Enrico Di Minin, who only recently established his own group, has gathered a team of motivated researchers from different fields.
Enrico Di Minin

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. 

Sofiya Bryukhova

PhD student, MSc

I am a PhD Student with a big passion for conservation biology. I have a Master's degree in Biodiversity, Genetics and Evolution with the University of Porto, in partnership with CIBIO-InBIO (Research Centre in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources), and my thesis was focused on the illegal trafficking of pangolins being performed on online platforms. The aim of my PhD research is to investigate wildlife trade by using an interdisciplinary approach where I will combine conservation science, geography, computer science and economics to assess the its global patterns and trends, and how market forces shape them.

Hayley Clements

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.

Ricardo Correia

Academy Research Fellow, 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 an Academy of Finland Research Fellow. 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. 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.

Ilmari Kohonen

Technical Assistant, MSc

Ilmari has a background in ecology (MSc, University of Helsinki), and he is broadly interested in biodiversity and conservation science. Prior to joining HELICS, he worked in the development of the spatial conservation prioritization software Zonation 5. Currently, Ilmari applies his spatial prioritization expertise in the context of global wildlife trade.

Ritwik Kulkarni

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’.

Mohammad Momeny

Postdoctoral researcher, PhD

I am a self-motivated researcher with ten years' experience, focused on text and image classification, object detection, and segmentation algorithms using MATLAB and Python (Keras, TensorFlow). In my doctoral studies, I developed a noise-robust convolutional neural network (CNN) for image classification. At Simon Fraser University in Canada), I worked to advance a strategy for data augmentation using the determination of the type and value of noise density to improve the robustness and generalization of deep CNNs for COVID-19 detection. At the University of Leicester in the UK, I collaborated in a project aiming to apply greedy AutoAugment for classification of mycobacterium tuberculosis image via generalized deep CNN using mixed pooling based on minimum square rough entropy. At the University of Florida in the US, I worked to introduce a novel method for detection of citrus black spot disease and ripeness level in orange fruit using learning-to-augment incorporated deep networks. In 2023, the passion for wildlife made me shift my research direction to investigating wildlife trade using machine learning at HELICS.

Jooel Rinne

MSc, Technical Assistant

Jooel completed his MSc in Geography specialising in Geoinformatics and Computer Sciences at the University of Helsinki. He completed his Master’s thesis with the Helsinki Lab of Interdisciplinary Conservation Science, focusing on mapping the wildlife trade of endemic species of the Caribbean Islands, using data from different sources of digital media.

Mika Siljander

Postdoctoral researcher, PhD

My research background and expertise are in geography (Development geography and Geoinformatics). I am currently employed as a grant-funded researcher working on a project funded by the Kone Foundation. I have over 20 years of experience in GIS and remote sensing research projects, as well as geoinformatics teaching. I began working on geoinformatics-related research projects in the late 1990s, first at the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) and then at the Metapopulation Research Group (Melitaea Cinxia-study) led by late prof. Ilkka Hanski. From there, I transferred to the University of Helsinki's Department of Geography and began my "mixed bag" career as a PhD student, project researcher, and geoinformatics teacher. I received my PhD in 2010 and worked as a geoinformatics teacher and researcher on various development projects in Eastern Africa, including TAITATOO, TAITAWATER, AFERIA, CHIESA, and GIERI. Prior to joining HELICS, I coordinated the TAITAGIS project in collaboration with Taita Taveta University in Kenya. Then I worked on the VECLIMIT project, which is concerned with vector-borne diseases (VBD) and COVID-19. As a scientist, I am particularly interested in forest fires, species distribution modeling, land use/land cover change (LULCC), conservation, vector-borne diseases (VBD), and search and rescue services (SAR) modeling. When I have time, I grab one of my guitars and just follow the music wherever it takes me.

Andrea Soriano Redondo

Postdoctoral researcher, PhD

Andrea Soriano Redondo is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellow who studies human impacts on animal populations and the potential mitigation strategies. During her PhD at the University of Exeter (UK) she studied the potential of animal reintroductions to increase the population numbers and distribution of Eurasian cranes (Grus grus), as well as, to raise public awareness on conservation issues. That was followed by two postdoctoral positions in the UK and in Portugal. In the first one, she focused on the links between animal migrations and their life history strategies, and the consequences for population dynamics and viability. In the second one, she studied the effects of food subsidies from human on the migration and fitness of white storks (Ciconia ciconia). In parallel, together with European colleagues, she has been undertaking research on conservation culturomics and is part of the Conservation Culturomics Working Group, from the Society for Conservation Biology. At HELICS, she works on a project to characterize the magnitude and geographic range of illegal wildlife trade on digital media and assess the subsequent impacts on biodiversity conservation. 

