People

Associate Professor of Conservation Geography, PhD

I am an interdisciplinary conservation scientist with interests ranging from economics to computer science. I am a European Research Council Starting grantee. I am Italian, but partly grew up in Africa where I learnt about the complexities of achieving biodiversity conservation under increasing human pressure. I did my PhD at the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology at the University of Kent, UK. My research background and expertise are relevant to investigate the interactions among biosphere, society and economy, which affect sustainability. I have specific interests in land use planning; spatio-temporal modelling; environmental economics, and machine learning. I address these topics by using cross-disciplinary research and big data, globally to locally. I have been among the first conservation scientists to mine and use data from digital platforms. 

Postdoctoral researcher, PhD

Hayley is an interdisciplinary conservation scientist who is interested in applying social-ecological systems thinking to identify resilient and equitable conservation opportunities in a changing world. Her PhD at the University of Cape Town (South Africa) assessed the social-ecological drivers of private land conservation in South Africa. She then undertook postdocs researching protected area effectiveness at Monash University (Australia) and resilience indicators at Stellenbosch University (South Africa). Funded by the Kone Foundation, Hayley’s research at the University of Helsinki assesses the role of trophy hunting in support of biodiversity conservation, people and the economy in southern Africa. This project explores whether trophy hunting presents a synergy between biodiversity conservation and sustainable development in a region known for both its biodiversity and its poverty; considers local, regional and global power dynamics that influence who benefits from biodiversity conservation; and objectively assess evidence underlying an emotionally heated global debate. Hayley is also affiliated with the Centre for Complex Systems in Transition at Stellenbosch University.

Postdoctoral researcher, PhD

I am a conservation scientist with a PhD in Environmental Sciences from the University of East Anglia and the University of Lisbon (2015), currently working as a post-doctoral researcher in the project `Tracking societal responses to sustainability issues using social media data`. I am an interdisciplinary researcher with multiple interests including the use of digital data for conservation, human-nature interactions, land and protected area management and the impact of environmental change on biodiversity. My current research aims to explore how the digital revolution can contribute towards conservation science and practice. In particular, I am actively investigating how new digital data sources (e.g. social media platforms, search engines) and analytical methods (e.g. machine learning, natural language processing) can be used to generate novel insights on the relationship between humans and nature to inform conservation action and policy. I am also co-leading the Conservation Culturomics Working Group, part of the Society for Conservation Biology. In the past, I have also worked on areas as diverse as species distribution modelling, community ecology and animal movement, and have carried out research in multiple countries including Portugal, UK, Brazil, Spain and Morocco. Much of this work focused on minimizing and managing the impacts of human activities on natural ecosystems and demonstrating the multiple forms of value provided by nature to humans.

Postdoctoral researcher, PhD

Anna is a researcher in conservation biology, who holds a PhD from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (2017), currently working as a post-doctoral researcher in the project project Quantifying the global patterns and trends of the illegal wildlife trade: from artificial intelligence to financial market analysis funded by ERC. Her research interests include interdisciplinary approaches to inform biodiversity conservation decision-making. In particular, her research focuses on using novel data mined from social media platforms to inform conservation management and marketing in protected areas. In her PhD, Anna used social media data along with traditional surveys to explore tourists' preferences for nature-based experiences in protected areas in sub-Saharan Africa, focusing particularly on South Africa. The work helped to unveil new ecotourism markets and conservation opportunities for neglected biodiversity (e.g. less charismatic species) and cultural ecosystem services (sense of place).

Postdoctoral researcher, PhD

I am a Machine Learning researcher who finds great joy in applying my skills to help in biodiversity conservation. I aim to explore and build Machine Learning techniques to analyse and identify illegal wildlife trade using natural language processing and image analysis. My background consists of completing graduation in Physics (University of Pune, India) and then obtaining a Ph.D. in computational neuroscience (SISSA, Italy), wherein I applied theoretical models of statistical mechanics to modelling brain function. Specifically, I explored the natural language mechanisms in the brain using neural network models. Further, I did post-doctoral work (Middlesex University, UK) on more fine grained neural network models using spiking neural networks applied to vision and natural language processing. In the recent past I have been working in the industry (London ,UK) as a Machine Learning researcher to explore various modelling techniques under the popular umbrella term of ‘Artificial Intelligence’.

