GCC pic sq

Our group in November 2018

The Global Change and Conservation lab counts currently with 5 senior/postdoctoral researchers, 6 PhD students, 3 visiting researchers, 4 master students, 4 field assistants and several affiliated researchers with whom we have very close collaboration.

The group pays special attention to equity, striving to be an inclusive, gender-balanced and culturally diverse research team.

Mar Cabeza is an established PI at the University of Helsinki leading the “Global Change and Conservation” team. After completing her PhD at the University of Helsinki, MC conducted a postdoc at the Biodiversity and Global Change lab in Spain. She then returned to Helsinki to establish her own research team. Most of the research projects that MC currently leads fall under the conservation effectiveness umbrella, by which she attempts to address both ultimate and proximate causes of success and failure of conservation actions. Her current research interests include basic field ecology needed to understand processes at local scales, large scale macroecological studies involving projections of climate change, and the integration of these in conservation assessments and planning. Mar also has passion for education. She is involved in education initiatives at a variety of levels, from school children to advanced PhD students. She is especially interested in capacity building in developing countries. This education passion is also shared by other members of the team.

Tuomas Aivelo is interested in disease ecology and evolutionary parasitology, specifically within-host community ecology. He did his PhD in University of Helsinki on intestinal parasite of mouse lemurs, then a postdoctoral project in University of Zürich on tick-borne pathogens and he returned to Helsinki in January 2018 to work for the Helsinki Urban Rat Project.

In addition to ticks and rats, his current research projects include biology education, such as genetics literacy in upper secondary school students and teachers and citizen science in learning.

Tuomas is also active in science outreach, including his Finnish blog Kaiken takana on loinen and his popular science book on parasites, Loputtomat loiset.

  • Parasitology
  • Urban ecology
  • Biology education
  • Science communication

Álvaro Fernández-Llamazares (PhD in Environmental Sciences, 2015, Autonomous University of Barcelona) is an ethnoecologist interested in biocultural approaches to conservation. Most of his research deals with the relations between biological and cultural diversity, and the role that Indigenous Peoples play in biodiversity conservation and global sustainability.  

He has done a wide range of ethnographic fieldwork amongst Indigenous Peoples and other local communities across much of the Global South, working in countries such as Bolivia, Costa Rica, Kenya and Madagascar. Through his research, Álvaro strives to connect global policy discourses around environmental issues with the on-the-ground realities of Indigenous Peoples.  

His current post-doctoral project, funded by the Academy of Finland, looks at the effectiveness of Indigenous Peoples’ lands in buffering against biodiversity loss across the whole Amazon Basin. He is also involved in the work of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).  

  • Ethnoecology
  • Biocultural conservation
  • Indigenous and Local Knowledge
  • Social-ecological systems 

Pablo Manzano completed a PhD in Ecology and the Environment in 2015 at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, researching seed dispersal ecology in Spanish sheep-grazed rangelands. Since finishing his MSc in 2004, he has been working first on his PhD field work and then in a series of international development initiatives that took him from the Western Balkans to two global positions in IUCN in Nairobi and in FAO in Rome, both related to pastoralism. In these years he has kept his research agenda on rangeland ecology but expanded into other disciplines of the pastoralist domain, including economics, sociology and anthropology. His research approach aims to integrate the social, economic and environmental livelihood dimensions. He is currently a HELSUS fellow addressing global pastoralism sustainability.

  • Rangeland ecology
  • Pastoralist systems


Tiago Monteiro-Henriques completed his PhD in native vegetation at the Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal, in 2010. He is a postdoctoral researcher since 2017 (FCT grant ref: SFRH/BPD/115057/2016; 2017-2023), based at the Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro, but in association with GCC Lab, where he conducts short-term stages. He has a background in native vegetation and landscape research with particular interest in numerical analysis and classification of vegetation data, flora and vegetation mapping, ecological modelling, nature conservation, and ecological restoration.
His current research activities focus on native forests from the Iberian Peninsula and aim to create i) a general systematization of forest types using combinatorics and optimization; ii) spatially explicit models of their potential and actual distributions; iii) an endangerment assessment of those forest types, linked with fire patterns and global changes and iv) disseminate all of the produced information on the web along with specific tools to support management and conservation actions and respective prioritization.

● Native forests conservation
● Vegetation classification
● Vegetation modelling and mapping

Aina Brias-Guinart (MSc in Environment and Development, 2014, Lancaster University) is interested in the social dimensions of conservation interventions. Since 2018, she has been conducting her interdisciplinary PhD research that focuses on the links between education and biodiversity conservation. She is particularly interested in how conservation NGOs implement education programmes in rural communities in Madagascar and how they affect local cultures, environments and knowledge systems. Through this process, she wishes to promote ethical practices in concrete and meaningful ways when doing research, and to bridge the gap between academia and practice. What she loves most about her work is the joy of sharing meals while conducting long periods of research in Madagascar.

