Contact information

Faculty office:
P.O. Box 65 (Viikinkaari 2a, 2nd floor)
00014 University of Helsinki
phone +358-(0)294 1911

Faculty office open
Mon-Thu 12-14
Fri closed

International affairs, undergraduate studies and admission, Master's degree programmes:
bio-sci (at)

PhD studies and admission:
bio-phd (at)

bio-diploma (at)

Personnel affairs:
bio-hallinto (at)


core facilities department of biosciences

Welcome to the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences!


The Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences with its neighbouring units forms the largest and most prominent scientific and educational unit for life sciences in Finland.

The significance of biological and environmental knowledge for the entire society is increasing. Applications of biosciences play significant role in health care and medical sciences. They also are extremely important in answering to environmental questions such as conservation of biodiversity and sustainable use of natural resources.

See also our departments:
Department of Biosciences
Department of Environmental Sciences



Models help to predict the future of the Baltic Sea

Models help to predict the future of the Baltic Sea (23.11. 2015)

Ecosystem modelling tools are necessary to explore how various human effects might affect Baltic Sea. But how complex the models should be? And how far into the future can we forecast? What will the future Baltic Sea look like?

A chick of the Lappet-faced vulture on the nest in the Namib desert, Namibia photo: Andrea Santangeli

Stepping up for vultures (20.11. 2015)

Conservation scientists have so far largely focused on the biological side of conservation, but clearly almost no conservation project can succeed without considering the human dimension. Studying farmers’ behavior and decisions could help the conservation of species, such as vultures, that are strongly affected by the activities of humans.

mouse lemur photo Tuomas Aivelo

Parasite community dynamics in host individual-level cannot be inferred from the host population-level (20.11. 2015)

Tuomas Aivelo studied for his doctoral thesis the dynamics of parasite communities of rufous mouse lemur (Microcebus rufus) living in the eastern montaneous rainforests of Madagascar. He developed a new method to identify parasitic nematodes from fecal samples. The method works well for different host species, for example mouse lemurs and gastropods, and can be used to perform more efficient and faster surveys of previously unknown parasite communities.

Tanjona Ramiadantsona doctoral thesis

Several reasons make species vulnerable for habitat loss (19.11. 2015)

According to the thesis of Tanjona Ramiadantsoa, mode of dispersal, ecological specialization, temporal and spatial stochasticity, and competition are the most important mechanisms that should be considered while analysing species responses to changes in habitat structure.

Marco Milardi doctoral thesis about fish introductions

Fish introductions affect freshwater ecosystems in many ways (18.11. 2015)

Terrestial sources can be very important in supporting introduced brown trout populations in small lakes at high latitudes. Introduced brown trout alter the abundance of micro- and macroinvertebrates, tells Marco Milardi in his doctoral thesis.

Kirsi Kiiski doctoral thesis myopathy

Nemalin myopathy diagnosed more easily (6.11. 2015)

A new combination ofi NM-CGH microarray and exome-sequencing has accelerated mutation detection in nemalin myopathy, increased the coverage of the NM genes and improved the diagnostics of both NM and NM-related disorders.

There might be ways to exploit renewable energy and protect biodiversity (30.10. 2015)

Global expansion of bioenergy possesses serious threats to biodiversity, whereas solar energy could have potential for power provision with limited impacts on biodiversity.

Elina Välimäki dissertation Activation of inflammasome and protein secretion by endogenous danger and microbe-derived signals in human macrophages

Proteins secreted by macrophages: differences between former reactive arthritis patients and healthy people (20.10. 2015)

The doctoral thesis of Elina Välimäki aimed for exploring proteins secreted from human macrophages exposed to endogenous danger signals alone, and in combination with microbe-derived signals.
Her study showed for example that in persons with a former history of inflammatory joint disease reactive arthritis, the protein complex inflammasome is activated normally upon detection of microbe-derived signals. However, the secretion of two inflammatory cytokines, tumor necrosis factor and IL-23, is lower compared to the release of these cytokines from cells of healthy controls.