PhD candidate, MSc

Gonzalo is working on his PhD in Interdisciplinary Environmental Sciences. His thesis focuses on identifying appropriate strategies to promote private land conservation according to the preferences, motivations and needs of landowners, and to national institutional contexts. To do this he follows interdisciplinary approaches, combining methods from the natural and social sciences and working collaboratively with decision-makers, practitioners and landowners. The focus area of the study is Uruguay, where most of the territory is privately owned. In addition to his thesis, Gonzalo works in the Universidad de la República (Uruguay) and in Vida Silvestre Uruguay, a national conservation NGO, and is broadly interested in social-ecological systems, science-policy interface and sustainability science.

PhD candidate, MSc

Christoph is a cartographer and geographic information scientist and currently pursues his PhD in the project “Investigating illegal wildlife trade: innovative approaches to inform global conservation policy”. He looks into ways to combat the illegal trade of wildlife artefacts by tapping social media data and mining it in an automated machine-learning analysis and filtering process. Previous stations in Christoph’s career include the University of Salzburg, where he researched on modelling urban transformation, and the University of Vienna, where he developed GIS tools for qualitative research. The ontological and epistemological challenges of employing cartography and GIS as research methods stay in the forefront of Christoph’s research interest, as well as their technological advancement. Favourite personal asset: insatisfiable curiousity.

PhD Candidate, MSc

I am a PhD student at the Federal University of Alagoas (Brazil) and member of the 21st Century Conservation Lab (LACOS21), currently interested in Internet-based approaches to measure public interest in Protected Areas (PAs). In my research, I want to understand if the public interest is related to resistance to sociopolitical changes in Protected Areas in Brazil (eg. unauthorized activities, downsizing, downgrading, deforestation, etc). To do this, I am collecting data from platforms such as Wikipedia and TripAdvisor to understand their users’ patterns and trends about Protected Areas, and then compare it against data of threats and pressures such as PADDD events, agricultural land use, and mining. As a visiting student at HELICS, I intend to use sentiment analysis techniques to improve understanding of public feelings about PAs and to learn new approaches to using digital data on conservation. I am interested in conservation public policies and ways of informing society and decision makers with up-to-date information.

MSc student, BSc

My name is Fanny and I am a Master's student in the Environmental Change and Global Sustainability (ECGS) programme at the University of Helsinki, taking the Environmental Change study track in natural sciences. I have previously completed a Bachelor's degree in Geography. As a part of my previous studies, I did an internship in Chile in a local NGO working on issues related to the conservation of the endangered Sternula lorata, which gave me an excellent opportunity to put my GIS skills and theoretical knowledge into practice. My research interests are related to biodiversity and conservation, which is why I am happy to do my research group training as well as my Master’s thesis as a part of the Helsinki Lab of Interdisciplinary Conservation Science.

MSc student, BSc

I am a MSc student in Geography specialising in Geoinformatics and Computer Sciences at the University of Helsinki. I chose to do my Master’s thesis with the Helsinki Lab of Interdisciplinary Conservation Science because it gives me the opportunity to develop my knowledge and practical skills in my fields of study further, while contributing to important conservation issues. In my thesis I am concentrating on mapping the wildlife trade of endemic species of the Caribbean Islands, using data from different sources of digital media.

MSc student, BSc

I am a Master's student at the University of Helsinki specializing in human and urban geography and spatial planning. In my studies I have combined economics, social politics and environmental science to my geography and GIS studies. My interest in conservation issues arose during a field course in Taita Hills, Kenya. In my master’s thesis I’m going to take a socio-economic approach to nature conservation by combining spatial analysis and economic modelling. My work aims to support more sustainable and efficient biodiversity conservation practices in Sub-Saharan Africa.