Tag Archives: students’ view

Activities for development geographers

Welcome to plan some common activities for development geography students for the spring term. We could arrange together some film screenings, discussion sessions or reading groups. Come and share your ideas! We will meet at Monday 1st Feb at 12.00 at Kumpula Campus, near sofas. If you cannot come that time, but you are interested to join, you can send me an email, johanna.maliniemi@helsinkiXfi.

See you there!

Field trip in Ecuador

Soili Laurila

I had a chance to take part in the field trip in Ecuador that was organized for geography students last October (18.10.-31.10.2015). Our group was formed by 2 lecturers and 14 students from the University of Helsinki and 8 Ecuadorian students from the Universidad Estatal Amazónica (UEA) based in Puyo. We started the field trip from Quito, the capital of Ecuador by visiting some Ministries (and we even met a Minister!) and activists. We had carried out literature review earlier before the trip and this was the first time we could get firsthand information for our research projects. We had 4 different research topics, which I won’t explain in detail, and concerning deforestation, tourism and hydroelectric projects, accessibility of schools and ethnicity of indigenous Kichwa. You can learn more when the report gets printed out and published online.

A waterfall that we saw on the way from Baños to Puyo

A waterfall that we saw on the way from Baños to Puyo

Our field trip continued from Quito through the beautiful city of Baños, surrounded by amazing waterfalls and cloud forest. As we reached Puyo and the local University UEA, we met the Ecuadorian students taking part in the field trip. The research would then be carried out by groups that had both Ecuadorian and Finnish students involved. Once we got to the Pastaza province, we stayed at the CIPCA research station, which was located near small town of Santa Clara. Typical morning at CIPCA started waking up to a rooster crow way too early. If it wasn’t the rooster, then it was some exotic bird that I couldn’t name. We got up early, had breakfast at the station cafeteria and after that we spread out to go on with our research in the field. I was in the ethnicity group, which worked closely together with the accessibility group. Over the next days we conducted interviews and carried out surveys at the schools of Santa Clara, Ahuano and Sarayaku. The two nights trip to Sarayaku was a once in a life time chance to visit a remote community in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Getting there meant a long canoe trip along the Bobonaza River and the return trip to Puyo was made by small aircrafts. Walking the same paths that the children use to get to their local village schools was an adventure in itself.

The Universidad Estatal Amazónica

The Universidad Estatal Amazónica

Presenting our research results at a formal event at the UEA was the great finale after working hard to get the data and analysis together. The presentations were given partly in Spanish, partly in English at the auditorium with full audience. Some of the local lecturers gave their comments and what really made the occasion special was that we were handed diplomas. After stressing out how the presentations would turn out, this moment was full of joy and relief! Unfortunately it was also a time to say goodbye to our Ecuadorian friends as we started our journey back home. At the end of the field trip we still had few days off, which we spent in Finnish like temperatures in Oyacachi that is located in the Andes around 3500 meters above the sea level.

Getting ready for the canoe trip to Sarayaku

Getting ready for the canoe trip to Sarayaku

For me this was the first time in South America so the trip was full of new experiences. As I only knew few words (gracias, uno, dos, tres…) in Spanish, I was somewhat dependent on the translations provided by my fellow students. Obviously this could be quite frustrating and required an extra effort from others involved. The whole experience was a great lesson on how to do fieldwork in practice. Making decisions in a group had its own challenges, especially when there were conflicting interests among and between groups. Fieldwork also meant long hours sometimes without food and in this case in tropical conditions. It was also dealing with uncertainties as in the field things have a tendency to unfold differently than originally planned. Some things can’t be planned and it’s constant adapting to the new situations. Time gets whole new meanings and you better get used to waiting as moving in a big group isn’t always that smooth.