Dendrites and dendritic spines Olaya Llano

New interaction regulating synapse formation found (19.10. 2015)

Dendritic spines in the central nervous system are crucial for learning and other cognitive processes. Olaya Llano aimed in her doctoral dissertation to identify molecular regulators of the structure and function of dendritic spines. She discovered that neuron-specific potassium chloride transporter KCC2 and guanine nucleotide exchange factor bPIXb act in synergy to regulate spinogenesis and synapse development.

Drosophila and dietary sugar sensing

Fruit fly research reveals genetic mechanisms of dietary sugar sensing (2.10. 2015)

Scientists have identified a sugar sensing regulatory network, which is composed of several genes. Deregulation of this sugar sensing network leads to severely disturbed energy metabolism. The new insight gained in this study may also benefit research into human metabolic diseases.

Noble crayfish Astacus astacus

Noble crayfish: ecological factors are important to the causes and consequences of immune defence (23.9. 2015)

Geographical variation in resistance to the crayfish plague and immune defence is, according to Christina Gruber's doctoral dissertation, independent of historical disease outbreaks in the studied subpopulations. Her research also demonstrates, for the first time in invertebrates, reproduction-related endogenous seasonal variation in the immune defence of noble crayfish.

Reverse cholesterol transport pathway, doctoral thesis by Reija Silvennoinen

Stress changes cholesterol transport in atherosclerosis (18.9. 2015)

Macrophage-reverse cholesterol transport pathway is an important anti-atherogenic mechanism. The pathway is effectively modulated by psychological stress and mast cell activation, both of which are involved in atherosclerosis.

Man taking a photo - photo: Anna Hausmann

Social media data could contribute to conservation science (15.9. 2015)

Planning conservation actions requires up-to-date information on biodiversity, but also on human pressures. Scientists who collect data are few and far between on a global scale, but nature enthusiasts are everywhere. Spending time on social media might be helpful for biodiversity conservation.

Faculty logo

From Bryoria to Sulcaria: A new lichen species named (10.9. 2015)

Although Bryoria, a lichenized euascomycete genus, is a conspicuous, easily recognized and frequently collected, its species boundaries are poorly known. The results of Hanna Lindgren's doctoral dissertation show for example that Bryoria pseudocapillaris and B. spiralifera actually belong to the genus Sulcaria. Phylogenetic analyses also revealed that these two species are the same and they were named anew as Sulcaria spiralifera.

Claire Morandin doctoral thesis about ants

Biological functions strongly associated with caste phenotypic differences across the ant phylogeny (10.9. 2015)

Queens and workers of social insects often share a similar genome, suggesting that the basis of this dimorphism must result from differences in expression of the same genes. The doctoral thesis of Claire Morandin demonstrates the plasticity of caste-biased expression patterns in ants at several levels. Few genes retain their caste-biased expression patterns across closely related species, lineages, or development stages.

Ilkka Hanski Academy Research Professor

Academy Research Professor Ilkka Hanski receives honorary title of Academician of Science (4.9. 2015)

Ilkka Hanski (b. 1953) is one of the world’s leading scientists in the field of ecology and evolutionary biology. He is well known for his pioneering work in metapopulation biology and has conducted research on biodiversity and biodiversity conservation more generally.

Atte Korhola professor

Professor Atte Korhola appointed President of PALCOMM (3.9. 2015)

Professor Atte Korhola has been appointed President of the Palaeoclimate Commission (PALCOMM) in the International Union for Quaternary Research for the years 2016–2019. He is the first Finnish President in the history of the INQUA.

photo 123rf

Global amount of trees over 7 times the number estimated earlier (3.9. 2015)

An international research group, including our postdoctoral researcher Stephen Thomas, counts the amount of trees to be as high as 3 trillion.

Ants do drugs (24.8. 2015)

Ants switch over to free-radical-containing food when they are about to get sick.

A new algorithm helps to detect brain lesions in newborn babies (14.8. 2015)

Anton Tokariev proposes in his doctoral a new algorithm which can effectively be used to detect functional connectivity disruptions in EEG caused by brain lesions.

"This is an exiting time to be a plant biologist" (17.7. 2015)

Plant science is getting more and more unified. Now the researchers of development, stress adaptation and photosynthesis have joined forces.

