People behind the scenes: Suvi Saarnio

Hi everybody! I’m Suvi and I’m a physical geographer working for Metsähallitus. I think Elina explained quite well the background of a geographer and how we view the world and our work (check the blog here).

Suvi on board, having lunch and taking a selfie.
Sushi for lunch! (Photo by Suvi Saarnio, Metsähallitus).

I also studied quite a bit of biology (mostly ecology) in the University of Oulu, but most of my knowledge on the biology of the Bothnian Bay I have gained at work. I started as a trainee in 2013 and every year since I have worked for Metsähallitus marine team. In addition to my knowledge on geography and biology, my contribution for the team comes from the knowledge of the Bothnian Bay area (I could claim to know most of the islands and waterways in the area), my skills in handling our boats and our equipment and of course the fact that I love planning and keeping things (and people) organized! 😉

Suvi and one other person in a small boat.
Beautiful July evening on our way to Ulkokrunni-island (Photo by Suvi Saarnio, Metsähallitus)

My Summers are always busy with work, but I try to use part of my free time with Search and Rescue in Oulu, so I’m hardly ever on land. Another hobby keeping me off the land is scuba diving. I started diving in 2015 and left a part of my heart to Koh Tao (small island in Thailand) in 2016-2017 when I did my first professional diving courses there and lived there for four months.

Suvi in the water with huge ice blocks around her. Dressed in a survival suit.
In Search & Rescue we have a tradition of testing the survival suits in Spring time when the ice is breaking (Photo by Lotta Zerni).
Suvi diving. Under her there is some reef and fishes.
Diving in Koh Tao, Thailand with pink hair which turns into purple when going deeper (Photo by Kadri Kääpärin).
Suvi in diving suit, showing an ok sign.
Diving in Selkä-Sarvi, Finland (Noora Kantola, Metsähallitus).

I work as a planner in SEAmBOTH-project and I just realized that it doesn’t really tell you readers that much about what I actually do. My father just asked me that question last week and I tried to explain, and this is what I said:

The Spring part of my work year is mostly about planning the field work for the next Summer. I must go through old data to see which places need to be mapped and from which areas or habitats we need more information. I also need to consider the endangered species and try to focus some of the mappings to areas where they are possibly growing. After deciding the areas, I need to think how much time we will spend on each of them and at which part of the Summer we will work there. Next step is to book accommodation and dock places for our boat.

A drone and it's gear on a shore.
Last Summer I learned how to use a drone for mapping (Photo by Suvi Saarnio, Metsähallitus).

Before field work all the equipment needs to be checked, fixed and prepared for the Summer. Also, all the field forms, Excels, time managements sheets etc. need to be updated and fixed so that everything is ready when our seasonal workers start. The first days of field work are spent on introduction which includes burocracy, boat safety, method training, learning the species and so on.

2 people in very high reed bed.
Field work is not always fun 😀 (Photo by Suvi Saarnio, Metsähallitus).

During the field work I’m the team leader and in charge of the biological mappings done in the SEAmBOTH-project on the Finnish side of the Bothnian Bay. After the field season the data collected must be analyzed and saved into Excels, and this usually takes a big part of the Autumn. We are usually in a bit of a hurry with the data so that we can get it to our GIS-planners as soon as possible, so most of the maintenance work with our equipment is done after the data is finished. Winter (and the end of Autumn) is spend on maintenance work and checking our gear to see what needs to be bought for the next field season, going through the best photos from Summer, organizing everything at the office and our storage, reporting and using the holidays gained.

Suvi and a glasier on the background.
The past years I have been also teaching on geography field course in Finnish Lapland. This photo is from the day we visited a glacier (Steindalsbreen) on the Norwegian side (Photo by Suvi Saarnio).

Part of my job is also writing and posting these blogs. Let us know if you have any suggestions on what we should write about! 🙂

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