Juha Merilä

Academy professor


Taxonomically speaking, my research has been looping. I started as a terrestrial animal ecologist working with evolutionary ecology of snakes on islands. However, a keen interest on population genetics, inheritance and selection on quantitative traits in the wild diverted me to work with passerine birds. This was a hard choice, because I was afraid of loosing my dear hobby – bird watching – which I also did. After tramping the same trails inforests of the island of Gotland for six years in a row banding massive amounts of fluffy fledlings, I grew to think that the grass could, after all, be greener somewhere else. Hence, I regressed to amphibians, then back to birds, and more recently, to fish. It looks that frogs are coming up again, so the loop goes around and gets wider.

I have had two broad main research interests both which were visible already in my PhD thesis (1996). First is in the understanding of the causes and consequences of genetic structuring of wild animal populations. Second is in the understanding the interplay between inheritance and environment in shaping the fitness of individuals and populations in the wild. Frequent diversions to flanking topics had made life less monotonous and interesting. I am currently on holding an Academy professorship (2013-2017) and on leave of absence from my permanent professorship (population genetics) at the University of Helsinki.

Research projects
See the project descriptions in these webpages. Aside of those, I enjoy writing synthetic reviews and conducting small - and often quite esoteric ‘leisure’-studies - born out of curiosity towards observations made in the field or in literature.

Selected recent publications
Leinonen T., R.J.S. McCairns, R.B. O'Hara & J. Merilä. 2013. QST-FST comparisons: evolutionary and ecological insights from genomic heterogeneity. Nature Reviews Genetics 14: 179-190. doi:10.1038/nrg3395

Merilä J. 2013. Nine-spined stickleback (Pungitius pungitius): an emerging model for evolutionary biology research.Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences (The Year in Evolutionary Biolofy) 1289: 18-35.. doi:10.1111/nyas.12089

Merilä J. 2012. Evolution in response to climate change: in pursuit of the missing evidence. BioEssays 34: 811-818. doi:10.1002/bies.201200054

Teplitsky, C., J.A. Mills, J.S. Alho, J.W. Yarall & J. Merilä. 2009. Bergmann's Rule and climate change: Disentangling environmental and genetic responses in a wild bird population.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences U.S.A, 105: 13492-13496. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0800999105 

More publications can be found from TUHAT database.

I do give very few lectures at the moment, but I participate supervision of MSc and PhD students and activities of national graduate schools.

Other interests
I used to be (obsessively so) keen birder, but managed to mix my hobbies with profession with the consequence that birds became a marginalized leisure activity. At the moment, I am close to have reached the same point with fish/fishing as well. Chasing a small black ball in cubicle still gives me some kicks.

Page updated 24.4.2014