Sustainability Days UEF

Written by: Juliana Friedrichsen

Summary of the event

The event was held for the first time in Kuopio, March 12-14, 2024, and in Joensuu, March 19-21, 2024. The Sustainability Days aimed to provide an opportunity to explore UEF’s sustainability expertise across various disciplines and fields of study.

In Kuopio, the event started with an opening ceremony, in which the Rector Jukka Mönkkonen had his opening speech (image 1), followed by Professor Arto O. Salonen talk on “I, society, and planet”. Maiju Eskelinen, expert in Sustainable Development provided an overview of what the University of Eastern Finland has done in recent years to promote sustainable development and future perspectives.

Rector Jukka Mönkkonen
Image 1. Rector Jukka Mönkkonen presenting his opening speech.

In Joensuu, the Vice Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Business Sciences, Minna Tanskanen had an opening speech, followed by Professor Antti Belinsky’s talk entitled “Environmental sustainability and the legal system”, and Maiju Eskelinen.

During the event, a poster exhibition was held on both campuses, in which visitors could read more about a variety of projects and research conducted on sustainability across different disciplines. In the big screen, the project coordinated by Tiina Ynnilä entitled “Arjen pienet ekoteot” or “Small everyday eco acts” was on display, showcasing different eco-actions performed by our university community members. Different projects were also presented in the form of interactive booths, where visitors could inform themselves about the current projects. Some of the booths included: student initiatives on textiles (information about clothes conservation, repair and free clothes exchange) and sustainable food, internal projects from different departments, for example the talent hub and the biodiversity now project.

Our activities

Our team was present with staff members from the Center for Continuous Learning and the Biological and Environmental Sciences department, who integrate the Biodiversity now and eNaBlS projects. We used the event as an opportunity to promote the eNaBlS project through the distribution of brochures and by exhibiting the eNaBlS roll up (images 2 and 3). Our biodiversity courses (Biodiversity.now A, Biodiversity.now B, Nature-Based Economy, Current Nature Policy) were also promoted through posters and the distribution of leaflets and flower seeds.

Image 2. Distribution of brochures and eNaBlS’ roll up exhibition. In the photo: Tiina Pyrstöjärvi, Oskari Ylikoski and Elina Oksanen.
Image 3. Explaining the eNaBlS project to students. In the photo: Juliana Friedrichsen.

In addition, three interactive activities related to biodiversity and NBS were displayed. In one of the activities, we had a poll (image 4) in which visitors could select a topic on which they would like to develop their skills. The prompt in Finnish was: “haluaisin kehittää osaamistani”/ “I would you like to develop my skills in”. Using colored bids, visitors could answer among three options: sustainability (blue bids), biodiversity (black bids) and nature-based solutions (grey bids).  In another other activity we asked: “how could the campus area be developed to be more nature-positive?” (image 5). In this activity, participants could freely answer using sticky notes.

Image 4. Poll about skills development in sustainability, biodiversity and nature-based solutions.
Image 5. Open-ended question on how to develop a more nature-positive campus.

As a third activity, visitors could participate in an online escape room game (image 6). The escape room game developed by Juliana Friedrichsen, aimed at introducing biodiversity topics through a gamified learning experience, in which participants could solve challenges while exploring local biodiversity. The five scenarios in the game were a display of 360˚ images of different ecosystems in the North Karelia region.

Image 6. Online escape room on local biodiversity

Lastly, the Center for Continuous Learning team also promoted their sustainability projects, which included a survey on small eco-actions, and dissemination of the sustainability ambassador program.  

Outcomes

During the six days of the event, our booth received many visitors. The vast majority were UEF students and staff members from different faculties or services. Many students from the department of biological and environmental sciences were naturally attracted to the booth due to their strong relation to the topic. Other students from a diverse range of programs also demonstrated curiosity in the topic, for instance, students of social sciences, education, theology, public health and computer science. Another popular profile of visitors were the international degree and exchange students. This must have been linked to our proximity to the Talent hub project booth, that aims at international talents.

In general, visitors have reported that regardless of their background they can see the importance of biodiversity and would like to learn more about it, particularly by taking short-term courses that could be added to their minor or optional studies. In addition, many have reported not knowing about such courses or projects developed in the university.

Unfortunately, external participation was very low to non-existent. There was an expectation for outreaching local stakeholders from outside of the university circle, however, it seems that the event was not attractive for such an audience.

Future Recommendations

As this was the first time the University of Eastern Finland hosted such event, we saw it as a learning opportunity for future events. Our team has vast knowledge and skills on biodiversity that are valuable for the community. We should make use of such assets and try different approaches to reach different stakeholders. For instance, lectures and workshops could be promoted as a one-time learning experience that could be the starting point for building a connection between our projects and students, staff, and outsiders. It is also necessary to strengthen communication among faculties to ensure bigger participation and collaboration, not only in the event itself but also within the courses and projects.  

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KomBioTa Spring Meeting

The KomBioTa Spring Meeting took place on 17th April 2024 and brought together more than 50 scientists from the University of Hohenheim and the State Museum of Natural History in Stuttgart.

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