Helsinki, Keskuspuisto map

New study maps recreational use and movement in Keskuspuisto in Helsinki (14.7. 2015)

The general public can now help collect data on recreational use of Keskuspuisto, Helsinki's Central Park, using an online platform.

banana leaf

Unit limits cannot hold back Viikki's botanists (18.6. 2015)

The Viikki Plant Science Centre, ViPS, takes care of plant-related research, research training and basic education cooperation on the Viikki campus. ViPS includes 31 research groups and more than 120 researchers.

Researchers discover weak spot in malaria-causing protozoan (15.6. 2015)

The cell membrane of the protozoan that causes malaria has an enzyme that humans lack. Researchers are now designing a drug that would block the functioning of this enzyme in an effort to destroy the protozoan without impacting its human host.

UH Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences logo

Interspecific interactions with other raptors important for a subordinate hawk deciding on nest site (12.6. 2015)

The breeding success of northern goshawks improves when old spruce forests are more abundant around the nests. The goshawks can also predate the common buzzards and the honey buzzards. At the same time the three species can compete for nest sites. Adverse interactions with other raptors may even impede a subordinate raptor from fully exploiting the periodic food peaks, says Heidi Björklund in her doctoral dissertation.

Yuexi Gu: Implications of BRCA1 mutations in basal-like breast cancer development and treatmentYuexi Gu: Implications of BRCA1 mutations in basal-like breast cancer development and treatment

BRCA1-mutant breast cancer tends to bear a basal-like phenotype – potential explanation found (12.6. 2015)

Women with germline mutations of BRCA1 gene are predisposed to the development of basal-like breast cancer. Mutation of BRCA1 predicts increased sensitivity to certain DNA-damaging agents but in clinical trials some BRCA1-mutant breast tumors show resistance to these drugs. Yuexi Gu found out that depletion of BRCA1 leads to translocation of ΔNp63, an isoform of transcription factor p63, into nucleoplasm and promotes transition of luminal cells into a basal state.

ROS signaling Enjun Xu

Multiple signaling pathways could be required to regulate the apoplastic ROS response in plants (12.6. 2015)

Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are both toxic agents and indispensable signaling molecules in all aerobic organisms. An ozone-induced ROS burst in the plant apoplast results in extensive changes in gene expression and alteration of defense hormones like salicylic and jasmonic acid and ethylene. A transcriptome analysis of a triple Arabidopsis mutant deficient in these hormones revealed that the signalling of these three only contributed about 30% of early-apoplastic ROS-triggered changes in gene expression.

Veera Pukkila dissertation DCB BAM

BA metabolite of the herbiside dichlobenil is persistent in ground water area (11.6. 2015)

Dichlobenil (DCB) is banned within EU. Its metabolite 2,6-dichlorobenzamide, BAM, is highly soluble in water and has a low sorption affinity. BAM is frequently detected in ground water, where it is considered stable. Veera Pukkila found in her doctoral dissertation that many bacteria in the groundwater sedimentary deposits degrade BAM, but with a low degradation capacity.

doctor's hat with the lyre Veikko Somerpuro

Black carbon could have had a significant role in climatic warming of the Arctic in the past decades (9.6. 2015)

An increasing elemental carbon deposition trend from ca. 1970 to 2004 is recorded in the Svalbard ice core, possibly due to local emissions from the Kola Peninsula, Russia. However, local results cannot necessarily be extrapolated over wider areas, says Meri Ruppel in her doctoral dissertation.

Doctoral dissertation Jouni Heiskanen

Lakes have a significant role in climate change (29.5. 2015)

Lakes promote climate change by releasing greenhouse gases. On the other hand the lakes react to the climate change as for example the amount of rainfall changes.

Jani Anttila flavobacteriose model

Environmental opportunist pathogens: competition with other species diminishes the risks of pathogen outbreaks (29.5. 2015)

Antibiotics and desinfectants may reduce the competition between environmental opportunist pathogens and make pathogen outbreaks more common.

