Taita Research Station

The Taita Hills seen from Lion Rock of the Taita Hills Wildlife Sanctuary.


Highlights and latest news


March 2018 – Two new PhD thesis from the Taita Research Station

Johanna Hohenthal defended her PhD thesis “Local ecological knowledge in deteriorating water catchments – Reconsidering environmental histories and inclusive governance in the Taita Hills, Kenya” on March, 5, 2018 at the University of Helsinki. The thesis was supervised by Dr. Paola Minoia and was part of TAITAWATER project funded by the Academy of Finland. The thesis is available at: https://helda.helsinki.fi/handle/10138/231980. Jenny Jyrkänkallio-Mikkola defended her PhD thesis “Factors contributing to the spatial variation of stream communities in boreal and tropical regions” on February 9, 2018 at the University of Helsinki. The thesis supervised by Prof. Janne Soininen includes a case study about the streams of the Taita Hills. Thesis is available at: https://helda.helsinki.fi/handle/10138/231274.

February 2018 – Two new projects funded by the Academy of Finland

The research programme of development research of the Academy of Finland funded a project SMARTLAND Environmental sensing of ecosystem services for developing climate smart landscape framework to improve food security in East Africa. The PI of the consortium project is Prof. of Geoinformatics Petri Pellikka from Department of Geosciences and Geography partnering with Prof. of Environmental Engineering in Agriculture Laura Alakukku from Faculty of Forestry and Agriculture and Prof. of Meteorology Timo Vesala from Institute for Atmospheric and Earth System Research of the University of Helsinki. The project collaborates with Kenya Forest Service, Kenya Wildlife Service and Taita Taveta University. Same programme funded also Prof. of Zoonotic Virology Olli Vapalahti for a project “Preparedness for emerging zoonotic infections in Kenya”. The project collaborates with Prof. Omu Anzala and KAVI Insitute of Clinical research of the University of Nairobi. The duration for both projects is 2018-2022.

February 2018 – Launch event of TAITAGIS project at Taita Taveta University

The launch event of the TAITAGIS project will be organised at the campus of Taita Taveta University in Voi on February 8, 2018. The event is graced by HE Ambassador Tarja Fernandéz, Ambassador of Finland to Kenya. The event is prepared under protection of VC Hamadi Boga of Taita Taveta University and Chancellor  Kaarle Hämeri of the University of Helsinki. TAITAGIS is a capacity building project in geoinformatics for Taita Taveta County, and more over to Kenya, the main aim being to develop MSc programme in geoinformatics at Taita Taveta University. It is funded by the from Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland within HE ICI instrument (Higher Education Institutional Cooperation Instrument). The programme includes also talks about environmental research carried out by University of Helsinki in the Taita Taveta County. More about TAITAGIS at: https://www.helsinki.fi/en/projects/taitagis

January 2018 – Taita Field Course of the Master programme in Geography of the University of Helsinki

Taita Field Course will take place in Taita Hills from January 31 to February 11 with 15 student participants from geography, biology, geology and forestry. The course is led by prof. Petri Pellikka, Dr. Tino Johansson and Prof. Jouko Rikkinen. The coursework includes environmental sensing of vegetation and soil parameters, visits to indigenous forests of the Taita hills, conservation areas and sisal plantations in the lowlands and Lake Chala on the Tanzanian coast, for example. The main aim of the course is to introduce students to research on environmental sustainability carried out in the Taita hills since 2004, and use instruments in practise, and to relate to environmental research to development objectives in the Taita Taveta County. Please read about the programme in the blog maintained by the course participants: https://blogs.helsinki.fi/taitafieldcourse/ 

October 2017  – Taita Research Station Science Seminar

University of Helsinki Main building, Hall 13, 3rd floor on Tuesday 3 October 2017.

