Wrapping up a successful and exciting year 2023!

It’s time to wrap up the year 2023 – and what a year it has been for Digital Geography Lab! We’ve kick-started new research, but have also picked the fruits of many long-term projects.

The year has been a blast with many joyful and productive moments together!

New big projects started!

Our lab has been running, or participating in, altogether 12 projects. Tuuli Toivonen’s new ERC Consolidator grant project GREENTRAVEL started early this year and now the team is full and in full speed. Also new H2020 project MOBITWIN has just been kicked off, with Olle Järv leading a work package. At the end of the year, we are finalizing projects MAPHEL by Tuomo Hiippala and H2020 project URBANAGE where Christoph Fink has made a lion’s share. Olle’s  BORDERSPACE and Tuuli’s MOBICON projects and the Urban AirQuality 2.0 consortium continued in full force, while Johanna Eklund‘s Sustainable conservation outcomes for protected areas was more on hold during her maternity leave.

We also received new funding! We are now part of a big national Location Innovation Hub. Tuuli is part of MSCA Doctoral network VIMAS, which is just recruiting 10 PhD candidates across the northern Europe to explore the questions of outdoor recreation and tourism. Olle received positive funding decision also as part of the WinWin4Worklife consortium which is set study questions of remote work arrangements from 2024 onwards. Related to the new projects, we have three positions currently open.

We worked together in individual project, but also to develop the lab as a whole. Here on our summer strategy day on an island setting.

People in the Lab

This year, many new people have joined the group. By the end of the year 2023, we are already 20 researchers with 10 nationalities. The titles of people in the lab have become more diverse, as the new projects have brought also more technical and administrative expertise to the group. Kamyar Hasanzadeh came to stay as he started as a new lecturer in geoinfomatics in August. In GREENTRAVEL project, the team grew rapidly: Silviya Korpilo started as postdoc to work with  controlled experiments and a broader survey, Roope Heinonen works with the GREENPATHS routing tool, PhD researcher Jussi Torkko with street view imagery, PhD researcher Robert Klein with exposure during travel, Rory Taylor has been building an extensive survey and Omkaranathan Ravindran and Ashish Shete advance the VR development. In the MOBICON project new people joined: postdoc Aina Brias Guinart carries out stakeholder workshops while PhD researcher Matti Hästbacka analyses big data to understand mobilities of nature visits. In BORDERSPACE project, Michaela Söderholm joined as research assistant developing automated tools to measure and map border regions from human mobility data.

Otherwise, many key lab members continued: Olle Järv, Johanna Eklund, Christoph Fink, Tuomas Väisänen, Tatu Leppämäki, Elias Willberg, Kerli Müürisepp, Oleksandr Karasov, Håvard Aagesen and Tuuli Toivonen. On the other hand, brilliant Janika Raun returned to the University of Tartu and Laura Hintsanen had a shorter contract.

The lab hosted also excellent visiting researchers. Ago Tominga from the Mobility Lab of Tartu University spent the spring with us working on cross-border mobility of transnational people, while Kofoworola Modupe Osunkoya from Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech) working on urban vitality just started her visit this December.

Group celebrating the summer (upmost),  the closing of the year (middle) and Kerli’s defence (lowermost)! Johanna Eklund, Aina Brias, Michaela Söderholm, Omkaranahthan Ravindran, Ashish Shete and Laura Hintsanen are missing from these pics. The lowermost pic features also some past and more remote members of the group, namely Vuokko Heikinheimo, Age Poom, Joel Jalkanen, Henrikki Tenkanen, Matti Mattinen and Claudia Bergroth)

 Four PhDs and more than a paper per month out!

The biggest thing was the completion of four wonderful doctoral journeys!

🌟  Elias defended on the 2nd of June 2023 with Trisalyn Nelson, Jack and Laura Dangermond Endowed Chair of Geography, University of California Santa Barbara, as the opponent. The title of the thesis was Measuring sustainable accessibility: Geospatial approaches toward integrating people and the environment.

🌟 Aina defended on the 20th September, with Senior Research Fellow Sarobidy Rakotonarivo, Department of Forestry and Environment, University of Antananarivo, Madagascar acting as the opponent. Aina did her PhD in the Global Change and Conservation research group with the title Shaking Environmental Education Paradigms. Practitioners’ narratives, contextual elements, and biocultural approaches. She continues with us as a postdoctoral researcher.

