P.O. Box 56 (Viikinkaari 9)
00014 University of Helsinki
fax +358-(0)9-191 57561
Faculty office open
International affairs, undergraduate studies and admission, Master's degree programmes:
bio-sci (at) helsinki.fi
PhD studies and admission:
biojatko-neuvonta (at) helsinki.fi
bio-diploma (at) helsinki.fi
bio-hallinto (at) helsinki.fi
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.
Doctoral dissertation prize to Jonna Saarimäki-Vire (9.12.2013)
Jonna Saarimäki-Vire from the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences and Niina Suni from the Faculty of Pharmacy received the Viikki Research Group Organization (VRGO) best dissertation prizes, both worth € 1,000.
Professor Jari Niemelä continues as the Dean (29.11.2013)
Professor of Urban Ecology, Jari Niemelä, has been chosen to continue as the Dean of the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences in 2014–2017. Professor Jari Niemelä has been the Dean since the founding of the Faculty in 2004.
Mathematical model supports the right environmental decisions (28.11.2013)
A typical decision problem in an environmental field includes countless uncertain factors of both nature and human behavior. Teppo Juntunen has in his doctoral dissertation developed methods for the modeling of uncertainties in environmental decision problems. He has for example developed a model for oil spill management and a spatial multispecies stock assessment model using Bayesian inference.
Respiratory infections: follow-up increased the knowledge from 1990's onwards (27.11.2013)
When respiratory infections in Finland started to be observed more closely in the late 1980's, the means of discovering different pathogens and also compiling statistics were rapidly developing. Riikka Räty researched in her doctoral dissertation respiratory viruses maily in army training centres and amongst small children in 1989–2005. She found out that RSV was the main respiratory virus in small children and adenoviruses were the most frequently identified pathogens in army recruits.
LDR microarray powerful in identifying microbial groups in water (22.11.2013)
The padlock based LDR microarray designed by Kaisa Koskinen for identifying northern Baltic Sea water column and anaerobic digestion reactor bacteria can be an accurate and sensitive method for identification of microbial groups. Amplicon sequencing is a powerful tool in identifying microbes and assessing the diversity. However, distinguishing between spurious and true community members remain a challenge, says Kaisa Koskinen in her doctoral dissertation.
Dissertation brings more light to muscular dystrophies (20.11.2013)
Jaakko Sarparanta examined the molecular pathways for several muscular dystrophies. Tibial muscular dystrophy (TMD) and limb-girdle muscular dystrophy type 2J (LGMD2J) are caused by mutations in the C-terminal part of the sarcomeric protein titin. Welander distal myopathy (WDM) results from a mutation in the prion-related domain PRD of the RNA-binding protein TIA1, a regulator of splicing and translation, and a component of stress granules. Jaakko Sarparanta suggests based on his research that increased aggregation of the TIA1 PRD causes muscle pathology in WDM.
Genome of the silver birch (Betula pendula) mapped in the University of Helsinki (14.11.2013)
University of Helsinki researchers have mapped the genome of the silver birch in cooperation with the Finnish Forestry Research Institute. Gained through state-of-the-art technology, this new information will be significantly useful in both the forestry industry and basic research.
Number of Cortinarius species doubled in Finland in ten years (14.11.2013)
Cortinarius is the largest genus of Agaricales with a global distribution and thousands of species. Cortinarius species are important ectomycorrhizal fungi associated with different trees. Kare Liimatainen has revealed in his DNA-based research much needed information about species composition which has allowed for comparisons between North-America and Europe. For example the estimation of diversity of Cortinarius in Finland is now about same than it was previously estimated to be in Europe. The sequences of type specimens published create so far the largest, reliable ITS identification database for Cortinarius containing over 200 species.
Adaptive genetic and phenotypic differentiation is common also in marine habitats with no obvious physical barriers (13.11.2013)
Jacquelin DeFaveri explored in her doctoral dissertation the patterns of adaptive diversity and divergence among stickleback populations. The variety of habitats ranged from global to local geographic scales.
DeFaveri found indications that adaptation to freshwater environments may have been achieved through different genetic pathways in different populations. Also, an adaptive genetic and phenotypic differentiation is common, even in continuous marine habitats where there are no obvious physical barriers to dispersal and gene flow. These results are particularly noteworthy, because earlier studies have largely overlooked the patterns and magnitude of divergence.
Neurodegenerative disease shows in the brain before the symptoms appear 13.11.2013)
Progressive myoclonus epilepsy of Unverricht-Lundborg type (EPM1) is a neurodegenerative disorder caused by mutations in the cystatin B (CSTB) gene. Saara Tegelberg suggests in her doctoral dissertation that CSTB has an important role in protecting normal cellular integrity. It also affects the development and function of synaptic connections. CSTB-deficiency also results in developmental defects whose consequences manifest later in EPM1 disease progression.
– The results of my thesis study have guided the research of our group into new fields by revealing the importance of microglia. Microglia have a central role in nervous system damage already before the appearance of symptoms of EPM1.
