HELSUS Professors

Sanna Ala-Mantila is an Assistant Professor of sustainable urban systems at the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences. Ala-Mantila’s research aims to understand how we can build and transform our cities and other urban systems into sustainable ones. She focuses on the ecological and social aspects of sustainability, and their possible inter-relations.

Sanna Ala-Mantila’s expertise is with quantitative data analysis methods and GIS-data. She wants to find out how cities can systematically utilize all available data sources when dealing with local and global sustainability challenges. Different city-level sustainability actions need to be rigorously analyzed and the most effective ones identified, finally making sure positive developments continue – a critical path that most of the current real-world sustainability projects tend to ignore.

Sanna Ala-Mantila wants to make a difference in helping cities to flourish not only in terms of productivity, but also in terms of reduced environmental pressures and increased quality of life. Reaching sustainability in cities is a complex goal, and sometimes different metrics of sustainability contradict each other. It is essential to be able to quantify and measure our sustainability-related actions and targets to understand their full extent.

In HELSUS, Sanna Ala-Mantila’s goal is to map and use interesting data sources from within various collaborating areas and learn from other researchers and their approaches. She has worked with similar issues also at city administration and ministry level. This practical understanding of actual decision-making processes and their peculiarities is one of the useful assets she brings to HELSUS. Sanna Ala-Mantila also wants to contribute to teaching sustainability by bringing students together with city actors to solve sustainability problems. 

Dorothée Cambou is Assistant Professor of Sustainability Science (sustainable law, governance and regulation) at the Faculty of Law and Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science. As a legal scholar, her research examines human rights issues and explores questions related to global justice. Her research interests include the relationship between international law, human rights and development. For several years, her work has more specifically focused on the rights of indigenous peoples in the Arctic region. More recently, her research has also begun to examine the implications of sustainable development for human rights and the responsibility of companies as duty bearers of human rights, in relation to the exploitation of natural resources and the governance of lands and natural resources.

Dorothée Cambou broader research and teaching goals are to challenge the legal status quo to promote a more sustainable and just world. For this purpose, her research seeks to understand how the current legal order and governance structures are established and perpetuates colonial, unequal and unsustainable practices across the globe. To solve these issues, her research looks both at legal theory and practice and also takes a multidisplinary lens by combining legal research with other disciplines. In her work, she also collaborates with scientists, experts and communities in order to address local issues. With this approach her goal is to ensure that her research will serve both the development of academic discussion in the legal field but also contributes to solve concrete problems and benefit the wellbeing of peoples on the ground.

Currently, Dorothée Cambou leads the NORSIL network, a research network devoted to the study of the rights of Sámi and Indigenous Peoples. She is also an acting member of the Steering committee of the Thematic Network on Arctic Sustainable Resources and Social Responsibility aims at contributing to an enhanced understanding of what social responsibility means and which brings together experts and stakeholders to share knowledge and interact for sustainability in the Arctic.

In HELSUS Dorothée Cambou aspires to bring sustainable changes through research and education. She hopes that her involvement with researchers from HELSUS will facilitate and strengthen an interdisciplinary and cross-cutting approach to research that goes beyond traditional disciplinary and institutional boundaries.  She believes that HELSUS has created a new space to discuss and challenge the unequal, classed, raced and gendered underpinning of the world governance systems, including that of the Nordic countries. By joining researchers and students whose goals and expertise are devoted to tackle those issues, she hopes that her work can contribute to build a more sustainable and just future for all.

Jussi Eronen is an Associate Professor of Long-Term Sustainability Science. He leads the Past Present Sustainability Research Unit PAES at the University of Helsinki. PAES focuses on understanding the ecological and climate related interlinkages with human activities in the present day and in the long-term historic past. The research perspective is from natural sciences and is enriched by interdisciplinary post-docs and collaborations outside the core discipline. The research unit aims for transdisciplinary research efforts to be able to evaluate potential future pathways for society at large. At the moment PAES is concentrating mainly on three research fronts:

1) How biotic interactions have been changed or modified by growing human influence from local to global scales (timescale: 1000s -100s yrs)

(e.g. how has ecological community structures changed due to human influence, how have interactions and biodiversity changed etc.)

