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Boreal Biota and Ecology program 2016

Boreal Biota and Ecology

  Updated 12.9.2016

The Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences offers a study program in Boreal Biota and Ecology (BBE) for international and Finnish students every fall. The programme covers diverse aspects of biota and ecology, mostly focusing on population ecology in the boreal zone, as well as conservation from multiple disciplinary perspectives (ecology, social sciences, and genetics).

Teaching takes full advantage of the strong expertize in boreal ecology at the department.
The program includes lectures, interactive seminars, workshops and field courses. All courses are taught in English. The level of teaching is suitable for students with two-four years of studies in ecology and population biology.

The teaching will take place in the fall of 2016, from August to December.


How to apply 
If you would like to take part in the BBE program, please visit the University of Helsinki web site for instructions on how to apply, or email: studentexchange|at|

If you have specific questions about the the BBE courses,  please email the program coordinator Anni Arponen: anni.arponen|at|

If you are a visiting student from abroad, please, visit this website for information on housing, permits and living in Finland etc.


Introductory meeting
Come hear an introduction to the BBE courses, meet the teachers and get to know the other students! We kick things off with an informal introduction on September 6th 14.15 in room 2402 in Biocentre 3. You will also get more detailed information about the English language support offered by the Language Centre of the university (see below). No registration required.


English language support
The University’s Language Centre offers support to the BBE students with English language. Students who complete the language support activities will be eligible for English language credits.

1. Writing support session (Tuesday 13 September, 9-12, Biocentre 3, room 6406) (open to all BBE students, no registration)

2. Individual feedback on writing in the course PBFL (all PBFL students)

3. Support with seminar presentation (all PBFL students)

4. Report on the group discussions and presentation topic in PBFL (only students seeking language credits)


Lectures and courses 2016 

Time, place and registration information will be updated during the summer into WebOodi, where registration for the courses will start on the 1st of August, 2016 except for the Dead Wood course where registration opens in the spring (see separate instructions below). The courses do not overlap with each other, so it is possible to take all of them in one semester.

59907 Introduction to Boreal Ecology and Biogeography in Fennoscandia, 2 cr 
58570 Field Excursion in the Taiga, 2 cr
523152 Fundamentals of Conservation Biology, 3 cr
523052 Population Biology in Fragmented Landscapes, 7-9 cr
58549 Introduction to Ecological Modelling, 6 cr 
523063 Molecular Ecology, 5 cr
523148 Biodiversity in Dead Wood, 3-6 cr
523108 Conservation Genetics, 3 cr

59907 Introduction to Boreal Ecology and Biogeography in Fennoscandia, 2 cr
Time, place and registration
Target group: Second to fourth year students in biology, both Finnish and foreign
Prerequisites: Basic knowledge of ecology, botany and zoology
Aims: To familiarize student with the taiga biome, both from botanical and zoological perspective. The following topics will be covered
a general overview of the physiography and bioclimatic regions in northern Europe
invasion of plants and animals to Fennoscandia in the postglacial period
major terrestrial ecosystems and their vegetation ecology, especially forests and mires
regional features in biogeography, floral and faunal elements
human impact and recent changes
nature conservation area networks and sustainable nature management practices in Finland 
Content: Lectures 24 h
Study material and literature: Lecture material
Completion: Written exam jointly with the taiga Excursion material (58570)
Grading: 0-5
Connections to other courses: 58570 Taiga Excursion 
Number of students: 45
Contact person: Olli Turunen, olli.turunen|at|

58570 Field Excursion in the Taiga, 2 cr
Time, place and registration
Target group: Second to fourth year students in biology (basic level), both Finnish and foreign
Prerequisites: Course 59907 Introduction to Boreal Ecology and Biogeography is required
Aims: To familiarize students to forests and bogs of several national parks and one strict nature reserve, and other protected areas, representative of rare taiga habitats in southern Finland. Also natural springs, eskers and sites of bog restoration and prescribed burning of natural fire areas will be visited.
Content: Field excursion, five full days Monday to Friday
Study material and literature: Information given in lectures (59907) and during the excursion
Completion: Written exam jointly with the lectures (59907)
Grading: 0-5
Connections to other courses: 59907 Introduction to Boreal Ecology and Biogeography in Fennoscandia
Number of students: 32
Other information: Costs per student ca. 50 €;
Contact person: Olli Turunen, olli.turunen|at|

