“Coronavirus Hysteria has Proven that Food Security is Not a Cliché.”

At the final seminar on 27th of April, the groups presented their pitches to the partners and the whole class. All the ideas and solutions were great, the presentations were beautiful and even though the seminar was online everything worked well (or even better) than expected. Good job everyone!

We were the final group to have the presentation and waiting our turn was the hardest part of the seminar. We were super excited about our solution; we prepared our work carefully and practiced the pitch a lot. Our group did a great job and we truly enjoyed the process.

After the seminar session we proceeded to a meeting with our partner e2 and mentor teachers. Among many other things, we discussed about the extreme topicality of our challenge. Our partner, e2, is using their knowledge and experience in different working groups, and we found out that they are also solving the problems regarding the current food supply chain’s situation. So, it was nice to hear that our work is important for their needs. During the course we worked quite independently and met with e2 just a couple of times. Therefore, we were happy to get good feedback. Our partner is very pleased with our work and they gratefully take all the material we can give to them. We also got invited to their office once the situation normalizes, yay!

We also talked about the difficult parts of our work: the time limitations, flood of information and about conducting a qualitative research which really was a puzzle as none of us had any previous experience in it. We got so much material that we really had to knock our wise heads together (remotely, of course) and work as a team to come up with a suitable solution for the course’s purposes.

The final seminar went remote too!

Difficulties, or should we call them challenges, usually lead to learning, as happened with us during these couple of months. This course was unique for us in two ways: we had a very hot topic and we worked almost totally remotely. When Kaisa, from e2, asked what we have learned during the course, our answers circled around these two themes. We deepened our knowledge about the food system especially here in Finland and understood even better how connected countries are to each other. Even though Finland produces a lot of food, we are still dependent on other countries regarding for example fertilizers and fuel. The course was also a step into remote working and studying. We are happy that we got to meet each other a couple of times before the course went online, but we, and it seems like the whole course, were surprised how well we worked from home! For us the most useful platform, besides Zoom, was definitely Flinga, where we made lot of mind maps especially in the first phase of the course.

In the general discussion with all the students and teachers, other students mentioned that they worked more efficiently like this. Also, the possibility for more flexible working times was seen as a plus. Remote working does not seem like such a challenge after this course.

All in all, our group is very happy with the final seminar, and our work in general. It was so nice to see the smiles on our group members’ faces when we had presented our work and gotten good feedback from e2. We did it!

Take home message: trust the process!


Final Steps & Presentations: The Greyseals

The project is coming to its end. It has been an extraordinary spring with all the changes in the study arrangements due to the coronavirus. As we had to do all the work for the project remotely, we can only guess if the outcome is possibly different than what it would have been if we would have worked at the university the whole time. Still, probably not better or worse, though. Anyhow, we have a solution!

As underwater noise is not a commonly known problem even among the boaters, our solution was to raise awareness about the matter. Our aim is to reach every generation affecting the underwater noise and to increase their knowledge about it. The solutions we have presented and constructed for the Baltic Sea Challenge are an info poster, kids’ activity booklet, and a social media campaign.

We created the poster to increase knowledge about the effects of underwater noise and to remind people about what they can do in their everyday lives to reduce underwater noise. It is meant for every boating café and club to reach the boating community. Through the QR-code, people will be able to find more information, for example about how species are affected by the underwater noise.

The kids’ activity booklet was created because kids are future boaters. The aim is to educate a new enlightened boater generation through fun and play. The booklet includes child friendly information, pictures, word puzzles and a quiz created for children aged 7-13 and it’s intended for schools and boating courses across the country.

The social media campaign will introduce the issue to the boater and coastal community and will show people how their actions can have an impact. The campaign includes 15 posts in May of 2020 in Instagram, Linked-In, Facebook and Twitter, and it will be identified by #hiljaisempiitämeri and #melusaastehaaste.

Last week we tested our prototypes (the kids activity booklet and the poster) on our friends who are boaters or fishermen, and kids we know. The feedback we got from them was positive and constructive, and with their help we continued developing our campaign forward. Many people in our testing groups said they had never heard that underwater noise can have an impact on ecosystems and that noise can affect so many different animals. This shows us that this type of project is definitely needed. The subject is also very current, since this week in their science section, Helsingin Sanomat wrote about the effects of underwater noise to whales, coupled with an ad for motorboats.