Visiting a class room in Santa Clara School

Visiting a class room in Santa Clara School

Despite all written above, we did have numerous unforgettable moments. The field trip made it possible to visit class rooms, conduct small surveys with children, interview teachers, principals and parents and interact with local people in a way that you normally wouldn’t. At the end of the day we had carried out a proper field research. That’s quite remarkable considering the limitations of time and defective language skills. All in all, the experience was amazing and it’s hard to put in words all the emotions and explain everything that happened during those two weeks. However, I do encourage everyone to go out there, travel, explore and take the chance of making a field research!

Children in front of the Kali Kali school in Sarayaku

Children in front of the Kali Kali school in Sarayaku

Why are we development geographers?

Johanna Maliniemi

At the last meeting we ate gingerbread and discussed why we are development geographers. There were as many answers as there were students!

Being able to have an influence was one of the first answers.

Last meeting in Studying Development Geography-course

Last meeting in Studying Development Geography-course.

– When I was 18, I applied directly to study development geography, because I wanted to change the world, says Nina Miettinen.

Many of us wanted to change world to a better place, but we also discussed that it is a difficult work. Development is a complex issue. Politics, economy, environment and human rights are all interconnected and it is not simple to make the change you want to see.

– I want to be part of the positive change or at least not to harm, Soili Laurila corrects.

Johanna Hakanen thinks that when you know more, you are forced to do something, and you also know how to do it. Even if the work is complex it feels that it is important, as Sara Haapanen thinks that our study field can affect to people’s lives.

– In development geography real life and research come together, Lim Yew summarizes.

Development geography is a subject where you are free to concentrate on various issues, and this was seen as a benefit.

– You can concentrate on what you want, says Marija Launonen, who has familiarized with indigenous people’s rights.

The other way round you could say that you don’t need to concentrate: if you want to do research on various different issues, you are free to do so. The field is not boring and there are new things happening all the time.

– As geographers we know a lot about different places, and we are able to use our skills, says Tommi Lapio.

– And if we do not know, we know where we find answers, Amica Dristig continues.

We also discussed whether the term development geographer works best to define us. Heikki Rahikainen told that his interest has changed more towards international politics.

– I would even say I have an identity crisis with the disciplines, he says.

Others would still include Heikki’s interests in development or in regional studies. Rebecca Jones told also that she is actually majoring in human geography but she is interested in development issues. The field of development geography is multidisciplinary, so actually it has things in common with many other disciplines. Geography is our own tool but we share many common interests with i.e. development studies.

Also there is a common thing among all geographers which Amica notices.

– We like maps and travelling!

It is a great opportunity that we can do research and at the same time we are able to see new places and get new experiences. We are in a great position to learn about development, societies and environment not only in a computer lab or library but also on the field in different countries and different situations.


Development geographers’ visit in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs

Heikki Rahikainen

“What will you become once you graduate?” This is the question that I have heard so many times. I don’t have any straight answer to that question, sometimes I just like to reply “I don’t know” or “a drunkard” (as it is a very popular and respected type of employment in Finland). Of course I have thought this question a lot like any other student.

We visited Markus Teir, Antti Putkonen and Nora Klami in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

We visited Markus Teir, Antti Putkonen and Nora Klami in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

So, many university students worry about their future employment as we don’t (usually) graduate for a certain occupation. What about us development geographers? One possible employer for us could be the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, which we visited last week. We had three speakers, who were diplomats with their study background in geography. They told us about their work in development aid and answered to some of our pre-given questions. However, I feel that the most important part of the excursion was about the job opportunities. As the employment opportunities in the ministry are highly contested between, say, political scientists, law studies and geographers, it was great to know that many geographer actually work there. The “geodiplomats” gave me a lot of confidence that it is possible to get involved in diplomacy although you are not majoring in international relations, law or business.

Career as a diplomat could be an excellent choice for a development geographer. We do have many skills and knowledge of issues that are useful in diplomacy. Perhaps to most useful “skill” that came up was the generalist nature of our studies. Development issues are also always important. Of course, we can’t compete with certain things, for example with the knowledge of laws, but that even isn’t the point, as diplomacy requires a range of different types of people, knowledge and skills.

