People behind the scenes: Elina Virtanen

Elina Virtanen standing at a mountain. There is a beautiful valley landscape. behind her.

I’m a marine (bio)geographer and I have a background in physical geography. When I usually mention that I´m a geographer, people instantly think of me being someone who colours maps (for instance my friends and parents) and knows all the capital cities of the world. While that stereotype might hold true for some part, being a geographer is mostly about seeing the bigger picture and thinking about stuff with a spatial twist. As clichéd as it sounds, everything is geographical. We are all geographers in a sense. Just think of route optimization (am I able to catch the bus and does it go to the right direction), climate modelling (what are the chances of raining today where I´m heading, should I take my umbrella with me?) and landscape ecology (why did my neighbour cut off that tree, now they can see straight to my living room?).

The kick-start to my career in science began in Kenya, where my research focused on tropical montane cloud forests. Five years ago I started my path in marine sciences at the Marine Research Centre (at SYKE), with the change of scenery from the Kenyan cloud forests to the Baltic Sea. Methodologies and theories apply, only the environment is different. My work concentrates on modelling that addresses spatial environmental and ecological questions. I try to relate the environment where species are found to similar environments, where no one has yet visited. We need to know where important species worth conserving are located, in order to protect them, and not to mess up everything completely. That is not a trivial task, but we are getting there. Apart from SEAmBOTH and various other projects I´m involved in, I started doing my PhD last July. Marine spatial planning, marine protected areas, spatial ecology, sustainable use of the sea areas and changing climate are all key words that will become more or less familiar during my PhD. After completing, I won´t know all the capital cities of the world, but I´ll have a bunch of lovely, coloured maps to show 🙂

Change of scenery from this…

Calm Baltic Sea.
Shore at the Baltic Sea.

…to this.

Elina Virtanen

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