Our group is a consortium of multiple principal investigators working around the common theme of sociality, behaviour and evolution. Find us below in alphabetical order.
PhD student, Finnish Cultural Foundation
I am interested in how hormones influence animal behaviour, particularly when they are transmitted from one generation to another. For my PhD I will work on how cuckoos manipulate their hosts through the begging display, and whether cuckoo "mothers" give their chicks the best start in life. I will conduct my field work with Robert Thomson's group from the University of Cape Town, in forests close to Oulu. I currently have funding from the Societas Pro Fauna et Flora Fennica and the Finnish Cultural Foundation (Suomen Kulttuurirahasto).
PhD Student, LUOVA
I am a LUOVA PhD working on Speciation Genomics in hybridizing ants. Currently I am investigating transcriptomic patterns associated with hybrid fitness, and my thesis aims to offer new insights into Speciation Genomics through the ant's haplodiploid sex determination system. Though my interests focus on how natural selection & hybridization shapes the genomes of diverging species, I am broadly interested in all evolutionary processes that act to shape the genomes of species. I am also passionate about promoting science communication and giving back to society.
PhD student, Kone Foundation
I am broadly interested in urban ecology and ornithology. For my PhD I will work on how native bird species interact with introduced non native plant species in cities. I study the effect of extent of pollination and dispersal carried out by urban birds on the invasive potential of introduced plant species. I plan to carry out this work in two diverse systems provided by two cities : Helsinki, Finland and Bangalore India.
Apart from research, I have worked in the field of science communication and am very enthusiastic about communicating research pertaining to the environment and ecology to the general public.
I am interested in how a changing environment affects the breeding biology of birds. My present research is on how Reed and Sedge warblers use social information. When establishing new breeding ranges birds encounter multiple novel threats such as brood parasitism and predation. Social information acquired from the direct environment of the birds may help successful breeding. Furthermore, I participate in projects on; use of thermal imaging in the detection of bird nests on arable land, nest survival analysis using nest-card data, color-ringing of blackbirds to get information on their wintering strategies.
I did my degree in Forest and Nature management (ecology) at Wageningen University (The Netherlands), a PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (animal personality) at the University of Helsinki and a postdoc on changes in breeding phenology in Finnish breeding birds (Helsinki Lab of Ornithology, Natural History Museum LUOMUS).
Principal Investigator, Academy of Finland
I am interested in speciation and adaptation both at molecular and phenotypic levels. I aim to understand how natural selection acts on genes and genomes and how different evolutionary processes either promote or hinder speciation, adaptation and the maintenance of biodiversity. I am also enthusiastic about science communication and creating opportunities for dialogue between science and society.
You can see my project website here.
I study the evolution and maintenance of female castes (queen and worker) in ants. In my work, I take advantage of the power of genomic methodologies and technologies to provide new insights into the mechanisms of social evolution, and the evolution of plastic gene expression in general. During my postdoc, I will expand my previous work to investigate in more details the transcriptional architecture associated with reproductive division of labor in ants. I use genomics tools such as RNA sequencing, comparative genomics, evolutionary analysis, gene co-expression networks and DNA methylation to answer these questions, in collaboration with colleagues in Japan and Denmark.
Follow me on Twitter @ClaireMorandin
I am an evolutionary geneticist interested in adaptation and speciation. I am currently working on the genomics of hybridization, using whole-genome sequencing data to unravel the contributions of selection, drift and recombination to patterns of admixture in multiple populations of hybrid wood ants. I am also assembling and annotating a reference genome for our study system using PacBio data. Before that, I have studied adaptation in fruit flies using experimental evolution coupled with genome sequencing (Evolve & Resequence) and during my PhD, I have identified loci involved in host plant adaptation in the pea aphid complex.
Ever since I was introduced to the broad field of ecology and evolutionary biology, I've been busy learning new concepts and methods (e.g. spatially explicit movement modeling, behavioral experiments, field experiments, phylogenetics, RAD sequencing) and systems (butterflies, moths, passerine birds). I aim to answer questions about the origin of natural diversity and the role of different interspecies interactions in the maintenance of diversity, ranging from investigating the selective pressures caused by predator-prey and host-parasite interactions to the effects of human land use on species ecology and range shifts. Currently, I am mainly interested in "evolution in action", testing selection in the field and looking at how selection affects traits at the genetic level.
See my personal website here.
PhD student, ILS
I explore the genomes of diverging and hybridizing species, focusing on Finnish mound-building ants. I’m curious to understand how interactions between loci (i.e. gene networks) influence reproductive isolation and the emergence of new species. In my PhD work, I concentrate on bioinformatic analyses, but there’s a bit of lab and field as well. I also enjoy teaching and growing as a teacher, which used to keep me busy before my doctoral studies.