  • environmental education
  • impact evaluation
  • theory of change
  • local knowledge


Irene Conenna (MSc in Environmental Biology 2016, University of Turin). Irene conducted her MSc thesis in collaboration with the Finnish Natural History Museum, investigating the joint role of weather conditions and habitat suitability on the reproductive success of the northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis). Coming from a background in animal biodiversity conservation, she joined the team in May 2016 to study patterns of research effort allocation on the global biodiversity of island-restricted bats, focusing on the role of threat status and geographical range in leading scientific interest. She is now a PhD student investigating the ecology of bats in deserts. She is particularly interested in topics that will help predict the future of desert bat communities under climate change, understanding how bat use movement to cope with harsh conditions and which life history traits are better suited to arid environments. Irene conducted her field-based projects in the arid Sibiloi National Park, northern Kenya. 

  • Desert bat ecology 
  • Movement ecology 
  • Functional biogeography 

Santtu Pentikäinen joined the Helsinki Urban Rat Project in March 2020 to do his PhD on movement ecology and population dynamics of city rats. He is interested in finding out how various environmental and demographic factors and human actions, intended or accidental, can effect rat populations in urban areas. Santtu did his MSc in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in University of Helsinki in 2019. In his thesis, he studied how captive breeding changes the behaviour of endangered steelhead trout, based on his work with wild and hatchery-reared steelhead in Oregon.

  • Movement and behavioral ecology 
  • Population dynamics 
  • Urban rat ecology 
  • Behaviour

Miquel Torrents-Ticó completed his MSc in Conservation and Management of Biodiversity at the University of Barcelona in 2012. He was a guest scientist at the Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge. His interest in human-wildlife interactions took him around the world from tropical rain forests to arid deserts, where he worked with different species: Costa Rica (olive Ridley sea turtles), Ecuador (common woolly monkeys), South Africa (meerkats, Damaraland mole-rats), Botswana (large predators) and Namibia (chacma baboons). His interest in conservation has grown along with the ever-increasing conflicts between humans and wildlife. His main interests lay on Human-Carnivore Conflicts. In his PhD, he takes an interdisciplinary approach to understand human-hyena interactions by investigating local attitudes, values and perceptions towards spotted hyenas, and comprehend spotted hyena ecology that links to the human-hyena conflict (e.g., animal movement, density, distribution). Most of the fieldwork is being conducted in Sibiloi National Park and Laikipia (Kenya). He is member of the Hyaena Specialist Group from the IUCN Species Survival Commission and a National Geographic Explorer. 

  • Human-Wildlife Conflicts 
  • Conservation biology 
  • Carnivores Conservation 

Carme Tuneu-Corral (MSc in Terrestrial Ecology and Biodiversity Management 2017, Autonomous University of Barcelona) has worked on mammal ecology and biodiversity conservation since 2014, focusing on human-wildlife conflict. She studied the human impact on the behaviour of a pinniped colony in Cabo Polonio (Uruguay) and participated in a project focused on the assessment of chimpanzee density in Cameroon. In Nepal, she conducted environmental education campaigns in remote rural areas of the Himalayas. Carme joined the Bat Research Group of the Natural Sciences Museum of Granollers (Spain) in 2018, focusing her research interests on bat ecology and conservation. She is currently working on her PhD, which investigates the role of bats as rice pest suppressors in Madagascar. Malagasy population is totally dependent of subsistence agriculture. However, the main staple food (rice), suffers enormous harvest losses due to pest outbreaks. Carme is particularly interested in studying the effectiveness of bats as insect pest controllers in rural areas of Madagascar with the final purpose to contribute to aid rural population to protect rice fields promoting bat conservation.  

  • Bat ecology and Conservation 
  • Sustainable agriculture and biocontrol 
  • Human-Wildlife conflict

Marketta Vuola has a MSc in Development Geography at the University of Helsinki which she completed in 2015. She did her Master’s Thesis with the GCC research group focusing on the relations between local communities and national park management in Madagascar. Marketta is interested in natural resource politics and passionate about finding out how power relations shape land-uses and landscapes. She has worked as a coordinator of development projects in rural Indonesia and Zambia and as a Senior Officer focusing on land-use planning at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in Finland. Before starting her PhD studies, she worked in a research project examining the Green Economy transitions in Lao PDR and Cambodia at the Finland Futures Research Centre. Returning to her initial interests in Madagascar, Marketta started her PhD studies in 2019, in Development Studies discipline, looking at the confrontations between artisanal and small scale mining and biodiversity conservation in Madagascar.