However, diplomacy also brings its own challenges. As it came up in the excursion, diplomacy is more of a lifestyle as it (usually) involves working for years in foreign countries and readiness to act at any time of the day. This means that one has to make compromises in, for example, family life. The work can be quite unpredictable and complex, which itself may be even desirable, but it can also create very stressful situations. These things must be considered seriously but as we were told, most diplomats make their whole career in the area of diplomacy as it is so interesting and rewarding.

Thinking about the future, geography isn’t an obstacle, it’s much more an opportunity that opens range of possibilities. It will not give us any answers by itself: it’s up to us ourselves to make a good use of it.

Career opportunities for development geographers

Johanna Maliniemi

I think most of us have decided to study Development Geography, because we had a desire to change the world a fairer, safer and equal place. Study years have passed fast, and Master’s students need to really consider how to try to fulfil their goals after graduating. Volunteer work is always nice, but with many thousands’ euros study loan, you also need to think the salary. Great news was heard in our 4th seminar: there are many options to combine these goals!

We had two visitors in our meeting, who inspired and encouraged us by sharing their own paths in development career. The first speaker was Outi Hakkarainen from Kepa, who works as an officer for advocacy and development policy. Kepa is the umbrella organisation for Finnish civil society organisations who work in field of development cooperation, and Hakkarainen has worked there more than 10 years. Her career path went through Latin America, as Hakkarainen went to Mexico after studying and worked there years with issues of democracy. After years in Latin America, she decided to work in Finland and got work at first in Stakes and later in Kepa. Hakkarainen has a long experience of field of civil society, which is also goal for many development geographers.

Image/ Tuija Pakkanen

Image/ Tuija Pakkanen

Our second guest was Tuija Pakkanen from WSP Finland, in which Pakkanen worked in an urban architecture unit as an urban analyst. She has also a lot experience working abroad, as she has been in the US, Nicaragua and Nepal. Pakkanen is a good example that it is not only NGO’s in which development minded people can work. She has been working for various private sector companies which deal with environment. After finishing her Master’s studies in development geography, she got one year contract in the US Forest Service in California. After the experience in the US she got a GIS and forestry related job in Arbonaut Ltd in Nepal funded by the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs bilateral development cooperation programme. Pakkanen worked couple of years in Nepal, but then she wanted to work in Finland and got work in WSP. She thinks that by working in private sector, you can also change the world because you can make the companies to work sustainable way. She has used GIS skills a lot in her work, but she told that you do not necessarily need to be expert of GIS to get the works but to have some experience and confidence that you are able to learn more. You will learn the skills while working anyway.

Activism was mentioned by both guests to be a good quality in job seeking. Hakkarainen tells that she has always participated in activism and encourages students to do so. Activism and volunteer work would be a great place to learn also while you are studying. There are many student associations and other organizations were students can participate. Either it doesn’t need to be just hobby kind of thing but Hakkarainen mentioned that she sees it as a life style. Other mentioned qualities in job seeking were flexibility, interest in political issues, teamwork, quick to learner, open and active mind.

Benefits of being a development geographer were discussed also, and one of the key quality is, that geographers understand the wide issues and sees the multidimensional causalities. The development geographer is a person who understand how environment, society, markets and politics have impacts to different levels of society and who knows what could be the actions to change system to more sustainable and fair.

Migrants’ lives and the negotiation of their identities

Lim Yew Chen

Conference Building

This is the building where the conferences are held (RMIT Storey Hall). You can find more information about this particular conference from the following link: https://www.rmit.edu.au/events/all-events/conferences/2015/november/translating-impermanence-symposium/#pageId=overview.

 During the first week of November, I attended two conferences in Melbourne on migration in the world in the Asia-Pacific region. I am interested in the lives of migrants in the lower rungs of the society they moved into, and participated in the conference “Transient Migration in the Asia-Pacific: Identities, Social Networks, and Media” hosted at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.