We have met online usually a couple times a week throughout the course. We are lucky to have so good technology nowadays to tackle the distance. The shared material reached everyone and working together remotely went smoothly. And in this weird social distancing time, the course provided some much-needed structure and social contacts to cover for the lack of lectures.

We are really excited to see the Baltic Sea Challenge launch our campaign and share this information with the boating community and other people living by the Baltic Sea. Fish don’t wear earplugs, so after all, people are the solution! We are hopeful to hear nothing but the lovely waves from Baltic Sea in the future.

The Pathfinders: What we learned from prototyping

We are The Pathfinders, the group working with the City of Helsinki to monitor and prevent the degradation of nature areas caused by trampling. Our final solution for monitoring the degradation is to set up permanent cameras to take photos periodically of the paths and the ground and use them to observe changes. For prevention, our final solution is to run an online educational campaign to raise awareness of the harmful effects that trampling causes for nature.

To prototype our solution, we decided to do three things:

1) Demonstrate the cameras via taking pictures in the Kallahti area,

2) Design the educational campaign as far as possible, and make drafts for social media and the website,

3) A survey for background information.

The monitoring prototype worked out well. We picked three trails in the Kallahdenharju nature area and took pictures of the same spot one week apart. Then we compared the pictures with each other to see if there have been any changes. As expected, the short period of our prototype resulted in no major differences. However, this prototype aimed to get a glimpse of what the pictures of the final solution would look like, which we indeed got.

Pictures taken one week apart show only little signs of trampling.

The prototype of the educational campaign also went great. We came up with many hashtags and slogan ideas, but we ended up choosing #EnTallannut and “Paths don’t die. Plants do.” for the final solution. We also decided to use the citynature.eu website as an information basin, where we offer information about the project, the harmful effects of trampling and allow the visitors to participate by uploading their pictures of the trampled paths. To get people to visit the site, we would do advertising on Instagram and other platforms, for example, on Twitter and Facebook. The ads would have uploaded links, which leads the reader to the project’s webpage.

To get some background information, we prepared a short background survey with Survey Monkey and got about 100 responses. From the results, we saw that the audience we targeted, regularly visit parks and nature areas, and enjoy doing so. It seems that they would also be interested in taking part in our campaign as 35% answered ‘Yes’ and 46% said ‘Maybe’ when asked if they would participate.

Campaign prototype drafts.

Altogether, the prototyping went well despite the corona-situation and working remotely. The whole process of putting things together, playing around, and testing functions helped us to understand what it was we were trying to achieve. As a result, we gained new insights into how real users would use the product and how the final product would look like. We were also very excited to hear about other groups’ prototypes. It seemed that every group has had a chance to test their idea and had received good feedback to improve their ideas further. We are eager to hear what the final results will be. Before that, we wish the best of luck to the pitches!

First Pitch and Meeting Our Mentor

Hi all,

It is the group 4 a kind (or Four of a kind, as you wish!) here again! Easter break is behind us and the end of the course is looming ahead – as also is the final pitch. It is exciting, yet a bit intimidating that there is only a short week left to finalize our project and to be ready to present the solutions for the problems provided to us a couple of months ago.

The 4th period has been quite extraordinary as we only met face to face a few times with our group before the mandatory isolation due to the Corona outbreak. Luckily, we and the internet connection are strong and have been able to rise above this new challenge! Although faced with this entirely new situation where we cannot meet anymore face to face in person, we are able to meet with our group online via video chats and keeping frequent contact through WhatsApp, etc. It is different and a bit challenging to adapt so quickly to work entirely from home online, but for example, with making one’s own special working station the task wasn’t so hard to overcome.

An example of one of our home offices!

During Lecture #9 on the 8th of April, our primary task was to present our first pitch and the draft of our solution to our designated mentor. This was to help us prepare for the final presentation as well as to start making our solutions more concrete as we presented them out loud to someone else than our own group members. Our group’s mentor was Irmeli Mikkonen, Senior Expert from Motiva. Including this, we were assigned to start prototyping of our solutions, or the simple preliminary version of our final solution product to a chosen “test group”. This was meant to further help us with shaping our solutions and getting some real-life feedback about how different people saw and felt about our solutions.

