In memoriam Rein Ahas

Ahas2016Rein Ahas (10.12.1966 – 18.02.2018)

In Memoriam

Estonian academia has suffered a heavy loss. Rein Ahas, professor in human geography at the University of Tartu, passed away on Sunday, February 18 at the age of just 51.

Professor Ahas was an embodiment of the ideal geographer. He graduated in physical geography and nature conservation at the University of Tartu in 1991. He continued his studies in the Master’s degree programme, from which he graduated in 1994, before continuing on the Doctoral programme. He defended his PhD thesis “Spatial and temporal variability of phenological phases in Estonia” in 1999. This study contributed substantially to the Green-Wave theory that bases itself on the annual flux of plant phenophases across the Northern Hemisphere. The article published from this thesis is the most cited paper in its field. It has become a classic study that was awarded the “John Russell Mather Paper of the Year” by the Association of American Geographers’ Climate Specialty Group. Professor Ahas was also awarded the distinguished “Junior Prigogine Medal” for his contribution to the study of the phenological development of ecosystems.

After his PhD defense, Professor Ahas fundamentally switched his research field from physical geography to human geography and achieved even more success. Regardless of the short time that he had to develop this new line of research, he was elected Professor of Human Geography at the University of Tartu in 2006. Professor Ahas was appointed as a Research Professor at the Academy of Sciences of Estonia during 2013–15.

Professor Ahas and his team established a methodology based on mobile phone positioning. It provides a more comprehensive way to measure the behaviour of society and personal activity space, in order to find solutions for many planning tasks and practical decisions. He successfully organised several international research meetings and conferences.

The Smart City real-time geographical approach created in collaboration with world-leading centres of excellence (Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH) in Switzerland, Ghent University in Belgium, Tsinghua University in China and many others) is applied increasingly all over the world. Professor Ahas introduced “Smart Cities” as a lecture series whilst working as a visiting professor in many worldwide locations. Several foreign PhD students and postdoctoral researchers have come to study and develop the topic in Tartu.

An unexpected and inexplicably painful blow of fate interrupted the success story, which now has to be continued by Rein Ahas’ students and colleagues. A wise and poised conservationist, Ahas was a president of the Tartu Students’ Nature Protection Circle in the 1980s and a member of the Estonian Green Movement in the early 1990s. Rein was an enthusiastic cross-country skier, snowboarder, fisherman and an activist of local life in the village of Kooraste. The symbiosis of nature and culture that Rein fostered expressed itself in his poems and lyrics. Many of them will keep haunting us.

Rest in peace, Rein.

You will be mourned by colleagues and friends from the Department of Geography, University of Tartu.


Posted in News | Comments Off

Digital Revolution

At the “Embedding digital into societal challenges” conference in Brussels was discussed how EU science, research and innovation policy plays an important part in merging the physical and digital worlds by matching digital technologies with innovative solutions to societal challenges. Digital revolution are one of the key priorities of Horizon 2020 and the next framework programme.

Posted in News | Comments Off

Workshop on data processing and analytics of smartphone and GPS data

11-12 September 2017, Tartu Estonia will be held “Workshop on data processing and analytics of smartphone and GPS data”. The aim of the workshop is to exchange ideas and develop research methods for processing, cleaning and analysing smartphone and GPS data. This could be the platform for developing European comparative study and H2020 project proposal with such methods. Keynotes are prof Noam Shoval (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem) and prof Nico Van de Weghe (Ghent University).


Posted in Määratlemata, News | Comments Off

Prof Matthew Zook is giving a prensentation on 29 March 2017 about smart cities

Prof. Matthew Zook from University of Kentucky is giving a presentation “Crowd-sourcing the Smart City: Big Geosocial Media Data, Ethics and Urban Governance” in Department of Geography PhD seminar on Wednesday 29 march 2017 at 16.15, Vanemuise 46-327.

Prof. Zook’s research focuses on geoweb and new spatial media in the age of digital technology, economic geography, augmented realities, codes and geosocial media. He is also the Director of the The DOLLY Project (Data On Local Life and You) which allows geolocated tweets for real-time research and analysis.