  • political ecology
  • artisanal and small scale mining (ASM)
  • conservation policy

Sara F. Nunes has a BSc in Biology (environmental branch) from the University of Lisbon. In 2019 she completed a MSc in Conservation Biology at the University of Lisbon, where she worked with island reptile’s trophic ecology and isotopic analyses. Her master thesis research focused on assessing the changes in the isotopic niche of an insular endemic subspecies (Berlenga wall lizard) after the eradication of two invasive mammal species. She joined the GCC team as a visiting researcher in 2020 for a 7 months’ internship. She is currently analysing the research effort allocation on island restricted reptile species, to identify knowledge gaps and to target research activities towards conservation priorities. Her research interests include biological invasions, ecology and conservation of herpetofauna and insular biogeography. 

  • Reptiles conservation 
  • Invasive species 
  • Reptiles trophic ecology 
  • Island restricted reptiles 

Abolfazl Sharifian Bahraman is conducting PhD studies at Gorgan University of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, in Iran. His work focuses on traditional knowledge of pastoral communities in Iran and around the world. His research interests span from human dimensions of rangeland ecosystems to traditional herding systems and rangeland management. He is currently working on a comparative study about pastoral traditional calendar between Hungarian and Persian shepherds. As part of his research stay at the University of Helsinki, he is carrying out a systematic analysis on pastoralism traditional ecological knowledge (PTEK), under the supervision of Dr. Mar Cabeza and Dr. Alvaro Fernandez-Llamazares. He is planning to place more emphasis on modeling traditional herding systems in the future

  • Pastoralist traditional knowledge


Belete did his MSc in Wildlife Management at Hawassa University in 2015. Since 2015, he has been working as a Lecturer and Researcher at Wolkite University, Ethiopia. He has participated in different research projects, including population ecology and conservation of birds, ecology of mammals, human-wildlife conflicts, and people’s attitudes and perceptions towards conservation. He has also been involved in various community outreach projects, such as promoting conservation through the improvement and diversification of local people’s livelihoods, and the development of community based ecotourism.

Belete joined the GCC Lab in 2020 as a visiting researcher. During his research stay, funded by the Finnish National Agency for Education under the EDUFI Fellowship scholarship programme, he aims to assess the benefits of engaging local peoples in wildlife monitoring schemes through e.g. changes in people’s attitudes towards biodiversity conservation. This work is being supervised by Dr. Daniel Burgas and Dr. Sara Fraixedas. His research interests focus on behaviour and ecology of birds and mammals.

  • Bird Ecology and Conservation
  • Indigenous knowledge and biodiversity conservation   
  • Mammal Ecology
  • Sofi Heikkilä
  • Markus Hogmander
  • Ilari Falck
  • Miikka Lappalainen
  • Eva Neffling

A few former GCC members have remained strongly associated to the group after they have taken up new positions. They are core collaborators particularly for our projects in Kenya and Madagascar, often joining our expeditions and co-supervising our students. 

Quite a number of students, postdocs, assitants, visiting researchers have shared their time and contributions with GCC, making this group what it is today.

PhD and Licenciate students

Ricardo Rocha



Antti Takolander



Piia Lundberg



Annika Harlio



Laura Meller



Henna Fabritius



Laure Zupan



Silvija Budaviciute



Johanna Eklund



Maria Triviño



Raquel A. Garcia



Heini Kujala



Postdoctoral Researchers

Aili Pyhälä 2013-18 Orcid
Erin Cameron 2013-18  
Marissa McBride 2013-15 Orcid
Julien Terraube 2015-20 Orcid
Sara Fraixedas 2017-20 Orcid

MSc students

Jani Järvi   2015-17  
Katarina Meramo 2015-18 Orcid
Valerio Di Biase 2016   
Kati Suominen 2015-17  
Helena Uotila 2013  
Katja Rönkä 2013 Orcid
Riikka Kinnunen 2014-15 Orcid

Visiting scholars and interns

  • Suvi Sutinen                        2020            Finland
  • Bayarmaa Byambaa           2019            Mongolia
  • María Garteizgogeascoa    2018-19       Spain
  • Bettina Sommarstorm       2016-18      Finland
  • Eva Hulsmans                     2017            Belgium
  • Juan Gallego                       2016            Spain
  • Cristina González                2016            Spain
  • Arnau Pou                           2016            Spain
  • Ariadna Fontcuberta          2015            Spain
  • Anniina Mikkonen              2014            Finland
  • Eric Marcel Temba             2015            Madagascar
  • Tatiana Ivcovich                  2007            Russia

Research assistants

  • Arun Gyawali                    2018           Nepal
  • Joose Helle                        2018-19     Finland
  • Johannes Nyman             2015-17     Finland
  • Victoria Veach                  2012           USA