The mentoring session was interesting and provided us some new insights and views for our solutions. We were able to discuss the topic from a broader perspective and gain reassurance for our previous ideas. Including this, the mentoring session reinforced our thoughts that if we continue to delve on the topic and different ways to solve the problem for on and on, we will always find new viewpoints and thoughts on this topic and keep going in circles. Especially in this case we are not able to please all the customer groups as there are such strong opinions and values around the concept of eating meat. Now we have a clearer vision of our solutions, and we only need to concretize them and produce the two examples of the new version of the Meat Guide during this last week.

Good luck to all of you and keep strong as well as motivated, as the end of the course and our projects is getting closer!

– 4 of a kind


It’s your food security experts from the Salty Liquid team here!

Our today’s session (6.4.2020) was very intense! We had three workshops focusing on solutions, evaluation, and their possible impacts. In addition, one of the main goals was to prepare for the meeting with the mentors this Wednesday. Mentors are university researchers who work in collaboration with different stakeholders. They will hopefully provide some new perspectives which will help us to evaluate our current progress.

Our solution is rather a question itself (What are the most pressing questions and challenges in the context of Finnish food security during the Corona pandemic?). Therefore, we have found it difficult to follow the workshop instructions. Today was no different. We had to improvise a little bit but, in the end, we managed to proceed. During the first workshop we concluded that based on the news and public conversation the two most pressing questions are:

  1. Where and how to get enough seasonal workers for food production?
  2. How to ensure nutrition for people in the most vulnerable positions?

We decided to go on with the question no. 2 and used it as a base for the next two workshops. While evaluating the impacts and the extent of the question, we found out that there are 112 000 school children coming from families with low income (Tilastokeskus). And did you know that in 2019 there were approximately 4600 homeless people in Finland (Vailla vakinaista asuntoa ry)?  From the global perspective, the number is small but still, ideally, the number would be closer to zero. As the Corona pandemic has also changed the routines of food aid, homeless people might not have access to any proper meals. Nutritious food is one of the basic human needs to which everyone should have access, whether they have a kitchen or not.

Finally, we prepared our 5-minute pitch for Wedn

During this month we have gone through a vast amount of news and articles about the effects of Corona pandemic on different parts of the food chain. The availability of seasonal farmworkers has been a hot topic.

esday. Luckily, we have introduced our work to different people in this course earlier, so we had good material for it. We were also told to think about some questions to ask from our mentor and came up with two. For example, one thing we have started to think more and more is how to summarize and visualize the discussion we have followed. What sort of graphs or figures would be most useful and understandable for people who are not familiar with the subject? We hope to gain some ideas about that in our meeting.

To end today’s blog post, we want to reflect on our teamwork so far. In the very first lecture (when we could meet live!) it came up that the motivational value thriving all of us to work among sustainability is EQUALITY. So, it seems that this group is tackling the right problem. The challenge that E2 gave us was huge and has definitely required some flexibility, improvisation and dancy moves (which were recognized as some of our strengths btw 😉) on the way. We keep on going and look forward to the pitches!

Best of luck to the other groups for their pitches and have a good Easter break!

Do your Easter food shopping respectfully; keep your distance and don’t stay in the shop for too long! And don’t forget to buy some mämmi 😀.

The Pathfinders – On the Path to Solution

This is the 2nd blog post of The Pathfinders. We are the group working with the City of Helsinki and Forum Virium Helsinki to solve the trampling problem of urban nature areas. Our current problem formulation is: How to digitally monitor and limit the degradation of footpaths due to human activity in nature areas in Helsinki?

Today we had a (remote) meeting with our partners and mentors. We presented them with our best solutions for the challenge;

-Set cameras at a certain distance and periodically take photos to track changes in paths. Photos taken by the users would complement this.

-Bluetooth tracking

-Educational campaign

-Mobile app

-Prevent off-trailing: Fallen logs + thick edges with abundant trees and bushes + covering the unwanted paths

-Robot doggies for the kick to get people interested + monitoring

With our solutions, we want to both monitor and prevent trampling. Here’s what our partners thought. The main comments we received from our partners and mentors were mostly positive and they stated that they really enjoyed many of our ideas and some of them were ideas they had thought of before but never pursued. The most praise was for our Bluetooth tracking idea as they had thought of this previously and we validated the fact it was a good idea through our past research as well as our communications with our experts. We received lots of constructive criticism on our ideas, such as: 1) Us trying to find more background research/past studies on using mobile phones for pictures and data as this would help to validate this idea more. 2) They also talked to us about calculating the financial yield of the solutions we presented. This is probably one of the main hurdles we have come across as a team so far, as our partners hadn’t given us an explicit budget to work with, but we will keep in mind that we don’t want something too expensive to implement whether this be through the original implementation costs or through the maintenance afterward. 3) We also got feedback on our idea of using cameras for monitoring and were given some questions facing the legality of this and whether it was too harsh of an option to be constantly monitoring people? Thus, through our team discussion and with help of our partners we decided we could modify option 1 so that the cameras wouldn’t be a permanent fixture all over the park but only monitor on some days and only be fixated in certain spots in the nature areas.