2) Long-term SES analysis of Northern Fennoscandia (timescale: 100s - 10s yrs)

(e.g. How have the local livelihoods, like reindeer herding or forest use changed in tandem with human alteration of habitats, how has infrastructure changed the natural productivity of areas etc.)

3) The historically built path-dependencies affecting the current policies in Finland and the contemporary dynamics of socio-ecological metabolism (timescale: from 2-3 yrs to decades)

(E.g. How the infrastructure / policies / decision-making frameworks are leading to path-dependencies, how path-dependencies are affecting societal transitions and long-term risks during the next 10-50 yrs)

Jussi is also active research affiliate at BIOS and takes part in BIOS activities on a case-by-case basis as time allows.

Leena Järvi is an Associate professor in Applied urban meteorology at the Institute for Atmospheric and Earth System Research (INAR) / Physics and Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science. Her research focuses on urban meteorology and climate and their interaction with local air quality. She leads an urban meteorology research group which uses novel atmospheric observations and modelling to study the interaction between urban surface and the atmosphere such as greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere and how they are modified by land use changes and human activities and how urban structures modify wind flow and turbulence in urban areas. Leena Järvi is PI of the ICOS (Integrated Carbon and Observation System Infrastructure) associated ecosystem station in Helsinki and board member of the International Association for Urban Climate.

Leena Järvi's aim is to be able to reduce the uncertainties related to urban meteorological, climate and air quality modelling by providing better understanding and parameters of the affecting processes. These have a great effect on people living in urban areas. One goal is also to provide recommendations on how urban areas should be planned so that they would also be climate-resilient and clean for people to live in.

In HELSUS her goal is to integrate urban meteorological research with other urban research fields as urban studies are always multidisciplinary and in order to answer the challenge of the ongoing urbanisation we need to understand the urban ecosystem as a whole. She also wants to develop the urban climate teaching at the University of Helsinki so that future generations can have a wider picture of the urban processes.

Michiru Nagatsu is the Associate Professor of Inter- and Transdisciplinary Methodologies in Sustainability Science at HELSUS and Practical Philosophy, Faculty of Social Sciences.

His research area is the philosophy of science. He conducts interviews and survey-experiments to study the methodology of interdisciplinary research, in particular, sustainability-related sciences such as ecology, economics and behavioural sciences. More specifically he studies (1) how natural and social scientists manage to integrate their expertise in interdisciplinary projects, for example in building models for the management of natural resources, and (2) how to design effective frameworks for interdisciplinary collaboration, based on (1). He also studies pro-social behaviour and how to “nudge” people into adopting more sustainable lifestyle drawing on behavioural economics. Currently, Michiru Nagatsu is an Academy of Finland Research Fellow and works on the project: Model-building across disciplinary boundaries: Economics, Ecology, and Psychology (2016–2021). He is also an associate member of SPIN Unit, an international network for urban studies.

Michiru Nagatsu wants to make the world a more sustainable place by making a difference in the design of interdisciplinary research. There have been lots of calls for interdisciplinary sustainability studies while less attention has been paid to actual methodological challenges in combining expertise from different disciplines with various research methods and traditions. Based on empirical studies he would like to identify real challenges and keys to successful interdisciplinary sustainability sciences.

In HELSUS his goal is to facilitate interdisciplinary projects drawing on my expertise in the methodology and philosophy of science. He also wants to use his skills in connecting people to make HELSUS a vibrant research institute where people meet and come up with innovative ideas.

Franklin Obeng-Odoom is the Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science Associate Professor  with Global Development Studies at the University of Helsinki in Finland. He is a Fellow of the Teachers' Academy, the highest recognition bestowed on distinguished teachers at the university. A winner of the global Deborah Gerner Innovative Teaching Award for 'effective...pedagogy that engages students with issues of war, peace, identity, sovereignty, security, and sustainability - economic, environmental, or ethical - as they are evolving in the 21st century', Dr. Obeng-Odoom previously taught at various universities in Australia, including the University of Technology Sydney where he was Director of Higher Degree Research Programmes.