Miquel Torrents-Ticó

Postdoctoral researcher, PhD

Miquel Torrents-Ticó completed his Ph.D. in Carnivore Conservation from the University of Helsinki in 2023. During his Ph.D., he integrated Indigenous and Local Knowledge and promoted biocultural approaches to Carnivore Conservation. He also served as a guest scientist at the Department of Zoology at the University of Cambridge. His passion for studying human-wildlife interactions has led him to various locations worldwide, ranging from tropical rainforests to arid deserts, where he collaborated with different species. Notable sites include Costa Rica (working with olive Ridley Sea turtles), Ecuador (studying common woolly monkeys), South Africa (researching meerkats and Damaraland mole-rats), Botswana (investigating large predators), and Namibia (observing chacma baboons). His dedication to conservation has grown in response to the escalating conflicts between humans and wildlife, with a particular focus on Human-Carnivore Interactions. In his postdoctoral project at HELICS, he studies Human-Carnivore Interactions using digital data sources along with traditional surveys. Miquel Torrents-Ticó is also a member of the Hyaena Specialist Group within the IUCN Species Survival Commission and the Fulbright Finland Foundation, and a National Geographic Explorer.


Former HELICS lab members

Haider Alwasiti

Postdoctoral researcher, PhD

I have two decades of experience with electronic design and machine learning. Have been ranked in the top 1% of 145K competitors worldwide in Kaggle Deep Learning competitions. Developed & maintained 11 Android apps. Currently, I am exploring semantic search using machine learning for an efficient billion scale data mining of wildlife trade. I've worn many hats in my career--programmer, electronics designer, researcher, machine learning engineer, robotics engineer, and medical doctor. I like to approach engineering problems with a modular mindset. I believe complicated systems should be designed as a subset of simple, easy-to-use modules. Separation of concern, convention, and developer/designer cognitive load are essential to ensure long-lasting and maintainable systems. Coding and electronic design should be just as fun as coloring with crayons or building LEGOs.

Gonzalo Cortés-Capano

Postdoctoral researcher, PhD

Gonzalo is an interdisciplinary conservation scientist with a PhD in Interdisciplinary Environmental Sciences at the University of Helsinki, Finland (2021). He is mainly interested in geography, social-ecological systems, people-nature relations, stewardship, science-policy interfaces, sustainability and philosophy. In his research he follows critical interdisciplinary approaches, combining theories and methods from the natural and social sciences, working collaboratively with different stakeholders at different scales. He is 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. Previously, he worked at the Universidad de la República (Uruguay) and in at Vida Silvestre Uruguay, a national conservation NGO IUCN member. Over the years, he intergated and coordinated different interdisciplinary teams to help inform the design and implementation of different on-the-ground conservation initiatives to foster landowners' environmental stewardship and collaboration according to their values, motivations and needs. 

Christoph Fink

Postdoctoral researcher, PhD

Christoph is a cartographer and geographic information scientist who completed his PhD in the project “Investigating illegal wildlife trade: innovative approaches to inform global conservation policy”. He looked 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.

Jhonatan Guedes

Visiting PhD Student

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.

Anna Hausmann

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).

Fanny Keränen

MSc, BSc

Fanny completed her Master's degree within HELICS in the Environmental Change and Global Sustainability (ECGS) programme at the University of Helsinki, taking the Environmental Change study track in natural sciences. She had previously completed a Bachelor's degree in Geography. As a part of her previous studies, she did an internship in Chile in a local NGO working on issues related to the conservation of the endangered Sternula lorata, which gave her an excellent opportunity to put my GIS skills and theoretical knowledge into practice. Her research interests are related to biodiversity and conservation.

Marisofia Nurmi

MSc, BSc

Marisofia completed her Master's thesis at the University of Helsinki specializing in human and urban geography and spatial planning. In her studies she combined economics, social politics and environmental science with geography and GIS studies. Her interest in conservation issues arose during a field course in Taita Hills, Kenya. In her master’s thesis, she used a socio-economic approach to nature conservation by combining spatial analysis and economic modelling. Her work aims to support more sustainable and efficient biodiversity conservation practices in Sub-Saharan Africa.