9:00 Opening and welcome, Vice-rector Jouko Väänänen
9:10 Taita Research Station of the University of Helsinki in Kenya, Prof. Petri Pellikka
9:30 Research on botany and mycology, Prof. Jouko Rikkinen
9:50 Land cover change and above ground carbon stocks in the Taita Hills, Dr. Janne Heiskanen
10:10 Fog deposition at tropical montane cloud forest, Matti Räsänen
10:30 Social and political ecology of water in the Taita Hills: Reconsidering environmental histories, inclusive governance and justice, Johanna Hohenthal
10:50 Taxonomy and systematics of diving beetle genus Laccophilus (Coleoptera, Dytiscidae), Prof. Olof Biström
11:10–12:00 LUNCH BREAK
12:00 Screening for emerging and re-emerging infections at Taita-Taveta /Kenya, Prof. Olli Vapalahti
12:20 Remote sensing of tree species applying hyperspectral and laser scanning remote sensing data, Rami Piiroinen
12:40 Termites and termite fungi in the savannah landscape, Risto Vesala
13:00 Study of dew water collection in Maktau, Kenya, Juuso Tuure
13:20 Climate change impacts and adaptation action projects, Dr. Tino Johansson
13:40 Closing the seminar

Poster presentations:
Determinants of aboveground biomass across an Afromontane landscape mosaic in Kenya
TAITAGIS ─ Improving capacity, quality and access of Geoinformatics teaching, research and daily application in Taita Taveta County, Kenya
Diversity and ecology of lichen-associated fungi in East Africa – a novel lichenicolous fungus from an epiphytic triparite cyanolichen
Symbiontic diveristy of Coccocarpia in New-Caledonia and Kenya
Diversity of fungus-growing termites (Macrotermes) and their fungal symbionts (Termitomyces) in semi-arid Tsavo Ecosystem, Kenya
Cyanolichen guilds in montane cloud forests of East Africa
Transplant studies with non-vascular epiphytes in moist Afromontane forests of Taita Hills, Kenya

October 2017 – Porvoo High School course at Taita Research Station

15 students and three teachers from Porvoo High School, Finland, visited Taita Taveta County under the leadership of principal Kaisa Ryöppy with assistance given by Dr. Tino Johansson of the University of Helsinki. The students learned about environment, livelihoods, climate change, agriculture and schooling system of the area. The course was the 2nd after the first course organised in 2015.

March 2017 – Higher Education Institutional Cooperation Instrument funding for TAITAGIS

Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland has decided to fund TAITAGIS project (Improving capacity, quality and access of Geoinformatics teaching, research and daily application in Taita Taveta County, Kenya) for the Department of Geosciences and Geography of the University of Helsinki for 2017-2020. The aim of the project is together with Taita Taveta University (TTU) to build up a master programme in geoinformatics at the TTU. The programme will strengthen the cooperation between Taita Research Station and TTU and build capacity for the development of Taita Taveta County.

February 2017 – MSc thesis award for Marinka Räsänen

Marinka Räsänen received a UniPID MSc thesis award for her thesis “Political economy and ecology of water control dynamics of water policy reform and water justice in Taita Hills, South-Eastern Kenya“. She was a student of the Master’s Programme in Development and International Cooperation majoring in Environmental Science of the University of Jyväskylä. The thesis was done under supervision of Dr. Paola Minoia of the University of Helsinki within TAITAWATER project (Integrated land cover-climate-ecosystem process study for water management in East African highlands) funded by the Academy of Finland and led by Professor Petri Pellikka. (http://www.unipid.fi/en/news/338/master_s_award_ceremony_at_the_development_days_conference/)

February 2017 – Olari and Tapiola High Schools visiting Taita Research Station

A school group from Olari and Tapiola high schools of Espoo, Finland visited the Taita Research Station as part of their studies. The course was led by geography teachers Maija Flinkman and Lasse Lindqvist, and Dr. Leif Schulman, director of Finnish Museum of Natural History. Read more about the visit at:    https://www.helsinki.fi/fi/uutiset/lukiokurssi-keniassa and the blogs of the course at: https://espoonlukioidenkeniakurssi.wordpress.com/

February 2017 – Professor Jouko Rikkinen talks about endangered species in YLE (Finnish Broadcasting Company) TV

Professor Jouko Rikkinen from the Finnish Museum of Natural History, University of Helsinki discusses on world’s endangered species and provides examples from the Taita Hills in the morning TV programme of YLE, the Finnish Broadcasting Company on February 21, 2017. YLEn aamu-tv- maailman uhanalaiset lajit 21.2.2017

October 2016 – Ambassador HE Tarja Fernández visited Taita Research Station

The Ambassador of Finland to Kenya HE Tarja Fernández accompanied with the Deputy Head of Mission Mr. Ramses Malaty visited Taita Research Station to learn about environmental research carried out by the Finnish and other scientists in the region.  They also attended meetings with Governor of the Taita Taveta County HE John Mruttu, and Vice-Chancellor Hamadi Iddi Boga of the Taita Taveta University.