Obeng-Odoom's research and teaching interests are centred on the political economy of development, urban and regional economics, natural resources and the environment, fields in which he has published six sole-authored books; including Property, Institutions, and Social Stratification in Africa (Cambridge University Press, 2020), The Commons in an Age of Uncertainty (University of Toronto Press, 2021), and Global Migration Beyond Limits (Oxford University Press, 2022). Obeng-Odoom is the Global South Editor of Housing Studies, Editor-in-Chief of the African Review of Economics and Finance, and Series Editor of the Edinburgh Studies in Urban Political Economy. He serves on the Executive Council of the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics

The recipient of a number of reputable research awards, Obeng-Odoom is an Inaugural International Social Science Council World Social Science Fellow and, in 2015, was elected to the Fellowship of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences, becoming the youngest Fellow of the oldest learned society in postcolonial Africa. Dr. Obeng-Odoom has won the Patrick J. Welch Award from the Association for Social Economics for his research in social economics and the Kapp Prize for research in ecological political economy that exemplifies the work of K.W. Kapp and best demonstrates the theoretical perspectives of the European Association for Evolutionary Political Economy.

Christopher Raymond is a Professor in Sustainability Transformations and Ecosystem Services at the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry and Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science. His research examines the multiple ways in which people value nature, and informs inclusive approaches to the management of protected areas and urban green areas. He leads the Social Values and Sustainability Transformations research group that develops inter- and trans-disciplinary approaches for eliciting social values for ecosystems and their services, and for promoting transformations toward sustainability. He coordinates the ENVISION project (funded by BiodivERsA), which aims to develop new participatory techniques for balancing diverse industry and community visions for protected area management. He also coordinates the VIVA-Plan project, which aims to develop a sustainable spatial planning framework for revitalising in-between spaces in urban areas for social inclusion, biodiversity and well-being, including safety and security.

Christopher Raymond’s broader teaching and research vision is to promote transformations toward sustainability by connecting people, place and prosperity.  In terms of impact, he strives to create a paradigm shift in how diverse values of nature are considered in environmental governance, policy and planning at multiple geographic and temporal scales. 

In HELSUS, Christopher Raymond is hoping to build and nurture a cross-sectoral community of practice for navigating sustainability challenges.  This community will involve inter-disciplinary researchers, social entrepreneurs, industry and policy representatives, and active citizen groups. He will also be contributing to the development of University level teaching related to Environmental Change and Global Sustainability.

Laura Ruotsalainen is an Associate Professor of Spatiotemporal Data Analysis for Sustainability Science at the Department of Computer Science. Her research looks at spatiotemporal data from two viewpoints. The first goal is to develop methods for creating accurate and reliable navigation data seamlessly in every environment using consumer devices, such as smartphones. The challenges for obtaining a good navigation solution arise in places where satellite navigation (e.g. GPS) is not available, namely indoors and in urban areas with high buildings or when the satellite signals are interfered with unintentionally or deliberately. To achieve a good navigation solution using low-cost devices outputting noisy measurements, sophisticated computational methods are needed.

The second goal is to analyse this accumulating good quality navigation data for the benefit of sustainability science, especially for the development of sustainable smart cities. Both goals require the development of novel data analysis, estimation and machine learning algorithms.

Laura Ruotsalainen wants to make a difference in the quality of life in smart cities as well as safety and environmental impact of traffic. She believes her research will contribute into these important aspects by providing means for safer and less contaminating traffic via using and sharing good navigation information of all parties involved, vehicle, bicycles and pedestrians, and by retrieving understanding of the motion patterns and habits of people for creating more livable smart cities.

In Helsus, her goal is to be engaged in fruitful interdisciplinary discussions and collaboration. Laura Ruotsalainen hopes to learn more about the challenges in urban planning and development of smart cities from the sustainability science viewpoint. She also hopes to be able to contribute into resolving some of these challenges by bringing in her knowledge about using sophisticated computational means for analysing spatiotemporal data.  

