future, he combines field surveys focused on biological processes, participatory mapping and interviews with herders and local governments, and multi-scale geospatial analyses sensitive to environmental change.

  • Biodiversity conservation

  • Functional ecology

  • Pastoralist systems

Federica Manca - PhD researcher

Federica Manca is interested in how species interact in coastal marine ecosystems, and in how biotic interactions modulate the response of marine ecosystems to climate change. She completed her MSc in Marine Biology in Italy in 2016 with a thesis on coral-associated fauna in the Maldives, and in the following years worked on different research projects in Japan and Italy. Her PhD research focuses on marine vegetated ecosystems in the Baltic Sea, where she uses ecological network analysis to explore the web of interactions between marine macrophytes (macroalgae and seagrasses) and their associated fauna, and to model how macrophyte-dominated communities will shift under future scenarios of climate change. She is also a member of the Benthic Ecology Team at Tvärminne Zoological Station.

  • Marine ecology
  • Ecological modeling
Santtu Pentikäinen - PhD researcher

Santtu Pentikäinen joined the Helsinki Urban Rat Project in March 2020 to do his PhD on movement and population ecology of city rats. He is interested in how urban environment, group demographics and interactions, and human activities (intended or unintended) influence the behavior and population dynamics of wild rats.  Santtu did his MSc in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in University of Helsinki in 2019. In his thesis, he studied how captive breeding changes the behaviour of endangered steelhead trout, based on his experimental work with wild and hatchery-reared steelhead in Oregon.

  • Movement and behavioral ecology 
  • Population dynamics 
  • Urban rat ecology 
Miquel Torrents-Ticó - PhD researcher

Miquel Torrents-Ticó completed his MSc in Conservation and Management of Biodiversity at the University of Barcelona in 2012. He was a guest scientist at the Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge. His interest in human-wildlife interactions took him around the world from tropical rain forests to arid deserts, where he worked with different species: Costa Rica (olive Ridley sea turtles), Ecuador (common woolly monkeys), South Africa (meerkats, Damaraland mole-rats), Botswana (large predators) and Namibia (chacma baboons). His interest in conservation has grown along with the ever-increasing conflicts between humans and wildlife. His main interests lay on Human-Carnivore Conflicts. In his PhD, he takes an interdisciplinary approach to understand human-hyena interactions by investigating local attitudes, values and perceptions towards spotted hyenas, and comprehend spotted hyena ecology that links to the human-hyena conflict (e.g., animal movement, density, distribution). Most of the fieldwork is being conducted in Sibiloi National Park and Laikipia (Kenya). He is member of the Hyaena Specialist Group from the IUCN Species Survival Commission and a National Geographic Explorer. 

  • Human-Wildlife Conflicts 
  • Conservation biology 
  • Carnivores Conservation 
Carme Tuneu-Corral - PhD researcher

Carme Tuneu-Corral (MSc in Terrestrial Ecology and Biodiversity Management 2017, Autonomous University of Barcelona) has worked on mammal ecology and biodiversity conservation since 2014, focusing on human-wildlife conflict. She studied the human impact on the behaviour of a pinniped colony in Cabo Polonio (Uruguay) and participated in a project focused on the assessment of chimpanzee density in Cameroon. In Nepal, she conducted environmental education campaigns in remote rural areas of the Himalayas. Carme joined the Bat Research Group of the Natural Sciences Museum of Granollers (Spain) in 2018, focusing her research interests on bat ecology and conservation. She is currently working on her PhD, which investigates the role of bats as rice pest suppressors in Madagascar. Malagasy population is totally dependent of subsistence agriculture. However, the main staple food (rice), suffers enormous harvest losses due to pest outbreaks. Carme is particularly interested in studying the effectiveness of bats as insect pest controllers in rural areas of Madagascar with the final purpose to contribute to aid rural population to protect rice fields promoting bat conservation.  

  • Bat ecology and Conservation 
  • Sustainable agriculture and biocontrol 
  • Human-Wildlife conflict
Marketta Vuola - PhD researcher

Marketta Vuola has a MSc in Development Geography at the University of Helsinki which she completed in 2015. She did her Master’s Thesis with the GCC research group focusing on the relations between local communities and national park management in Madagascar. Marketta is interested in natural resource politics and passionate about finding out how power relations shape land-uses and landscapes. She has worked as a coordinator of development projects in rural Indonesia and Zambia and as a Senior Officer focusing on land-use planning at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in Finland. Before starting her PhD studies, she worked in a research project examining the Green Economy transitions in Lao PDR and Cambodia at the Finland Futures Research Centre. Returning to her initial interests in Madagascar, Marketta started her PhD studies in 2019, in Development Studies discipline, looking at the confrontations between artisanal and small scale mining and biodiversity conservation in Madagascar.