August 2016 – Pro-Vice-Chancellor Anna Mauranen visited Taita Research Station

Pro-Vice-Chancellor Prof. Anna Mauranen of the University of Helsinki accompanied with head of delegation of the international affairs Dr. Anna-Maria Salmi visited Taita Research Station and had meetings with Governor John Mruttu of the Taita Taveta County and principal Prof. Hamadi Iddi Boga of the Taita Taveta University College.

June 2016 – Two new MSc theses finished at the University of Helsinki

Toini Kuronen, 2016: Primates on farms – perceived human-wildlife conflicts around Ngangao indigeneous cloud forest, Taita Hills, Kenya. The work was supported by Ympäristön Ystävät fund. Arto Viinikka, 2016: Mapping individual tree species using airborne imaging spectroscopy and laser scanning data in Taita Hills, Kenya. The work was done within CHIESA project (Climate Change Impacts on Ecosystem Services and Food Security in Eastern Africa) funded by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland.

March 2016 – AFERIA Project receives funding from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland

A new initiative aimed at supporting the ability of smallholder farming families living around fragile mountain ecosystems in eastern Africa to adapt to the impacts of climate variability and change through research-based interventions has been launched. Known as the Adaptation for Ecosystem Resilience in Africa (AFERIA), the two-year initiative will be coordinated by the Nairobi-headquartered International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe), with funding from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland.

Globally, and in Africa in particular, sensitive mountain ecosystems provide invaluable services, such as water provision, which are seriously threatened by accelerating land cover and land use change on the upper slopes where most of the remaining mountain forests are located. The capacity of these mountain water towers to store moisture, supply freshwater to the lowlands and reduce peak flood flows during extreme weather events has been compromised mainly by human activities, such as deforestation. The impacts are also amplified by increasing temperatures and variability in rainfall due to global climate change. Through climate change adaptation action plans and technology transfer, the AFERIA Project will disseminate research findings on climate change impacts and implement research-based interventions in different agro-ecological zones including: the Taita Hills and Murang’a County in Kenya; Mount Kilimanjaro region in Tanzania and the Jimma Highlands of Ethiopia. Taita Research Station will be one of the key actors in AFERIA ensuring that research-based interventions will reach out to the most vulnerable groups of farmers and simultaneously enhance climate change adaptation and food security in the Taita Hills.

Read more in NEWS section.

November 2015 – Premier night of the documentary film

The premiere night of the documentary film Veden matka – WATER’S JOURNEY  – at the Great Hall of the University of Helsinki (Fabianinkatu 33) on November 16, 5 pm. The event celebrates the 375 anniversary of the University of Helsinki.

THE WATER’S JOURNEY takes you to the Taita Hills in Kenya, to cool streams percolating from lush mist forests of mountain tops, to forest fires raging on cleared slopes, and to corn drying under the blazing sun in the dry lowland. The film witnesses the eternal cycle of water and the change of seasons in a region confronting the ever increasing effects of climate change.
The film is based on the environmental change research done at the Taita Research Station with funding from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland and Academy of Finland, but approaches its topic through cinematography and through the daily life of local people.

Script: Jouko Rikkinen, Toni Laine & Petri Pellikka
Director: Toni Laine
Production: Wild Heart Productions Oy


October 2015 – Scientific CHIESA seminar organised with International Center of Insect Ecology and Physiology (icipe)

Taita Research Station organizes a scientific seminar for local stakeholders and beneficiaries in the Lavender Hotel, Wundanyi on October 7. Opening remarks are given by the Governor of the Taita Taveta County, H.E. John Mruttu and Prof. Juha Karhu from the University of Helsinki. The seminar presents some of the outcomes of CHIESA project funded by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland (Climate Change Impacts on Ecosystem Services and Food Security in Eastern Africa – Increasing Knowledge, Building Capacity and Developing Adaptation Strategies). The topics of the seminar include 1) Application of geoinformatics and environmental modeling in the Taita Hills, 2) Presentation of the Climate Change Adaptation Plan for the Taita Hills, 3) Presentation of a new book: Natural History of Wild Fruits of the Taita Hills, and 4) Integrating participatory research and geoinformatics to develop new visions and pathways for the future of the Taita Hills. About 70 participants are expected to join from various parts of the county including teachers, officers from the governmental and county offices, environmental NGO’s and other stakeholders. The full program:  CHIESA_Seminar_Wundanyi 2015 Program_final