Reetta Toivanen, professor of sustainability science, explores the sustainable wellbeing of indigenous peoples as well as the relationship between local contexts and human rights. Her current research project focuses on the Arctic region, but she also intends to conduct comparative research elsewhere. She is interested in the global future of natural subsistence economies and their relationship with the maintenance of cultures and languages.

Toivanen is the deputy director of the Centre of Excellence in Law, Identity and the European Narratives (EuroStorie) as well as the leader of the All Youth Want to Rule Their World (ALL-YOUTH) research project funded by the Academy of Finland’s Strategic Research Council.

Toivanen wishes to play a role in protecting the long-term prospects of people still involved in natural subsistence economies. This will promote the preservation of the languages and cultures of indigenous peoples and support their revival. Each “development plan” that disregards the local population, such as the Arctic Railway plans, causes concern and generates a sense of unease, which is directly reflected in the health and wellbeing of young people. Toivanen wishes to ensure that the perspective of human rights is a key principle guiding decision-making.

The Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science (HELSUS) provides an innovative arena for genuine interdisciplinary cooperation. Toivanen hopes to learn more about the intersections between the human and natural sciences and to help open them up to novel research and high-impact scholarship. She wishes to provide student-focused, collaborative and multidisciplinary teaching on topics such as the Arctic region, and raise the profile of the University of Helsinki’s high-quality Arctic research. 


Hanna Tuomisto is an Associate Professor in Sustainable Food Systems at the Department of Agricultural Sciences, Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science and Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke). Her research focuses on the interaction between environmental changes and food systems, and especially how novel food technologies could contribute to the sustainability of food systems in the future. She leads the Future Sustainable Food Systems research group that uses multi-disciplinary approaches for seeking solutions to the sustainability challenges. The main focus of the group is on the use and development of environmental sustainability assessment methods, such as life cycle assessment, for measuring the environmental impacts of different agricultural and food production methods. The current projects range from seeking possibilities to improve the current livestock and plant production practices to estimating the potential of novel food production technologies, such as vertical farming and cell-culture based food production technologies (i.e. cellular agriculture).

Hanna Tuomisto aims at contributing to the improvement of sustainability of food systems and development of sustainability assessment methods. She is especially interested in the development of sustainability assessment methods that consider wider consequential impacts that are ignored by the currently used assessment practices. Her goal is to estimate the sustainability consequences of transforming the current food systems by large-scale utilisation of novel food production technologies.    

In HELSUS, Hanna Tuomisto is hoping to create interdisciplinary collaborations for the development of comprehensive sustainability assessment methods interlinking environmental, economic and social factors. She is also interested in building new collaborations with various stakeholder groups for seeking ways to implement sustainability transformations in practice. Tuomisto will also be contributing to the development of University level teaching related sustainable food systems and sustainability assessment methods.

Annukka Vainio is the Associate Professor in Behavioural Change toward Sustainability Transformations at the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry and HELSUS. She has a background in social psychology, which she applies into the understanding of sustainability transformations. In particular, she wants to understand how to release the agency of consumers and citizens, and other actors in sustainability transformations. She has been especially interested in how to engage society and its actors into climate change mitigation.

Vainio's previous and current projects have focused on the values, beliefs and habits underlying individuals’ sustainable and unsustainable eating habits, and how new food innovations and policies can be used effectively to encourage a transition into a sustainable food system. Her research has also dealt with the use of energy, transport, forests, as well as biodiversity more generally. Her research also aims to understand the practices of farmers, private forest owners, environmental professionals, and food manufacturers. In her research, she has been especially interested in seeking to understand how unsustainable practices are rooted in individuals’ ethics, beliefs, and habits, and to find effective ways to overcome these barriers. One of her current projects aims to build young people’s relationship with non-human neighbours (bats) through citizen science.

Annukka Vainio leads the Behavioural Change toward Sustainability research group that develops an interdisciplinary understanding of the challenges and solutions related to behavioural change toward sustainability. More broadly, she aims to create a collaborative interdisciplinary network of researchers and other professionals across organizations. She wants to foster the role of science in society by means of citizen science. Her teaching at HELSUS also supports these goals.