It was also a pleasure to meet our new mentor Jukka Lehtonen. We were relieved to hear that our work made sense for a person, who hasn’t heard about it earlier. He gave us a lot of valuable feedback considering our work. E.g. going through our solutions this far and listing the pros and cons of them, which would clarify our next steps in this project. Also a pro tip for the future was to introduce our backgrounds while doing a presentation of our work, which gives a better idea of our process for the listener.

Next, we are trying to concentrate on monitoring the changes in the paths with the first idea of using drones and cameras. The preventing part, on the other hand, will probably be made up of a campaign that combines social media and website/app. Let’s see what we can come up with!


The Corona situation has changed significantly in the last few days. The Uusimaa area has been set up for isolation, there has been talk of closing down the Alko, and visiting at the restaurants will be banned temporarily. Indeed, we are going through dramatic times and the near future does not look very bright.

However, today we talked together via ZOOM with all the classmates. The situation was updated as each group had gathered information or interviewed experts. Here are some examples of group progress. The Salty liquid group had focused its resources on researching the Finnish food supply chain and what impact Corona pandemic had on it. The good news is that Finland should have nothing to worry about. On the other hand, the development of the United States was considered as a bad example. A burning topic that will surely become more visible to us all as the pandemic proceeds.

Pathfinders are reporting their research on the effects of forest tramping and how they could be rescued by drones. Unfortunately, drone monitoring in the forest has been found to be difficult and for example, making an application to avoid forest damage is a feasible option. They also received valuable information on the National Parks of the United Kingdom. Grey seals also gained valuable insights from expert interviews and literature research. The sounds of leisure boating clearly disturb marine organisms, but boaters themself are not always aware of the problem. It brings contradicting emotions to the surface that will surely be resolved in the future.

Last but not least is, of course, the Four of a kind. Our group consists of Valtteri, Arttu, Janina and Juho. Our own project is focused on updating the WWF’s Meat Guide. The task is to update the meat guide to meet current requirements. After the first meeting with our partner we are very confident because we got a lot of good positive feedback. The Meat Guide’s interactive site is good when compared to other guides, but the main problem is probably reaching the general public.

It is important to move enough and enjoy the company of your loved ones in these dark times. You can go and even enjoy the beautiful Finnish nature by the lake, so all the bad news about Corona will be forgotten.

Salty Liquid, at your service!

Hello fellow students and teachers!

Our team, Salty Liquid, consists of 5 ECGS-students: Reija, Aku, Suvi, Saara and Pauliina. Our initial problem, from our partner e2, was how to ensure food and nutrition security for all. Since that is a huge global topic, we started to narrow it down. The Corona pandemic was getting worse and worse as the course started, so we decided to solve the possible problems that Finland’s food security might face. We met with our partner already last week and agreed the aim and the study type of our work.

Salty Liquid, at your service!

On Thursday we didn’t have a workshop, but we still felt like meeting with our team on Skype. Our group’s agenda for this week has been browsing social media and the news about the development of coronavirus’ effect on people’s thoughts about Finland’s food security. More specifically, we are now monitoring news and social media sites such as Twitter and Instagram. We want to find out whether there are weak spots in Finland’s food security during a crisis like the Corona pandemic. Our aim is to tackle down the difficult questions that rise up in public conversations and to find the right questions to ask in order to enhance food security and food policy in the future.

On Monday we decided to contact experts and each of our group contacted at least one professional. We chose experts from different sectors of the food chain: The National Emergency Supply Agency, Finland’s Martat ry, Wealth and spending expert from the University of Helsinki, Sitra and Diakonialaitos. It was a bit scary to call these experts, but we survived! (In the end, it was also pretty darn fun.)