March 2015 – Map release ceremony of the digital  map of Taita Hills Wildlife Sanctuary and LUMO Community Wildlife Sanctuary

Taita Research Station released and donated digital map with information about land cover, roads and and facilities of the Taita Hills Wildlife Sanctuary and LUMO Community Wildlife Sanctuary located southwest of the Taita Hills. In the ceremony organized at Lion’s Bluff hotel, the chancellor of the University of Helsinki, Thomas Wilhelmsson greeted the audience by describing the long term commitment of the University of Helsinki in Taita Taveta county. Deputy Governor Mary Ndiga Kibuka saw a lot of cooperation possibilities within mapping of the nature resources and regional planning of the Taita Taveta county. Governor John Mruttu saw the geospatial datasets compiled and research carried out by the Taita Research Station very precious in improving the water resources of the county. The principal aim of this particular map is to provide paper maps for tourists, but also digital maps connected to global positioning systems (GPS) in order to navigate using GPS receivers or tablet computers. Another aim is to use the digital maps for updating real-time wildlife movements in the sanctuaries. The work was carried out by professional map maker, PhD student Mårten Boström. Read more about mapping activities at http://www.martenbostrom.com/. Video clips of the ceremony can be found at:

February 2015 – A delegation of the chairman of the board of the University of Helsinki

Dr. Jaana Husu-Kallio, the chairman of the board of the University of Helsinki and Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of Finland, visited the Taita Research Station with  a delegation from Natural Resource Institute Finland (LUKE). The delegation took part earlier in February the annual meeting of the FoodAfrica project funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland (https://portal.mtt.fi/portal/page/portal/mtt_en/projects/foodafrica). In Taita Taveta, Dr. Husu-Kallio was introduced the research carried out by the University of Helsinki and met also the Governor John Mruttu. (https://www.facebook.com/TheTaitaTavetaCountyGovernment)

November 2014 – MoU with Taita Hills Wildlife Sanctuary

Taita Research Station and Sarova Hotels Taita Hills Wildlife Sanctuary  signed a Memorandum of Understanding about research and development cooperation aiming to involve science in wildlife conservation within the sanctuary and its environments. Similar kind of MoU is going to be signed with neighbouring LUMO Community Wildlife Sanctuary. Together the both sanctuaries cover 680 square kilometers savannah southwest of the Taita Hills between the hills and Tsavo West National Park.

December 2012 – Taita Research Station Fund

Rector Thomas Wilhelmsson founded Taita Research Station Fund as proposed by the Alumni Association of the University of Helsinki. The purpose of the Fund is to support the research and teaching at the station and especially to support student’s work at the station. The instructions how to donate is under Taita Research Station Fund.



Taita Hills are located in south-eastern Kenya as a part of Eastern Arc mountain chain, which is a one of the World´s biodiversity hotspots. Rising from the Tsavo plains from 600 m a.s.l. up to 2200 m a.s.l. and having mountain rain forests patches at the mountain tops acting as water towers feeding the lowlands, the Taita Hills may be considerd as a miniatyre of Kenya. The forests as well as the agricultural land suffer from degradation due to population pressure due to the complexity of natural resource management.

The biogeographical setting of the Taita Hills have attracted scientists from various disciplines since late 1980′s.  One can find a diverse range of ecosystems and livelihoods in Taita, both high in the hills and on the lowlands. These include indigenous and plantation forests, sacred groves, agroforestry, rangelands, sisal plantations, national parks and reserves as well as urbanized areas.

Taita Research Station of the University of Helsinki.

Taita Hills is of primary interest among geographers, ecologists, foresters, agronomists and social scientists studying the land use and land cover changes, biodiversity, water resources, climate – land cover feedback mechanisms, rural development and environmental conservation.

The University of Helsinki established Taita Research Station in the Taita Hills in 2011.

Taita 2012 sep 222

    The Taita Hills seen from the south-western plains in September 2012. The highest hilltops reach more than 2000 m, while the dry plains are between 600  to 1000 meters a.s.l.

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