  • political ecology
  • artisanal and small scale mining (ASM)
  • conservation policy
Adrián Colino Barea - MSc student

Adrián Colino Barea is a student in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Master’s Programme at the University of Helsinki. He has previously studied Biology at the University of Alicante, Spain. He has specialized in primatology and botany in his previous studies and has gained experience as a field ecologist, assessing biodiversity in anthropized ecosystems in Spain and Serbia. Adrián has joined GCC to conduct his master’s thesis project, primarily interested in biodiversity conservation in tropical areas. He will address remote sensing approaches to understand the changes in the distribution and phenology of bamboo forests around Ranomafana National Park, Madagascar, over time. The results will be linked to the population dynamics of bamboo lemurs – highly threatened primates that rely heavily on this vegetation. 

•    Remote sensing in ecology
•    Tropical wildlife conservation
•    Vegetation analysis
•    Primatology

Amaia Gonzaga Roa - MSc student

Amaia Gonzaga Roa is a MSc student in the Ecology and Evolutionary biology at the University of Helsinki. She previously studied a BSc in Environmental Biology at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. Amaia is interested in in ecology, conservation and monitoring, and the relationship between nature and human societies. Currently she is focusing her studies on approaching these issues with a GIS analysis perspective.

She joined the GCC team to work on her Master’s thesis under the supervision of Alvaro Fernández-Llamazares. She will work on a counterfactual impact assessment study for the Amazon project of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere programme. Her aim is to evaluate deforestation avoidance across 8 Biosphere reserves in the Amazon rainforest by using Matching Methods.

  • GIS
  • Biocultural conservation
  • Impact evaluation
Ariadne Kibbelaar - MSc student

Ariadne Kibbelaar is a master’s student in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Helsinki. She studied Medical Sciences for two years at the University of Groningen, Netherlands, but has a Bachelor's in Wildlife Management from Van Hall Larenstein, University of Applied Sciences Leeuwarden (Netherlands). She aspires to become a human-carnivore conflict researcher and educator. She is looking forward to improving and establishing practical tools that prevent the extinction of species and stimulates coexistence between local communities and wildlife, with the main focus on African conservation. Her passion took her from testing deterrents against crop raiding by baboons in South Africa to camera trapping for the EU Life Lynx project in Slovenia and testing livestock guarding dog feces as a deterrent against livestock predation in Namibia. She wants her research to mean something to both carnivores and local people.  She joined the GCC team because she wants to learn more about the interdisciplinary approach combining ecological science with social science. Her Master’s thesis will be based on the change in carnivore conservation and livestock in Laikipia County, Kenya. 

  • Human-Carnivore Conflict
  • (Large) carnivore and human conservation
  • Interdisciplinary approach
  • Applied science
Markus Myllyniemi - MSc student

Markus Myllyniemi is a master’s student of history at the University of Helsinki who joined the Helsinki Urban Rat Project in June 2023 to complete his master’s thesis under the supervision of Heta Lähdesmäki. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Helsinki in 2021, and his interests include social, economic, environmental, and urban history. His master’s thesis will focus on the eradication and the war on rats in Helsinki during the late 1940s and early 1950s from the perspective of municipal literary sources.

•    Environmental Humanities 
•    Human-animal conflicts 
•    Urban and social histories 

Aina Rossinyol Fernàndez - MSc student

Aina Rossinyol Fernàndez is a master’s student in the Ecology and Evolutionary biology
programme of the University of Helsinki. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in
Environmental Biology from the Autonomous University of Barcelona in 2020. She is interested in landscape ecology and in the ecology, behaviour and conservation of mammals. Her thesis is part of a wider project (Tropibio) of CIBIO. Considering the unprecedented rate of land-use change in West Africa, her work aims to evaluate the mid-sized mammal diversity in three different habitats of Guinea Bissau: rice paddies, cashew plantations and native forest patches.

  • Wildlife conservation
  • Landscape ecology
  • Mammalian behaviour
Mihika Sen - MSc student

Mihika Sen is a student in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Master’s Programme at the University of Helsinki. She completed her Bachelor’s degree in Biotechnology from the Vellore Institute of Technology, India. Her main interest is in combining ecological and sociological approaches to promote wildlife conservation. Much of her previous research has focused on the mitigation of human-elephant conflict (HEC) in various parts of India, working closely with local communities in conflict-prone areas. Her Master’s thesis will now focus on the social perceptions of local communities towards electric fencing as an HEC mitigation tool in Laikipia county, Kenya. 

  • Conservation biology
  • Elephant ecology and conservation 
  • Human-wildlife interactions
  • Community-based conservation 
Francisco Silva - MSc student

Francisco Silva is a student in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Master’s Programme at the University of Helsinki. He has studied Biology at the University of Porto, Portugal, and graduated in 2015. His interests are landscape ecology, conservation, herpetology and biological invasions.

