Friday, December 17, 2010

Busy times

I finally left my thesis for inspection yesterday – and today starts my long awaited Christmas holiday. So wrapping up the thesis summary really took the whole autumn. It is rumored that PhD thesis summaries have been written in a couple of days, and even in reality some of us manage to make it a couple of weeks. I started the summary already in June, so I had plans to finish the summary at latest in October. Then there would have been some time for free research. The free time diminished to just two days, but at least the work was finished before my 4-year GSForest scholarship ends at 31 December.

How was the time spent then? Reading the literature. Recalculating some results that were presented differently in the sub-studies. Compiling the yet unpublished results. Writing – I decided not to copy-paste very much from the sub-studies, so most of the text is new. And finally, corrections. I was quite satisfied with the first draft, but the supervisor comments helped to make it much better. Still, there is at least one error in the submitted summary, and probably more that I’m not aware of. It is interesting to see what the pre-examiners find!

Some time was also spent on other things, including the Silvilaser conference trip, teaching, seedling inventory project, and the last sub-study, which was happily accepted right before I returned the summary. So although the autumn was busy and the deadlines moved ahead several times, looking back now I think that it went quite well. But the next year will be even more interesting…

Happy holidays!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Dreams about cables

Last week was a week full of cables that needed to be untangled in Hyytiälä. We spent so much time untangling hundreds of meters of cables that I started to have dreams where I was in the middle of a huge cable mess...

What we were doing was setting up the PASTiS57 experiment together with INRA to monitor changes in boreal LAI from August to October (or November). The new instrument, PASTiS57, is an autonomous ground system with photodiodes facing 57° towards North in the blue spectral domain. The data will be used for phenology modeling and validation of biophysical satellite products. It is a pilot study, at least in the cold and wet conditions of the boreal zone, but we do hope to get an idea of how useful the system could be at our study sites.

Field work ....

... and 'office work'

Friday, July 23, 2010

Different summer

I’ve spent most of my summer sitting in the office, trying to finish all the pending jobs before the final push needed to complete the thesis. For the last weeks the entire building has been practically empty, except for a few exchange students, cleaning women and the secretary on duty. So in principle it’s a perfect time for undisturbed science. But in practice, summer seems to make concentrating even more difficult than usual. Normally the daily routines just flow on uninterrupted, but during the short summer there’s suddenly so much going on that your mind keeps on straying elsewhere. And in addition, the exceptionally hot weather certainly affects everyone. Is it the climate that makes northern people somehow appear more diligent than e.g. the Mediterranean?

Good thing about the office work is that you don’t need to be in the forest. This summer I’ve had just two field days, supervising two students to start their seedling stand campaign two weeks ago. Seedling inventories are the worst of all forest measurements. The stands are often miserable thickets or barricaded with felled trees. It’s either too hot or too wet, and the horseflies and mosquitoes never leave you alone. For me two hot and moist days were enough, and since then it’s been much worse. Keep up the good work boys…

On the other hand, the temperature here in my room is still +27°C, which is not too bad when compared to last week. The computer also has a nasty warming effect. But the good thing is that the bosses are also away, so nothing can stop me from grabbing a bunch of articles and heading for the beach to read!

Dust scatters on stacks of paper.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Field campaigns are here again!

This year we are putting a big effort on measuring the seasonal changes of boreal forests. Our new research assistants, Titta and Anu, started their 5-month research tasks in the beginning of May. They will measure leaf area index and understory spectra every two weeks for different types of forests until the end of September. It will be a truly unique data set: to our knowledge similar experiments have not yet been carried out even though the data is crucially needed for developing methods to monitor the phenological cycles of forests using satellite images.

In May, we also said goodbye to our visiting member, Petr, when his 8-month stay in Helsinki was over. His visit was very fruitful: we co-authored two journal papers and one conference paper, and are planning on writing a fourth paper!

My next task is to prepare for the WHISPERS conference in mid-June in Iceland.