The working group I took part in, explored the lives of migrants from countries like the Philippines and China to developed countries like Hong Kong and Australia. Presentations started with Catriona Stevens speaking on how low-educated, economic migrants from China arrived in Australia for temporary work but soon found it challenging to return back. This has made them “reluctant settlers” in Australia, where they stay because of the better education system that is offered to their children. This sudden influx of transient to permanent “identities” in Australia affects both policies and also their assimilation into the country. Next, Evelyn Kwok presented on the exploitation of Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong by their employers, the public and the Hong Kong government, with only a salary of 450 USD monthly for a 6 day work week. She also charts their identity construction through their place-making strategies in urban spaces. Lastly, Assoc. Prof Farida Fozdar presented on the lack of understanding on migrant workers’ social and cultural needs when Australia opened its borders to economic migrants to resolve its economic concerns. All these presentations have one key theme in mind that relates to development geography, which is the global movements of transient migrants and their marginalisation and exploitation if they are in the lower rungs of society. The presentations explore their “identities” i.e. their nationality, ethnicity and how this in turn affects their assimilation or segregation in their host countries. Indeed, migration is a challenge with increasing globalisation where diasporas and individuals are constantly challenged of their identities and their idea of home.

Inside the conferenceAfter this working group, the week of conferences ended on a poignant note- that academics should also look at how their researches can provoke thoughts and influence policies. As we study in various courses in development geography, hopefully we will also be able to apply our knowledge and research to help create a better place for those who are exploited and marginalised.



Students, do participate in conferences!

Marija Launonen

Etmu Days 2015 conference, Rovaniemi

A two-day conference called “Mobile Roots – Rethinking Indigenous and Transnational ties” took place in Rovaniemi and I participated as a listener. The overnight travel by train was a must (as a student, I got 50% discount for the tickets – yay!) and that was the main reason why I chose the train trip over flying.

Rovaniemi greeted me with grey weather.

Rovaniemi welcomed me with cloudy, misty, grey weather with bare trees – you might think that it was the same weather as in Helsinki, but in reality in Helsinki at that time still was golden autumn. Rovaniemi just looked like Helsinki might look after few weeks.

The main building of the University of Lapland, is at least 2 km’s away from the railway station and city center. I just walked there with my backpack.

The conference itself was about two main topics – indigenous people and mobility. 4 keynote speakers and the programme are described in the conference webpage: http://etmudays.etmu.fi/

My favorite keynote speech was that of Florian Stammler, “Mobility and rootedness as values, opportunities and threats in the Russian North”. It was not only interesting and informative, but also provoking and somehow innovative. Stammler explored mobility from indigenous perspective and questioned what “mobility” really means. He was taking as an example Nenets nomadic lifestyle and questioned, are the reindeer-herding Nenets rooted or rootless since they are very mobile in their lifestyle? And then he was comparing them to Russian workers, who live in stationary oil and gas towns – are these people rooted or rootless because they lead stationary way of life? In fact, as he explored, Nenets are the rooted people, despite them being nomadic, because they stay on their land by circular mobility, while Russian oil and gas workers are rootless, because they don’t stay long in Northern towns – usually just half-year. Stammler questioned the image of “mobility” in relation to “rootedness”.

I also participated in two workshops, one combining two topics: “Indigenous peoples’ self-determination over their culture and cultural heritage including sacred sites: challenges and best practices” and “Uprooted by Neoliberal Development: Forced Migration and Displacement in the Global South/North”. It was really interesting, and I was surprised by noticeable presence of researchers from Southern Asia! One researcher originally from Bangladesh, Afroja Khanam (University of Lapland), in her speech about “The cost of Neoliberal Development: The case of Padma bridge in Bangladesh”, spoke about forced migration in Bangladesh due bridge building. Another Bangladesh researcher, Shahnaj Begum (University of Lapland), spoke about “Challenges to the Human Security of Elderly Sámi in Finnish and Swedish Lapland”. She was an example of a researcher from South who is researching the North. Shahnaj Begum very kindly allowed to share her presentation in this blog. So here you are:


Tiina Seppälä’s collage related to her speech “Uprooted by Neoliberal Development: Social Movements Contesting Development-induced Displacement in Kolkata and Kathmandu”.