Francisco has recently joined the GCC group for his master’s thesis, supervised by Mar Cabeza. His thesis' fieldwork takes place in Guinea Bissau and is linked to the Rice Guardians project, which aims at conserving biodiversity and enhancing food security in West Africa. The MSc thesis’ goal is to evaluate amphibian and reptile taxonomic diversity and species composition across three different landscapes: rice paddies, cashew plantations and woodland/forest patches, in a region where land-use change is happening at an ever-increasing speed.

  • Landscape ecology
  • Conservation biology
  • Herpetology
  • Invasive species
Sara F. Nunes - Visiting Researcher

Sara F. Nunes has a BSc in Biology (environmental branch) from the University of Lisbon. In 2019 she completed a MSc in Conservation Biology at the University of Lisbon, where she worked with island reptile’s trophic ecology and isotopic analyses. Her master thesis research focused on assessing the changes in the isotopic niche of an insular endemic subspecies (Berlenga wall lizard) after the eradication of two invasive mammal species. She joined the GCC team as a visiting researcher in 2020 for a 7 months’ internship. She is currently analysing the research effort allocation on island restricted reptile species, to identify knowledge gaps and to target research activities towards conservation priorities. Her research interests include biological invasions, ecology and conservation of herpetofauna and insular biogeography. 

  • Reptiles conservation 
  • Invasive species 
  • Reptiles trophic ecology 
  • Island restricted reptiles 
Abolfazl Sharifyan - Visiting Researcher

Abolfazl Sharifian Bahraman is conducting PhD studies at Gorgan University of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, in Iran. His work focuses on traditional knowledge of pastoral communities in Iran and around the world. His research interests span from human dimensions of rangeland ecosystems to traditional herding systems and rangeland management. He is currently working on a comparative study about pastoral traditional calendar between Hungarian and Persian shepherds. As part of his research stay at the University of Helsinki, he is carrying out a systematic analysis on pastoralism traditional ecological knowledge (PTEK), under the supervision of Dr. Mar Cabeza and Dr. Alvaro Fernandez-Llamazares. He is planning to place more emphasis on modeling traditional herding systems in the future

  • Pastoralist traditional knowledge


MSc Students
  • Mikko Aulio
  • Annika Kantokari
  • Rebekka Kukowski
  • Taru Tornikoski

We have following additional MSc students. If you want to do a MSc in our group, contact Mar or postdocs in the group!

Affiliated Researchers

A few former GCC members have remained strongly associated to the group after they have taken up new positions. They are core collaborators particularly for our projects in Kenya and Madagascar, often joining our expeditions and co-supervising our students. 


Quite a number of researchers, assistants and visitors have shared their time and contributions with GCC, making this group what it is today.

PhD and Licenciate researchers

Irene Conenna

2016-2021 Orcid

Ricardo Rocha



Antti Takolander



Piia Lundberg



Annika Harlio



Laura Meller



Henna Fabritius



Laure Zupan



Silvija Budaviciute



Johanna Eklund



Maria Triviño



Raquel A. Garcia



Heini Kujala



Postdoctoral Researchers

Aili Pyhälä 2013-18 Orcid
Erin Cameron 2013-18  
Marissa McBride 2013-15 Orcid
Julien Terraube 2015-20 Orcid
Sara Fraixedas 2017-20 Orcid
Álvaro Fernández-Llamazares 2017-22 Orcid
Anttoni Kervinen 2021-23  

MSc students

Taru Tornikoski 2023  
Lotta Hämäläinen 2021-23  
Markus Högmander 2020-22  
Giorgio Zavattoni 2020-22  
Cindy Schwenk 2020-22  
Eva Neffling 2020-21  
Sofi Heikkilä 2019-2020  
Suvi Huovelin 2018-19  
Jani Järvi   2015-17  
Katarina Meramo 2015-18 Orcid
Valerio Di Biase 2016   
Kati Suominen 2015-17  
Helena Uotila 2013  
Katja Rönkä 2013 Orcid
Riikka Kinnunen 2014-15 Orcid

Visiting scholars, research assistants and interns

Johanna Enström 2021 Finland
Suvi Sutinen 2020 Finland
Belete Tilahun Tefera 2020 Ethiopia
Bayarmaa Byambaa 2019 Mongolia
Joose Helle 2018-19 Finland
María Garteizgogeascoa 2018-19 Spain
Arun Gyawali  2018 Nepal
Bettina Sommarstorm 2016-18 Finland
Eva Hulsmans  2017 Belgium
Juan Gallego  2016 Spain
Cristina González  2016 Spain
Arnau Pou 2016 Spain
Johannes Nyman 2015-17 Finland
Ariadna Fontcuberta 2015 Spain
Eric Marcel Temba 2015 Madagascar
Anniina Mikkonen 2014 Finland
Victoria Veach 2012 USA
Tatiana Ivcovich 2007 Russia