Kai Kaila

Kai Kaila to be funded by the Academy of Finland as Academy Professor (28.5. 2015)

The Academy of Finland has decided to fund eight new research posts as Academy Professor for the years 2016–2020. The only one from the University of Helsinki is Professor Kai Kaila. The goal of Kaila’s research is to produce new neurobiological data on, for example, the brain functions of newborn babies. That kind of data can be used in developing novel therapies of diseases such as epilepsy.

giraffe photo Enrico Di Minin

CBD targets protect biodiversity only if new protected areas are more than "paper parks" (26.5. 2015)

Enrico Di Minin and Tuuli Toivonen stress the importance of international collaborations to achieve global conservation goals. Improving data resources, focusing on protected area quality instead of quantity, and enforcing effective management should all be concerns of the international community.

Kysenius PCSK9

PCSK9 gene and berberine effects on the brain: more research needed (22.5. 2015)

PCSK9 and the nutraceutical berberine modulate lipoprotein receptor levels in vivo. They may also have therapeutic potential against neurodegenerative diseases. Kai Kysenius's doctoral dissertation shows that lowering the endogenous PCSK9 levels genetically protects neurons against apoptotic cell death. A potential PCSK9 inhibitor berberine is shown to cause neuronal cell death at micromolar concentrations.

KA receptor Juuso Juuri

Kainate-type glutamate receptors modulate network activity in developing brain (13.5. 2015)

Via regulation of activity of individual neurons, kainate-type ionotropic glutamate (KA) receptors are capable of robust modulation of network activity in immature hippocampus, says Juuso Juuri in his doctoral dissertation. Alcohol and other exogenous agents affecting KA receptors may perturb the activity-dependent developmental processes that are central for the synaptic development.

Arabidopsis plant

Details on plant F-box genes found out (8.5. 2015)

Arabidopsis genome encodes about 700 F-box proteins involved for example in plant metabolism and responses to environmental stresses. The amount of F-box proteins in plants is significantly higher than in other eukaryotes. Mehmet Ali Keceli screened a group of Arabidopsis F-box T-DNA lines for their tolerance to several abiotic and biotic stresses.

tanker photo Kotka Maritime Research Centre

Risk of a collision-related oil spill on the Gulf of Finland could up to quadruple in the future (4.5. 2015)

A single oil spill can release 30,000 tonnes of oil into the ocean if two vessels collide. In grounding the high weight can lead to oil disaster, in the Baltic Sea up to 120 000 tonnes. This estimate does not include the new giant tankers.

bacterial enzymes breaking up plant tissue

Plant-pathogen interactions: new results by combining transcriptomic, genomic, genetic, and phenotypic analyses (20.3. 2015)

The interactions between phytopathogenic bacteria and their host plants are an intricate web of signals and appropriate responses. Martin Broberg researched the regulation of the virulence of soft rot bacteria Pectobacterium wasabiae, and the damage-associated molecular pattern signaling triggered by plant cell wall damage in Arabidopsis thaliana and was able to highlight their connection.

barley field

Northern growth conditions enhance the grain processing properties in barley (20.3. 2015)

Ulla Holopainen-Mantila suggests in her doctoral thesis that the hordein, the major storage proteins in barley grains, should also be taken into account in the evaluation of the processing behaviour of barley grains. In the northern growing conditions the C hordein was entrapped deeper in the endosperm, which improved the hydration of grains during malting in three barley cultivars.


Mussel caging is a useful tool in biomonitoring (19.3. 2015)

Caged mussels (Mytilus trossulus) can be utilised to assess biological effects and tissue accumulation of complex mixtures of contaminants, proves Raisa Turja in her doctoral dissertation.

Tuuli Toivonen and Joona Lehtomäki

In favour of open data (18.3. 2015)

Tuuli Toivonen and Joona Lehtomäki have made their research data openly available online.

Faculty Office moves in early March (16.2. 2015)

The Faculty Office moves in a couple of weeks to Viikinkaari 2a. Because of the move, the services are closed on 2–6 March.

photo Veikko Somerpuro

Apply now for the right to pursue a doctoral degree! (4.2. 2015)

Application period is 4–25 February 2015. The applications are sent through an electric application portal Aava.

core facilities department of biosciences UH

Department of Biosciences: Core Facilities page open (26.1. 2015)

The core facilities are aimed for research groups, companies and authorities.

oily bird 123rf

Working group established to assess marine traffic risks in the Baltic Sea (21.1. 2015)

"The Gulf of Finland will receive special attention, " says Professor Sakari Kuikka.

stone wall 123rf

Boosting the immune system of city dwellers (12.1. 2015)

A new project attempts to find solutions to allergies and other immune defence disorders using methods from medicine and urban design.