Another speaker, Tiina Seppälä (University of Lapland), was a more classical example of a researcher from North working on issues in South Asia (although she also works on global research) and spoke about “Uprooted by Neoliberal Development: Social Movements Contesting Development-induced Displacement in Kolkata and Kathmandu”. She also touched on similar issue as Afroja Khanam did, on forced migration of thousands of people in South Asia due to new construction projects. However, as they also recognised, Tiina Seppälä’s approach was more theoretical, while Afroja Khanam was more empirical. Unfortunately I don’t have presentations of neither speech, but Tiina Seppälä sent me this collage related to her topic:

Ajeet Narain Mathur, from the Indian institute of management in Ahmedabad, gave a presentation about “Diasporic Indigeneity around ties and ruptures in alien meta-cultures“. His speech was very theoretical, and not easy to understand.

Another speaker was touching on more practical issues,  Stefan Kirchner (University of Lapland). He spoke about “Indigenous sacred sites as Tourist Magnets” and kindly allowed me to share his presentation in this blog, so you can look at it:


In the second day, a workshop about “Moving memories: Oral histories about people’s movements across social, temporal, spatial and ideological borders” hosted different presentations, mostly related to Anthropology, but one was related to Geography. It was a presentation by two young Russian researchers, Svetlana Utsenyuk and Ilya Abramov (both from the Institute of History and Archaeology, Russia), on “Storied mobility”. Biographies of technologies and practices of movement among Russian reindeer nomads”. They talked about their ongoing research project, employing mixed research methods – both qualitative and quantitative. They researched mobility of reindeer-herders using oral histories, GPS technologies, and other. So far they made a field trip in Kola peninsula, but in the next years they are planning to go to Yamal peninsula and Chukotka.

The conference trip was a great success to me. I met many nice people, including the researchers.

Some researchers and a student. Top row (from left to right): Ilya Abramov (Institute of History and Archaeology, Russia), Svetlana Utsenyuk (Institute of History and Archaeology, Russia), Dudeck Stephan (one of conference's organisators) and Marija Launonen (a Development Geography student from University of Helsinki). Bottom row: Roza Laptander (University of Groeningen. She represents indigenous people Nenets), Tatiana Vagramenko (National University of Ireland Maynooth) with her little daughter.

Some researchers and a student. Top row (from left to right): Ilya Abramov (Institute of History and Archaeology, Russia), Svetlana Utsenyuk (Institute of History and Archaeology, Russia), Dudeck Stephan (one of conference’s organisators) and Marija Launonen (a Development Geography student from University of Helsinki). Bottom row: Roza Laptander (University of Groeningen. She represents indigenous people Nenets), Tatiana Vagramenko (National University of Ireland Maynooth) with her little daughter.



From UK to Finland and now into “life quality” issues

Sara Haapanen

I’m going to give my age away here being the wrong side of 35, but along with the grey hair, wrinkles and lack of sleep kids bring I’ve learned a few things along the way. I graduated from a great university back in 2000 and loved it. Much like studying here, the department staff were very informative, helpful and very approachable. I was happy, learning and having fun.

For the second year, we were offered an exchange to Joensuu, Finland. This was the one and only chance to do an exchange as they weren’t very popular back then.  I had never flown before, never been outside of the UK and just decided I would do it. I was the only one out of the whole year to join up – I can sum my feelings up in one word – NERVOUS! I knew so little about Finland mostly that fish was popular and it was cold in the winter.

