Social Media for Conservation Science

Elements of social media data

Social media data, such as geotagged photos published on the photo-sharing application Flickr or short messages posted on the microblogging service Twitter contain rich information about human activities, preferences and observations across the globe. Among other user-generated content, social media data have been increasingly used in different fields of science, but there are still many challenges for using these data in science and practice.

In the somecon-project (social media for conservation science , 2016-2020), we aim to understand if and how geo-located social media data can be used to support nature conservation research and practice, with a special focus on key biodiversity areas and national parks. Our goal is to develop generic methods to extract information on human activity patterns from various social media platforms in orded to gain understanding on threats and opportunities for conservation at different scales. The work is done in close collaboration with national park authorities in Finland (Metsähallitus) and South Africa (South African National Parks). The project is funded by the Kone Foundation.

The somecon-project is a joint effort between the Digital Geography Lab and the HELICS lab.

Project publications

Heikinheimo, V. (2020). Unser-generated geographic information for understanding human activities in nature. Doctoral dissertation. Department of Geosciences and Geography A89. University of Helsinki.

Väisänen, T., Heikinheimo, V., Hiippala, T., Toivonen, T. (2021). Exploring human-nature interactions in national parks using social media photographs and computer vision. Conservation Biology.

Hausmann, A., Toivonen, T., Fink, C., Heikinheimo, V., Kulkarni, R., Tenkanen, H., & Di Minin, E. (2020). Understanding sentiment of national park visitors from social media data. People and Nature, 2(3), 750–760.

Heikinheimo, V., Tenkanen, H., Bergroth, C., Järv, O., Hiippala, T., & Toivonen, T. (2020). Understanding the use of urban green spaces from user-generated geographic information. Landscape and Urban Planning, 201, [103845].

Toivonen, T., Heikinheimo, V., Fink, C., Hausmann, A., Hiippala, T., Järv, O., Tenkanen, H., Di Minin, E. (2019). Social media data for conservation science: a methodological overview. Biological Conservation, 233, 298–315.

Hausmann, A., Toivonen, T., Fink, C., Heikinheimo, V., Tenkanen, H., Butchart, S., Brooks, T. & Di Minin, E. (2019). Assessing global popularity and threats to Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas using social media data. Science of the Total Environment, vol. 683, pp. 617-623.

Hausmann, A., Toivonen, T., Slotow, R., Tenkanen, H., Moilanen, A., Heikinheimo, V., & Di Minin, E. (2018). Social Media Data Can Be Used to Understand Tourists’ Preferences for Nature-Based Experiences in Protected Areas. Conservation Letters.

Tenkanen, H., Di Minin, E., Heikinheimo, V., Hausmann, A., Herbst, M., Kajala, L., & Toivonen, T. (2017). Instagram, Flickr, or Twitter: Assessing the usability of social media data for visitor monitoring in protected areas. Scientific Reports, 7(1), 17615.

Hausmann, A., Toivonen, T., Heikinheimo, V., Tenkanen, H., Slotow, R., & Di Minin, E. (2017). Social media reveal that charismatic species are not the main attractor of ecotourists to sub-Saharan protected areas. Scientific Reports, 7(1).

Heikinheimo, V., Di Minin, E., Tenkanen, H., Hausmann, A., Erkkonen, J., & Toivonen, T. (2017). User-Generated Geographic Information for Visitor Monitoring in a National Park: A Comparison of Social Media Data and Visitor Survey. ISPRS International Journal of Geo-Information, 6(3).

Di Minin, E., Tenkanen, H., & Toivonen, T. (2015). Prospects and challenges for social media data in conservation science. Frontiers in Environmental Science, 3, 63.

See also the Somecon-blog: