Our project "The missing link: unraveling the role of genetic variation of beneficial arthropods in agroecosystems" is led by Trine Bilde from Aarhus University in collaboration with Philip Francis Thomsen from Aarhus University, Greta Bocedi from University of Aberdeen and Marjo Saastamoinen from University of Helsinki. It receives in total an 8 Mio Euro research grant from The Novo Nordisk Foundation as part of their ‘Challenge Programme 2020 – Life Science Research (Biodiversity & productivity of managed ecosystems)’. 

The project will investigate the population genetic consequences of the dramatic declines observed in insect diversity and abundance, and the potential consequences for their ability to perform ecosystem services such as pollination and natural pest control. Insects are vital components of most terrestrial ecosystems. We are currently experiencing large population declines in insects due to anthropogenic causes, such as intensified land use, habitat loss and fragmentation, but we know very little about the implications for genetic diversity. Loss of genetic diversity can amplify population extinction and reduce the diversity and crucial ecosystem services and functions that insects perform. We will thus investigate the link between population size, genetic diversity, and the ability of insects to perform their natural important ecological roles.

Maria Hällfors received a 3-year postdoctoral grant from the Academy of Finland. In the project that starts in September 2020, she will compare past responses in phenology to those of today using a variety of methods: by coupling long-term data on phenological dates with weather conditions in the past and today, crowdsourcing phenological information from herbaria samples, and resurrecting old plant populations from stored seed accessions for comparing them with contemporary populations. Together, this will enable estimating species’ abilities to cope with climate change by quantifying the relative roles of plasticity and evolutionary adaptation.

Long-term collaborator Anne Duplouy was granted funding for a pilot study, which will test the hypothesis that wildlife inhabiting landscapes disturbed by anthropogenic activities carry a different gut microbiota community than their conspecifics evolving in preserved natural habitats. The microbiota of M. cinxia from the Åland islands, and that of three other species will be investigated. The project aims at bringing together four established researchers of the HiLife BIORESILIENCE grand-challenge around a common theme of interest: Rose Thorogood and Pedro Cardoso are joining Anne Duplouy and Marjo Saastamoinen in this study.

The newly accepted paper in Conservation Biology demonstrates that the cinxia metapopulation experienced a catastrophic decline in 2018 due to extreme drough over the summer. The paper further shows that even though the decline was predictable due to the climatic conditions, it was not possible to identify which populations would go extinct.

Our PhD student Ana Salgado defended her doctoral thesis on the 13th of December 2019. Congratulations Dr. Salgado!

The Research Centre for Ecological Change (REC) published a video series for schoolchildren. The series consists of 10 short videos about environmental change and biodiversity. With the videos, REC aims to communicate science to schoolkids and raise their awareness about biodiversity and environmental research.

The university's news article about the videos

The videos on YouTube


Our postdoc Maria Hällfors received funding for a pilot project where past populations of P. lanceolata grown from seeds from herbarium collections will be compared to those grown from current populations under past, current, and future climatic conditions. The project starts in August with collection of fresh seed in Åland and from herbarium specimens. The specimens will also be examined for phenotypic traits, such as degree of inflorescene pigmentation which is a plastic trait connected to cool climatic conditions during flowering, to study potential change in phenotypic plasticity over time.

HiLIFE recruited five top-level researchers from 400 high quality applicants together with the faculties of University of Helsinki.

Recruitment for Tenure Track Assistant/Associate Professor positions started in the fall and the appointments were made in June by Rector Jari Niemelä.

Second HiLIFE tenure track call attracts top-level researchers to Finland