I think everyone was a bit shocked when I announced I was off for half a year, one friend’s stunned comeback was “but what about reindeer walking down the street?” But I got lots of support from friends and family, useful presents like hats and scarfs, lots of ‘good luck’ cards to decorate my new room with. Preparation wise, I worked over the summer to save some money, applied for all the loans and grants that were possible and made my budget. Bought a return ticket so that I knew even if I found it a struggle it would be time limited. Properly checked the weather and bought and packed suitable wear and then it was time to be off.

SCAN0241   And it turned out to be the best thing I ever did! The biggest shock was the white empty studio room I had, quickly corrected with blu-tac, a pile of photos and all my cards. But I made lots of friends, had lots of fun and some very new experiences.

My degree is in geography but because of arts/sciences definition I needed to study in the forestry department. It was a completely new topic to me, do you know the joke about taking a road trip in Finland? It goes like this “tree, tree, ABC, tree, tree ABC, tree, tree, ABC”. That was pretty much my tree knowledge summed up. Thankfully I can say I managed to improve on that.

I learned a lot about trees and Finnish nature and it was fascinating.  I learned about Finnish forestry processes and the livelihoods that were dependent on it. I learnt about wood biomass (the energy gained from wood), peat bogs, paper production and berries. The forests had gone from being somewhere peaceful and scenic to walk in to being a huge provider that so many people were dependent on.

I managed to learn about Finns outside of this course too. Through making Finnish friends and taking some trips. I learned about things they loved ice-hockey, sauna and Nordic walking to state the obvious things. But knowing the people and the important of the forest environment made me understand why nature is treasured so much in Finland. It means life. The provision of food, wood for heating, the resources generate income, the peace and tranquility to be in the middle of a scenic forest like no one else is around. Peace, relaxation and mindfulness.

Development geography was not something I had studied before I started at Helsinki (I did a combination of human and physical for my BSc Honours) but on reflection I can comment on it. Development geography is of course studying to look at the standard of living or quality of life. Comparing it to the UK I could see it was what we may call a “no brainer”.  Finns had and still do in my opinion have a very high standard of living. The economy has it ups and downs but in general thrives and I felt was doing well when I visited. The population was well looked after by a welfare state, which meant no one should really have to go without those things I consider to be a basic human right.  Work life was much more limited to those work hours and meant free time could actually be enjoyed with friends and family and I feel most importantly in the nature. Growing up I lived in a busy seaside resort and trips to the real countryside were cherished. Where I lived in Joensuu, I had a beautiful forest and lake five minutes’ walk from my apartment. To me it seemed Finland had it all, and it was not hard to see why it was such a beautiful country.

I’ve lived in Finland a while now (and yes I’m sorry my Finnish is terrible but I keep trying!). I’ve worked for more years than I care to count teaching daycare and having my own children in the middle. I wanted and needed a change and really felt that I wanted to study again. At university I had really developed a passion for human geography and wanted to follow that up. I applied to study geography here, never thought I would get in and still vividly remember getting the acceptance email and bursting into tears in the middle of serving lunch to my class. It was only when I went to talk to the study advisor that I found my area would be development geography. I had to go home and read up on it. And well, I was delighted. It was completely “me”. I couldn’t be happier to say I’m completely loving it. I think it’s fair to say we all like a little moan about the work load from time to time or some essay/topic we are struggling with, but I couldn’t be happier. I completely made the right choice.


When we study somewhere new and especially in a new country the whole process is learning. It’s adapting your lifestyle, manners and changing your comfort zones to fit in with other’s view’s and values. It’s changing yourself. I think it makes you value other people’s beliefs, cultures and living much more.

That exchange trip changed me as person for the better and I got some valuable experiences both personal and academically.  On an exchange you will learn so much, see things in a new light and develop new ways of thinking. If you are thinking about taking an exchange somewhere, just do it.

Opportunities in University of Helsinki

Amica Dristig

There are more study possibilities for development geographers at our University than many could think of. At our third meeting we had the opportunity to get more familiar with them.