Follow me on Twitter @InaSatok
My research focusses on studying mating systems, colony kin structure and spatial genetic structure in social insect populations, by using genetic markers (mostly DNA microsatellites and mitochondrial markers). My main study questions are to assess how the evolutionary transition from i) a simple (monogyny) to more complex (polygyny) social structure and ii) free-living to a parasitic life style affects spatial genetic structures, and eventually speciation. My most main study species are Myrmica and Formica ants and Polistes wasps, but I have also participated in a range of studies on non-social organisms, including solitary wasps, shoaling fish, amphibians and sea weed.
I am also the director of the Master’s Programme in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the head of the Molecular Ecology and Systematics lab in the University of Helsinki. I teach population genetics and related topics at undergraduate and master’s levels and supervise PhD and MSc students.
Professor Emerita in Evolutionary biology
My work focuses on three avenues of research: the proximate and ultimate causes of conflicts and their resolution, population biology encompassing causes and consequences of inbreeding, and caste-specific life history trade-offs. The work on conflict resolution asks to what extent workers can enhance their inclusive fitness given the fact that colonies may regularly contain multiple reproductive queens. The work on population biology and life history trade-offs builds on the long-term data set we have collected on the ant Formica exsecta at the Tvärminne zoological station. Based on demographic, productivity, and genotype data we have estimated colony inbreeding, and ask how the life time fitness of colonies depends on caste-specific trade-offs at the colony, the individual, and the gene level. The approaches entail the level of genes, individuals, and populations, and combine genetic, and behavioural work in the laboratory and the field.
Assistant professor, Behavioural ecology / HiLIFE
I was recruited to the University of Helsinki by the Helsinki Institute of Life Science (HiLIFE) and sit within the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences. My research uses information ecology theory to better understand coevolution: I look at how variation in the way information is acquired and used influences the evolutionary outcomes of species interactions. In a broader sense, I am fascinated by the way that social interactions make up the environment that individuals experience, and shape processes of natural and sexual selection.
Birds are my main study taxa. Current research focusses on interactions between brood parasitic cuckoos and their hosts in Finland, where I am exploring how social environments allow Acrocephalus warblers to expand their range and adapt to novel enemies; and addressing how predators' social interactions influence the evolution of defences in their prey (using great tits as our model system). A third focus is to use this approach to suggest novel solutions to conservation problems, starting with the hihi, a threatened bird species in New Zealand that I have worked with since 2002.
I am interested in how interactions within and between species produce evolutionary change, and what kind of change we might expect from different interactions. I delight in using simple field methods to elucidate the complex processes behind coevolution. Attempting such an approach, my research focuses on how reed warblers use social information to defend themselves in the arms race against brood parasitic cuckoos. I also aim to investigate this in the context of geographic mosaics, whereby selection acts differently depending on local ecology. I have previously worked on other brood parasites, including cowbirds and cuckoo catfish, and other coevolutionary relationships such as mussels and their pathogens, and sexual conflict in damselflies.
Sometimes I indulge in artsy fartsy photography as another outlet for my love of nature, which you can look at on Instagram (@deryk.tolman).
Professor of Ecology
Docent, Evolutionary Ecology
My main interest is the evolution of cooperation, particularly how the social environment affects behaviour, health and ageing in social animals - humans included.
My project investigates the effects of early life environment on life-history trajectories and fitness in a cooperatively breeding mammal, the banded mongoose. Specifically, I use measures of stress and care received from other group members as predictors of fitness and physiological markers of ageing, in a long term study population located in Uganda. I also continue the work I did for my PhD, on effects and incidence of inbreeding in the Tvärminne population of the ant Formica exsecta.
Outreach and disseminating scientific knowledge to the wider audience is close to my heart, and I am currently writing a popular science book on Biology of inequality: how early life adversity contributes to societal inequality in humans (in Finnish).
Dalial Freitak (principal investigator) - 2012-2018
Helena Johansson (postdoctoral researcher) - 2010-2017
Kishor Dhaygude (PhD student) - 2012-2018
Dimitri Stucki (PhD student) - 2012-2017
Martina Ozan (PhD student) - 2010-2016
Jana Wolf (PhD student) - 2012-2016
Unni Pulliainen (PhD student) - 2014-2019
Stafva Lindström (PhD student, secretary) - 2012-2019
Heli Salmela (postdoctoral researcher) - 2012-2017
Franziska Dickel (PhD student) - 2014-2018
Nick Bos (post-doctoral researcher) - 2012-2019
Sanja Hakala (PhD student) 2015-2020