Big data, big changes: Project MOBICON in the Canary Islands for a workshop and presentations

The Canary Islands are a biodiversity, geodiversity and tourism hotspot, boasting one of the most visited national parks in Europe (Teide in Tenerife). Tourism is the backbone of the local economy, but the growing masses of visitors put an unsustainable strain on the islands’ beautiful nature.

A collage of six photos: three of them of workshops and lecture halls, three from nature.

The islands are also acutely impacted by climate change and other megatrends including aging of population in Europe or digitalisation changing work life. On top of the traditional tourists, the islands are now receiving masses of long-term visitors seeking warm wintering grounds on the islands.  

These factors make the Canary Islands an interesting study area for the MOBICON project, where we study changes in nature visitation and their impacts on biodiversity conservation as well as the applicability of mobile big data sources for extracting visitor information.  

We (team Mobicon: Aina, Matti, Tatu and Tuuli) visited the islands of Gran Canaria and Tenerife in March 2024 for establishing collaboration with local universities and to collect research data through stakeholder discussions. Some highlights of the trip below.

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Changes in nature visitation and the potential of mobile big data for visitor monitoring – Report from an expert workshop out now!

Aina Brias Guinart introducing a workshop task to the participants.

The importance of natural areas for recreation and conservation alike is critical, yet we often don’t know how many people visit them and why. Such information is necessary for the management and development of natural areas, which is why research by our lab and others have considered mobile big data sources (think data from mobile phones, social media etc.) as a way to monitor outdoor recreation. Yet, translating scientific research into actionable information for management is not straightforward – is it even wise? What kind of information do managers of natural areas need? What sort of changes do they managers see, how do these affect their information needs, and what sort of larger trends drive these changes? 

Researchers in project Mobicon called together experts from Finnish nature organizations to reflect on these questions in September 2023. The aim of the workshop was to collect expert opinions related to the changes in the recreational use of nature, the monitoring needs related to the changing visitations, and to discuss the possibilities of various new data sources to meet managerial information needs. 

This workshop was the first of a series repeated in March 2024 in the Canary Islands. We have now released a report on the outcome of the Helsinki workshop. Check it out! 

In English: 


If you wish to cite the reports, you may use:

Toivonen, T., Brias Guinart, A., Eklund, J., Hästbacka, M., Leppämäki, T. and Torkko, J. (2023). Potential of mobile big data for visitor monitoring: Report of the MOBICON workshop held in Helsinki 28.9.2023. Helsinki: Digital Geography Lab, University of Helsinki. doi:10.31885/2024.030501

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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.

DGL’s map gallery for #30DayMapChallenge 2023

November came and went, and with it the fifth annual map challenge. The concept is simple: every day has a theme, which is interpreted more or less freely and refined into beautiful cartographic visualizations.

The Digital Geography Lab partook this year with a whopping 29 contributions by 10 lab members. These maps are a globetrotting travel through five continents and cover a range of themes, datasets, and methods from population and dogs to – gummy bear cartography?? Mapmaking was spearheaded by our PhD student Matti Hästbacka, who posted the maps X and Mastodon and created half of them!

See our map gallery for this year is below. Also check out our maps for the year 2022.

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