We met Heini Vihemäki from the Global South Network, a multidisciplinary network for research and education on development and international cooperation. She spoke about the possibility to choose Global South Studies as a minor. So what do you learn from having it as a minor? Well, you get diverse approaches to development coming from a variety of disciplines and themes, and this will improve professional capacities to work in different international environments. Check out more here: HUGS

Image by quotesgram.com/exchange-student-year-quotes

Development geographers tend to travel a lot and usually enjoy different cultures and new adventures, so what better way than to visit a new country? Raisa Asikainen came to tell more about student exchange opportunities outside the Erasmus programme, based on bilateral programmes that can be used by all students of the University of Helsinki. There aren’t many requirements for students wanting to apply. First, you need to have 60 ECTS credits, and then to show you have the language skills used in host country, e.g. Portuguese in Brazil and French in Madagascar. I have never heard of anyone regretting an exchange year and I hope I will get to go before I graduate. So, choose a continent and a country then look up the universities with exchange agreements and apply in time. More information here: Flamma

Image by blogs.helsinki.fi/kehy-valiokunta

We also heard of cooperation programmes where students can be involved. Marketta Vuola, who recently graduated in development geography, came to tell us about the Development Cooperation Committee of the Student Union of the University of Helsinki (HYY).  One of the development cooperation committees task is to raise awareness and discussion on global development issues among university students and any HYY member is welcome to join. They also have funded projects in Zambia and Bangladesh, which focus on improving reproductive health and quality of life for women and girls in Zambia. The new Bangladesh project is a people-led climate change resiliency program with focus on indigenous knowledge. They also have other activities you can check them here: Kehy


Image by kehmy.fi

Image by kehmy.fi

Another graduate development geographer, Matias Andersson, introduced KEHMY RY, an association for development geographers. It’s basically our community! It’s quite small community but aims to support research in development geography and generate awareness on global development issues. The association organizes study trips, excursions and events. It also has its own magazine, Maapallo. Anyone can join by just paying a small fee. If this all sounds perfect then check them out at here

A Look at the Uses

Rebecca Jones

“What kind of professional skills can you get from studying Development Geography?” is a question I am often asked when I try and explain to people what courses I study as a Geographer. Well as it turns out there are numerous things that this area of study can be used for once you graduate and this week’s lecture summed up some of the opportunities perfectly. Various thematic focuses and methods – such as qualitative, quantitative and GIS methods – can be learnt and applied to different professions. For instance, GIS and remote sensing are examples of ways in which you can get involved in work revolving around Development Geography.


If anyone reading this doesn’t know what GIS is, it is an acronym for ‘Geographical Information System’ and is basically a system in which you can map spatial data. For instance, we can map land use and land cover changes, urban growth, and forest cover change which can all be combined to explore water management. Cool right? Remote sensing on the other hand is a way of scanning the earth via satellite or aircraft to gather information about it as in the adjacent image.

Geography is suddenly sounding pretty useful, right?


This lecture was such an eye opener for me, with guest speaker Mika Siljander shining a bright light onto this occupational path I hadn’t even considered. There’s so much environment and development work going on in Africa, like the TAITAWATER project in East Africa which utilises land use mapping in the form of Satellite images, airborne images and vector GIS in order to protect the environment



But you’re not restricted to this kind of imaging. Something I didn’t even know existed was laser scanner data that could make tree models to assess above ground biomass and carbon assessment. Just look how cool that is! Basically, laser scanning creates a 3D image of the environment and can be used to gather data that can aid in analysis and planning of projects.

Of course, these are only a couple of things that you can do with Geography. In truth there are numerous professions you can go into. So if you’re a Geographer don’t sit there worrying about what you can do once you graduate. Even if you aren’t all that interested in the GIS and imaging option don’t be disheartened because there are a lot of other opportunities out there for you!

Images: 1.Petri Pellikka, 2. Mika Siljander, 3. Vuokko Heikinheimo