Plantago lanceolata mildew

Pathogen strains competing for the same host plant change disease dynamics (8.1. 2015)

The epidemics caused by coinfection of several pathogen strains in a plant population is more severe than epidemics caused by single strains.

Heikki Setälä

Heikki Setälä becomes visiting professor in China (30.12. 2014)

Professor Heikki Setälä from the Department of Ecological Sciences wants to find out for example if the parks and forests of a big Chinese city, Shenyang, can purify air.

Actin dynamics change in dendritic spines as the spines develop (11.12. 2014)

In his doctoral dissertation, Mikko Koskinen developed a new approach to use fluorescence anisotropy to measure the level of actin bundling in dedritic spines. He also evaluated methods used to measure F-actin turnover in dendritic spines and the analysis of the data. He found out that the dynamics of F-actin change during the maturation of dendritic spines. The stable pool of F-actin increases in size and the turnover of the dynamic pool increases.

lake water photo: 123rf

Artificial sweeteners end up in surface waters and stay for a long time (10.12. 2014)

Many artificial sweeteners do not metabolise or degrade in wastewater treatment plants. Some also may have a photolytic half-life of 3–6 years, states Noora Perkola in her doctoral dissertation.

Helsinki Challenge

Three Faculty teams to semifinals in Helsinki Challenge (2.12. 2014)

Teams lead by Kaisa Korhonen-Kurki, Kristina Lindström and Jari Niemelä search solutions to following everyday choices, developing Finnish agriculture towards a more sustainable future and building cooperation network for researching and supporting sustainable urban development.

Juho Kellosalo

Viikki Research Group Organisation's dissertation prize to Juho Kellosalo (1.12. 2014)

Kellosalo's doctoral dissertation from 2013 is a part of the research solving the TmPPase structure of a bacterium Themotoga maritima.

Petri Ala-Laurila

Award for scientific courage to Petri Ala-Laurila (24.11 2014)

Academy Research Fellow Petri Ala-Laurila receives an award for scientific courage on 27 November. Biophycisist Petri Ala-Laurila researches the absolute limits of vision.

Plantago lanceolata

Coinfection has a major role in driving disease dynamics in natural populations (19.11 2014)

In the dynamic pathogen metapopulation of Podosphaera plantaginis on Plantago lanceolata, local adaptation mediates pathogen life history trade-offs.

intein conserved sequence blocks

Intermolecular protein splicing: new uses in biotechnology (18.11 2014)

A. Sesilja Aranko describes in her doctoral dissertation an intein-mediated protein alternative splicing (iPAS) reaction which could be used to control protein functions in concentration and expression-order dependent manner.

Tempe Elephant Park, photo: Enrico Di Minin

Protected area expansion target: is a huge promise lost? (17.11 2014)

Globally coordinated protected area network expansion could deliver a result 50 percent more efficient compared to countries looking only at biodiversity within their own area. Land conversion is, however, fast degrading options for conservation.

faculty logo

EU's total responsibility for global emissions has increased (14.11 2014)

In her doctoral thesis Eija-Riitta Korhola, MEP during 1999–2014, seeks to explain why so little has been gained in international climate politics during the effort-taking climate actions of the past 20 years.

faculty logo

Department of Biosciences invites applications for the position of Professor of Microbiology (12.11 2014)

The Professor is specialising in the molecular and cellular biology of prokaryotes. The closing date for applications is Monday 15 December 2014.

a bat photo Risto Lindstedt

Bats identified as hosts of Bartonella mayotimonensis (4.11 2014)

The modern sequencing techniques used by Dr. Arto Pulliainen and his colleagues have shown that bats can carry a bacterial species previously been shown to cause deadly human infections in USA.