Open positions: Head of Department, Dept. of Biosciences and Dept. of Environmental Sciences, (8.11.2013)
The closing date for applications is 4 December 2013. More information on the positions is available from the dean Jari Niemelä, tel. +358 9 191 57849. More information on the application process for the position is available from the head of administration of the faculty Veli-Pekka Heiskanen, tel +358 9 191 57580,+358 50 318 2047, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Different cleavage points in BMP type proteins: explanation for multiple functions of signaling molecules 4.11.2013)
Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) form a group of growth and differentiation factors that are involved in numerous developmental processes. In the fruit fly, three BMP type proteins have been identified, each of which has a homolog in mammals. How can a small set of highly conserved signaling molecules perform a great number of tasks in different animals and developmental contexts? BMP type proteins are produced as large proproteins that require proteolytic cleavage prior to secretion and extracellular gradient formation. Jaana Vulli found out in her doctoral dissertation that the BMP type proteins can be cleaved in several different locations. The post-translational regulation of proproteins is a way to modulate BMP signaling to the needs of different species.
Non-malignant lung diseases related to external exposures: genetic variation affects the risks (30.10.2013)
The type and severity of lung injury induced by tobacco smoke, asbestos and other foreign compounds varies greatly between individuals, even with similar exposure history. Mari Kukkonen found out in her doctoral dissertation that genetic variation has a lot to do with that. For example the genetic variation in innate immunity related genes might have an important role in coping with asbestos exposure.
Epileptic seizures can cause brain to revert to state typical of immature brain while KCC2 is down-regulated (29.10.2013)
If neurons are exposed to recurrent seizures and other traumatic insults, it can lead to down-regulation of a neuron-specific K-Cl co-transporter isoform KCC2. The down-regulation then causes a re-establishment of the NKCC1-dependent depolarizing GABAergic signaling which is typical for immature brain, states Martin Pushkarjov in his doctoral dissertation.
Open doctoral school positions (28.10.2013)
The University of Helsinki invites applications for the doctoral programmes for a 1–4 year period starting from 1.1.2014.
A HP virus causing cervical cancer encodes microRNAs to control cell functions
Human papillomaviruses (HPVs) form a large family among double stranded DNA viruses. Approximately half of the cervical cancers are associated with HPV type 16, which is widely distributed and the most common high-risk HPV type.
The microRNAs are important small noncoding RNA molecules that regulate wide range of cellular functions.
Doctoral student Kui Qian together with the research group developed a novel workflow for miRNA sequencing data analysis. The system discovered nine putative papillomavirus-encoded miRNAs.
– Prediction of cellular target genes of HPV 16 encoded miRNAs suggests that they may play a role in cell cycle, immune functions, cell adhesion and migration, development and cancer, says Kui Qian.
New enriched rearing method improves significantly life skills and survival of Atlantic salmon
The conventional rearing of the Atlantic salmon, Salmo salar, does not produce fish that are prepared for a life in the wild. The enriched rearing improved foraging capacity and decreased maladaptive behaviour after release to semi-natural environments of salmon parr. Enriched rearing also promoted migration and survival after release to the wild of salmon smolts, says Petra Rodewald in her doctoral dissertation.
ERC Advanced Grant to professor Kai Kaila
Professor Kai Kaila has received an European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grant for his research about arginine vasopressin and ion transporters in the modulation of brain excitability during birth and birth asphyxia seizures. The grant is €2.5 million fo 5 years. This year the ERC awarded over €660 million to 284 senior research leaders in 18 different countries.There were just over 2,400 applications for the grants this year, which was slightly more than last year. Kaila's grant is one of the five coming to Finland.
Copse snail, Arianta arbustorum, really hates wood vinegar
Birch-derived wood vinegar acts as a repellent against copse snails and other molluscs. Another birch product, biochar, could also play a role in diminishing the pesticide risk as it reduces the leaching of glyphosate from the soil.
Newly found telencephalin-dependent mechanism regulates synapse formation
ICAM-5 i.e. telencephalin is a neuron-specific cell adhesion molecule that controls immune responses and slows the development of the synapses. Changes in ICAM-5 levels are associated with for example epilepsy and Alzheimer's. Deleting ICAM-5 from mice accelerates synapse formation and improves memory and learning. Lin Ning found out a novel ICAM-5-dependent mechanism which regulates synapse formation, dendritic spine maturation and remodeling.
Freshwater monitoring made more reliable by statistical tools and analysis
Freshwater monitoring is not easy as spatial and temporal variation within water bodies causes different uncertainties. However, the sources of variability in lakes are relatively well known.
– Sampling design in individual monitoring regimes would benefit from the characterization of variance and subsequent uncertainty analysis of different data sources, says Saku Anttila in his doctoral dissertation.
More meadows and dense spruce forests needed in the urban environment
Urban spruce forest habitats need to be managed to maintain shady, cool and moist conditions. Also, dry meadows should be mown late in the season and the cut vegetation removed, says Stephen Venn. He also suggests that supplementation of habitat networks should be implemented for example by construction of dry meadows on landfills and noise abatement banks.
Climate change may disrupt the phenological synchrony between species
40 years' worth of animal, plant and climate data from Russian Carelia is a treasure trove to those studying climate change and its effects.
A small fungus fed on tree resin already 40 million years ago
The forest near you might even at this moment hide a species currently unknown to the science. Instead of being big and flashy it might be so small and specialised that it is hard to find. Hanna Tuovila found several fungi that feed on tree resins. Their close relatives have been on the Earth for tens of millions of years.
Dissertations (on Finnish site)