Setting up a reference sensor in one of the Hyytiälä towers.

Problems with the spectrometer?

Typical LAI-2000 measurements...

Measuring the understory spectra of lichen-dominated forest floors.

First lesson in fish-eye photography.

Material excitement with a new hemispherical camera.

First lesson with the ASD Fieldspec.

Setting up the LAI-2000 reference in an open field.

Good bye, Petr! We enjoyed our "last lunch" together in Savu.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Looking for a new postdoc

We are seeking an enthusiastic postdoctoral researcher to join our research team based at the Department of Forest Sciences, University of Helsinki in Finland from July, August or September 2010 until December 2011.

The postdoc will work with monitoring seasonal and interannual changes in biophysical vegetation variables from medium- and coarse resolution satellite images covering boreal forests. The specific research task will be designed to fit the expertise of the selected candidate.

For further information contact:
Dr. Miina Rautiainen, Department of Forest Sciences, University of Helsinki
Applications close on May 17, 2010.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Winter field work

Participating to the Snortex field campaign in Sodankylä, March 2010, sounded like a good idea: going to Lapland  in the best holiday season, for some skiing and photography! I had been here earlier for some LAI measurements, and in the next winter a helicopter had targeted the plots with cameras and other instruments. We got the first results published, but the problem was that it was difficult to hit the exact location of the plots. In addition, where deciduous trees exist winter LAI tends to be somewhat overestimated by summer measurements. So I volunteered to go there during the next winter campaign with my skis, find the plots with GPS and mark them with signs that could be seen to the air, and take hemispherical photos at the same time as the flights. 

In March weather here is usually nice, nights are cold but daytime weather should be really nice for skiing, sunny and a few minus degrees. That was the case when I arrived yesterday, but in the morning I didn’t believe the thermometer: -35°C! But the FMI website showed that it was true.

I’m not exactly afraid of cold, but already at -20°C most skiing competitions are cancelled, as breathing the cold air heavily can damage your lungs. The snow researchers laughed at the frost and left for their daily measurements, but I decided to wait for the sun to warm the air a bit before taking the skis. Embarrassing, but I’ll rather ski in the evening: dark is not a problem but cold is. At 9:30 the temperature had risen to -25°C, so I was out there too. And actually it wasn’t that bad, the Sun shone brightly all day and the snow just carried my weight on 250 cm skis. After a full day and some 15 km skiing, 28 plots had been marked and 7 photographed. Highlight of the day was certainly a 5 km ride back on a local guy’s car, who (after learning that I wasn’t a fox hunter) pitied me for having to ski such a long way…

X marks the right place

Twilight photography

Friday, February 12, 2010


For me this year will definitely be interesting. Since the beginning of January I've been working at a new university: UEF. Nevertheless, my office is the same as before, and the daily work has hardly changed at all. As usual, this kind of reforms cause some extra nuisance due to changes in computer systems and bureaucracy, but hopefully the benefits of combining two clearly distinct universities will appear sooner or later.

What makes this year different is of course the fact that I should finally finish my PhD. Doctoral student's main job should of course be concentrating on the thesis research, but often time must be allocated to more pressing matters. These include, for instance, various side projects, cooperation with other researchers, seminars and seminar preparations, statistics courses, browsing the web, writing funding proposals, and reporting your progress. And I don't even have teaching responsibilities... The proposal and reporting parts feel the most like wasted time. Especially begging for funding seems to be the most discouraging part of a researcher's daily life, especially when your ideas are good and you work hard to make a good application, but the likely result is nothing.

The above listing is of course meant to explain why finishing the last sub-study (laser scanning) has taken much longer than I expected. But now, I think I'll finally be able to focus on that more than anything else. Later in the spring the laser study must be put forward as it is, and the next phase includes writing the thesis summary and finishing the remaining compulsory studies. Everything should be ready in autumn. Easier said than done.