Posted in News | Comments Off

Age Poom defended successfully her PhD thesis

Our Mobility Lab member Age Poom defended her doctoral thesis titled ”Spatial aspects of the environmental load of consumption and mobility” on 2 March 2017 at University of Tartu Senate Hall.
Supervisors: Professor PhD Rein Ahas, PhD Kati Orru;
Opponent: Associate Professor PhD Tuuli Toivonen (University of Helsinki)

The thesis addresses the dilemma between the environmental benefits and disadvantages of urbanization across the settlement hierarchy of Estonia, aiming to get new insights about the effect of location on the environmental load of final consumption. It explores the carbon load and ecological footprint of the consumption and mobility behaviour of Estonian residents based on the data collected in Household Budget Survey (Statistics Estonia) and in surveys conducted among high school students and small enterprises providing knowledge-intensive business services.

The thesis brings out the lifestyle environmental impacts of additional consumption that occurs along higher degrees of urbanization both in dense urban cores and in their surrounding hinterland. Better availability and accessibility of various commodities, especially leisure-related goods and services, in higher hierarchy level settlements (i.e. in Tallinn, Tartu, and Pärnu together with their hinterland) favour their consumption and the consequent environmental load also when differences in income levels and other socio-demographic aspects of households are considered.

The thesis reveals the exceptional position of the residents of regional industrial centres in Estonian settlement hierarchy considering their significantly low environmental load from final consumption. This is only partially explained by lower affluence level and different ethnical composition of the population when compared to the rest of the country. It may be assumed that the industrial character, development peculiarities and environmental problems, lack of opportunities for self-expression, and low rate of social relations with the hinterland areas have hindered these regional centres to develop towards contemporary urban cores of active lifestyle.

Estonian spatial policy in local, regional, and national planning needs to consider the causes of spatially varying consumer behaviour in order to achieve a socio-environmentally balanced society.

Posted in News | Comments Off

Invitation to the Livable City Forum Tartu

Dear Livable City Forum Friend,

University of Tartu and Tartu City Government are happy to welcome all of you to the 3rd Livable City Forum that will be held in Tartu, Estonia, on March 7-8th!

The forum will address following questions:

- Which are the principles of the spatial planning of university space?
- How do universities evoke the migration of creative class and the development of knowledge economy?
- How are university landscapes related to the environmental and social values of cities?
- What are the benefits of stakeholder involvement and multilateral cooperation in spatial planning of universities?
- How do campuses influence the activities and mobility of university members?

More information, including the forum brochure, can be launched at register before Feb 27th.

On behalf of the Livable City Forum team – Welcome!

More information: Kristi Post,


Tartu Lv logo_eng

Logod kokku lai

Posted in News | Comments Off

Geoinformatics for Urbanised Society – NEW programm open 2017/2018

You can now apply to our international master’s programme “Geoinformatics for Urbanised Society” from 2 January until 15 March.

New master’s programme prepares specialists and experts on spatial data management for various fields of life in public, private, or non-governmental sector. During the studies, the students get acquainted with the spatial processes and phenomena in the contemporary society and environment such as migration, urbanization, land use and climate change. In data oriented studios and courses, students get skills and know-how how to obtain, manage, analyse, and use data concerning these processes in spatial planning, decision-making, and policy-development.

More information:

Posted in News | Comments Off

PhD pre-defence by Age Poom

13. December 2016 had Age Poom her PhD pre-defense: Location and environmental load.

Poom, A. and Ahas, R. 2016. How Does the Environmental Load of Household Consumption Depend on Residential Location? Sustainability 2016, 8, 799; doi:10.3390/su8090799

Poom, A., Orru, K., & Ahas, R. (2017). The carbon footprint of business travel in the knowledge-intensive service sector. Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment, 50, 292-304.

Poom, A., Ahas, R., & Orru, K. (2014). The impact of residential location and settlement hierarchy on ecological footprint. Environment and Planning A, 46(10), 2369-2384.

Image may contain: 1 person

Posted in News | Comments Off