🌟 Tuomas a.k.a. Väiski defended on 10th November 2023 with Associate professor  Grant McKenzie, from the Department of Geography at McGill University acting as the opponent. The thesis was titled Diversity of places and people: Using big data to understand languages and activities across geographical space.

🌟 Kerli defended her thesis on the 25th November with Mei-Po Kwan from the Chinese University of Hong Kong as the opponent. The thesis was titled Capturing segregation through space and time: New insights from the activity space approach and big data.

Otherwise we advanced academically on a steady pace publishing more than a paper per month, plus many reports and shorter texts. The articles covered empirical work from the Nordic countries focusing on questions of environmental exposure, segregation and diversity though the lens of mobility or accessibility. We also presented our work on conceptual papers and tool descriptions. Check all our publications here!

Kerli, Tuomas and Elias were the stars of the year as our #Doctors2023!

Teaching and many invited talks

The new module based curriculum came to force in the MSc programme of Geography. This is interesting for geography but also as Tuuli was the director of the degree programmes when the module structure was planned.

As earlier, we were responsible for highly popular courses Introduction to Advanced Geoinformatics, Geopython, Automating GIS processes and Advanced Seminar in Geoinformatics. This year, we also started a new course Digital Geographies and Big Data for Society and put a lot of effort on the new course History and Key Concepts of Geography. Cheers to everyone, but particularly the course responsibles Olle, Kamyar, Chris, Tuomas and Tuuli!

The new course Digital Geographies and Big Data for Society coordinated by Olle was exciting for both students and for the teachers. The final seminar was organized on a day of public transportation strike. Still, almost all students made their way to the campus through the snow. #respect

Throughout the year, our lab has been privileged to host distinguished speakers. Professors Trisalyn Nelson, Grant McKenzie and Mei-Po Kwan not only acted as the opponents in our PhD defenses but also gave exciting lectures in our new GeoSPA Talks series.

Conferences, networking trips and stakeholder engagement

We reached out to the scientific community and society around us in many ways. We presented our work in a number of conferences including GIScience, RSA, ERSA and ECQTG. We spent productive time with collaborators in Cambridge, London, Las Palmas, Leuven, Luxemburg, Munich, Tartu and Copenhagen and gave talks in Augsburg and New York. Closer by, we were happy to work with collaborators e.g. at Aalto University, Elisa Oyj, SYKE, FMI, HSY,  LUKE, the City of Helsinki and Metsähallitus.

We used Twitter actively (particularly Matti during the #30DayMapChallenge!) and were actively blogging.

We organized several stakeholder events to share and develop our work further. For example, the new Travel Time Matrix was presented both at Tiedekulma and in Night of Science for general audience. Here Roope, Christoph, Eemil Haapanen, Kamyar and Matti are setting up the tables for the event.

Olle and Tuomas (on the right) participating in the kick off meeting of the MOBITWIN project in Gröningen.

Omkaranahtan, Robert, Silviya and Tuuli visiting Gunnar Cerwén (left) in SLU Alnarp.

Personal successes and family life

The lab members had many personal successes, on top of our great #doctors2023! Olle gained a docentship in human geography, Chris won the competitive MSCA Fellowship to take a new academic leap in Vienna in 2024, Tuuli finished her Specialist Vocational Qualification in Leadership and Business Management, Kamyar got a permanent position as a University Lecturer and Matti finalized his MSc and got funding to cover his entire PhD thesis. Towards the end of the year we got two big news more: Tuomo got the ERC Consolidator grant and Johanna an Associate professorship! Yay and cheers to all!

Finally, this year has been special for many also beyond work. We have celebrated two marriages and three newborns! ❤️

Now it’s time to relax and enjoy the holidays!

❤️ Cheers to everyone and Merry Christmas, Happy holidays and best ever New Year to all! Looking forward to joint scientific adventures in 2024! ❤️

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The Digital Geography Lab is an interdisciplinary research team focusing on spatial Big Data analytics for fair and sustainable societies at the University of Helsinki.