On Thursday we went through all the answers we got from the experts and picked up the main points to Flinga, which we use as post-it notes now that we are doing this project online.

Flinga-art:  Analyzing our expert’s comments together via Skype and Flinga!

Shortly, what main points did we find?

Professionals are not worried; they have a high trust in Finland’s food security. Finland is well prepared and there is no stress of food ending in Finland, even though people are hoarding food from supermarkets.

There are some critical points that must be secured all the time, but thanks to a well-organized system, these are well handled. For example, ferries are important for Finland’s trading, but this is not only in Finland as it is a global necessity of fluent economy and food chain that trading continues even though pandemic.

Media has a huge responsibility on how they reflect the ongoing situation for people. Is it necessary to post pictures of empty food shelves, as this creates panic among people?

It is highly important to contemplate well-deliberated politics, so that misjudgments are not made.

But the research continues! The next step is to find connections between our professionals’ comments and start the detective work of “what are the pondering questions of Finland’s food security?”

Picture: pixabay.com

Grey Seals against underwater noise pollution in the Baltic Sea!

The Grey Seals go remote!

The project course changed its format due to the Corona virus pandemic. In accordance with the governmental regulations and the University of Helsinki guidelines the course moved online, and so did The Grey Seals. Our team, Anna, Elli, Emmi, Ilona, & Salla, all either ECGS or AGERE students, have become model citizens in social distancing. We keep in touch via WhatsApp at all hours of the day and talk and share our work in Teams. Every week we get workshop instructions from the course pages, and support and guidance from tutors in Zoom meetings.

The topic of our project is how to reduce underwater noise pollution caused by leisure boating in the Baltic Sea, and we are joining forces with the Baltic Sea Challenge, organized by the cities of Helsinki and Turku. Underwater noise caused by human activity has abundant negative effects on the biota and ecosystems of rivers, lakes, seas, and oceans.

We had workshops to brainstorm ideas and researched for information about our topic, and today our group had a Teams meeting with our partner, Baltic Sea Challenge Coordinator Mari Joensuu to discuss our project. We discussed and planned many possible ways to approach our problem and together decided towards an information campaign to spread the knowledge about the damage of underwater noise. We are planning to make a social media campaign, as well as a leaflet and a poster to be distributed to the boating community.

Meeting up with the project partner was important and fruitful at this stage of project work. Brainstorming and discussing together with our partner developed new ideas and pushed the project forward and getting tips, ideas and targets from the partner moved us closer to the actual product of this whole course. Also, lessons were learned when getting knowledge from a person handling Baltic Sea issues on a daily basis. For example, not to use the oh so cute and fluffy grey seal as a mascot for the social media campaign as it divides opinions throughout our target audience. Who would’ve thought about that!




The Pathfinders Kick Off the 2020 Sustainability Challenge Blog

The series of blog entries for this project course is kicked off by The Pathfinders, who are tutored by the course leader, Jarmo Saarikivi.

Our group (Charlotte, Eero, Jenni, Kaisa & Riikka) mostly consists of environmental scientists, but luckily we received a British reinforcement with a background in natural geography for some diversity. Between us, we possess skills in natural and sustainability science, communication, creativity, and remote sensing — and Karelian pie baking!

The City of Helsinki and Forum Virium Helsinki presenting their challenge.

Electricity was in the air as the students prepared themselves for the introduction of the partner organizations and their challenges. Four were presented, one for each student group. Topics vary but are closely related to two major themes: food and protection of nature from recreational activities. More specifically, the group working with Baltic Sea Challenge faces a challenge in decreasing noise pollution from pleasure boating, the group working with e2 Research attempts to ensure healthy and safe food for all, while the group working with WWF tries to tackle meat consumption.

Our group received the following challenge from the City of Helsinki and Forum Virium Helsinki: How to monitor the decay of nature areas in Helsinki caused by visitors and prevent further decay? The partners face problems with visitors, who are leaving the designated walkways to create new paths, stomping on plants, and leaving the area in an ever more decaying state. They propose a solution, which utilizes open source remote sensing databases to create a modern solution for monitoring the change in the nature areas. Gone are the times of signs and ropes. Now is the time for drones and satellites.

Ready to face your challenge? The Pathfinders sure are!

The Pathfinders started tackling the challenge right away.
To understand the given challenges better, each group had to create a system map to outline the actors, themes, and problems around the challenge.