Yrjö Ykä Helariutta

Professor Yrjö Helariutta's team recruited to Cambridge (2.11 2014)

Yrjö Helariutta, professor of developmental plant biology, has been recruited to the University of Cambridge to continue his work there in the same capacity. Some of the members of his research group, approximately ten researchers in the Arabidopsis team, will move from Viikki to England. A handful of researchers focusing on vascular plants, will remain at the University of Helsinki, with Helariutta serving as their telecommuting superior.

Jouko Rikkinen University of Helsinki

Professor Jouko Rikkinen awarded a non-fiction prize for writers (27.10 2014)

The € 8 000 prize was given by the Finnish Association of Non-fiction Writers. Professor Rikkinen is known especially for his research about the symbiosis between algae and fungi but he is also a well-known and esteemed non-fiction writer.

adult goshawk photo Daniel Burgas

Retaining forests where raptors nest can help to protect biodiversity (24.10 2014)

Raptors can affect the distribution of other species and they can also be used to find forests with high biodiversity value, says Daniel Burgas in his doctoral dissertation.

Formica ants

Formica ant larvae readily engage in egg cannibalism (22.10 2014)

Formica ant larvae are far from powerless. Eva Schultner's thesis identifies larvae as individuals with selfish interests. The larvae have the power to act in social conflict. Egg cannibalism may allow larvae to have influence on their own caste fate or size and for example affect overall colony fitness.

southern white rhinoceros photo Enrico Di Minin

A legal trade in horn would improve rhino protection and help sustainable development (21.10 2014)

The extinction in the wild of the southern white rhino population could be prevented by letting local communities take responsibility of the animals and giving them permission to harvest horns in a controlled manner through a legal trade. Rhino horn is made of the same material as human hair and fingernails and grows back in 2–3 years.

Janne Sundell Lammi biological station

Janne Sundell appointed as the Director of the Lammi Biological Station (10.10 2014)

PhD Janne Sundell has been appointed as the Director of the Lammi Biological Station in Hämeenlinna. He has been the acting director of the station since 2009. Janne Sundell did his doctoral thesis on the effect on the population dynamics of the voles in 2002. He also researches the predators of the voles, such as stoats and weasels, and is interested also in brown bears and beavers.

bacteria compost

A plethora of useful microbes to be found in composts (8.10 2014)

By examining microbial communities in composts it might be possible to find new suppressive microbes against the soil-borne plant pathogens Pythium and Fusarium.

actin structure

Actin plays an important role in the nucleus (18.9 2014)

Kari-Pekka Skarp used a confocal microscope in finding out the active import and export methods of actin in the nuclei of living cells. The details on a biochemical level are also included in his doctoral thesis.

Glanville fritillary photo Tari Haahtela

Glanville fritillary genome sequenced (5.9 2014)

The Glanville fritillary is now the third species of butterfly in the world for which the full genome sequence and a high-resolution genetic map are available.

micronuclei Ghita Falck

Direct analysis of micronuclei may help assess chromosome alterations in vivo (26.8 2014)

Micronuclei are used as a biomarker of human genotoxic effect. The recognition of the contents of the micronuclei is of utmost importance. The direct analysis of micronuclei in uncultured peripheral T lymphocytes, combined with centromeric FISH, may provide a new possibility for the assessment of chromosome breakage and numerical chromosome alterations occurring in vivo, says Ghita Falck in her doctoral dissertation.

root growth Plethora

Core mechanism of root growth has been identified (25.8 2014)

Ari Pekka Mähönen and his colleagues have demonstrated how PLETHORA proteins and plant hormone auxin together orchestrate root growth.

tooth photo 123rf

Lab-grown teeth: maybe not a mission impossible (22.8 2014)

Maria Jussila's doctoral dissertation shows that there is potential in the human tooth tissue to create new teeth. The inhibition mechanism for this is, however, not yet known. Tooth stem cells could in the future be used for example treating hereditary tooth diseases.


Sequence databases are growing fast – new methods needed for operating (18.8 2014)

More and more sequences are submitted to public databases, so faster and computationally lighter methods are needed for sequence retrieval. Patrik Koskinen presents in his doctoral thesis a computationally more efficient tool a hundred times faster than the most commonly used BLAST. He also introduces new methods for the calculation of information content value so that it is possible to separate informative and uninformative annotations.