523152 Fundamentals of Conservation Biology, 3 cr
Time, place and registration
Target group: BBE students and Finnish students
Preceding studies: A good understanding of basic ecology
Objective: To give an overview of the field of conservation biology. To increase the students understanding of the biodiversity crisis and the diverse processes behind it. To prepare the students for further courses dealing with the approaches to reduce biodiversity loss.
Contents: This is an online course on the fundamentals of conservation biology. There will be lecture videos that the students may watch when it best suits them. There are also exercises based on the lecture topics that have to be completed before moving on to the subsequent lectures.
Study materials and literature: Video lectures, readings and exercises will be distributed online.
Completion: The students will be assigned diverse exercises that are graded.
Evaluation: 0-5
Relations to other study units: This course is recommended as the first course to be taken before any other conservation related studies.

523052 Population Biology in Fragmented Landscapes, 7-9 cr
Time, place and registration
Target group: Second to fifth year students (intermediate level)
Prerequisites: Basic knowledge of ecology
Aims: The course will give information on the spatial structure and dynamics of fragmented populations. The topics deal with habitat loss and fragmentation, metapopulation concepts and modelling, the causes and patterns of extinctions, dispersal, population genetics and species interactions in fragmented landscapes, impacts of climate change and concepts of spatial conservation planning with focus on fragmented populations.
Content: Lectures, computer practicals, discussion sessions, weekend seminar, lecture exam, optional book exam.
Study material and literature: Will be given during the course; Hanski, Ilkka (2005) "The shrinking world: ecological consequences of habitat loss".
Completion: Seminar work, written exam
Grading: 0-5
Number of students: 30
Contact person: Mar Cabeza mar.cabeza-jaimejuan|at|

58549 Introduction to Ecological Modelling, 6 cr
Time, place and registration
Target group: This course is mainly targeted at third-year students, with basic knowledge of ecology, who want to learn more about ecological theory, interpretation and application of ecological models, and learn some elementary programming.
Time: I-II periods
Prerequisites: Attending this course does not require any prior knowledge of R or programming in general. What is needed, however, is knowledge of basic ecology (what is logistic growth, what is a population, what are species interactions, etc.), mathematics (like, what is a function) and elementary statistics (such as, what is a distribution and what is correlation).
Aims: After this course the student is able to write simple programs in R. The aim is to learn how to implement simplified models of ecological systems/processes in an executable form, which can be used to systematically study the properties and behavior of the model. This will help in understanding theoretically oriented ecological literature, as well as help to build up a more analytical perspective on ecological problems.
Content: The course contains lectures and computer exercises, as well as a small, independent project. 
Study material and literature: Obligatory reading: R-guide to programming techniques (available on the course’s Moodle page). Voluntary reading: Primer of Ecology with R (Use R!). H. Stevens (2010), Springer.
Completion: To pass this course, students need to return four training exercises and a written report of a small modeling project.
Grading: 0-5
Number of students: 25
Contact person: Jouni Laakso, jouni.laakso|at|

523063 Molecular Ecology, 5 cr 
Time, place and registration
Target group: MSc and PhD students 
Time: Period II every other year (2016)
Prerequisites: Basic knowledge in population genetics and statistics 
Aims: The aim of the course is that students 
understand the potential and limits of genetic methods to study ecological and evolutionary questions 
understand the basic theory of population genetic analysis 
can perform population genetic analysis on genetic data by using population genetic software 
train seminar work by reading and reporting on current literature. 
train to prepare and present a project on data analysis 
Content: Course consists of theoretical lectures and seminar work on topical articles. A part of the course is population genetic data analysis work at Tvärminne Zoological Station, where genetic data is analysed by using freely available population genetic software. Students analyse data, and prepare and present these projects. There is also an option to take a book exam on a recent book in Molecular Ecology.
Study material and literature: Lecture material, optional book exam on a recent book in Molecular Ecology
Completion: Lectures, data analysis work, preparing and presentation of projects, exam on lectures, optional book exam 
Grading: 1-5 
Number of students: 16
Contact person: Perttu Seppä, perttu.seppa|at|

523148 Biodiversity in Dead Wood, 3-6 cr
Target group: Second to fifth year undergraduate students, early stage Ph.D. students
Time: August; optional participation in the Dead Wood Meeting before the course in August 
Prerequisites: Basic knowledge of ecology
Aims: To familiarize the student with various aspects of the habitat, organism groups and ecological processes in dead wood. Guest experts on dead wood will provide a deeper coverage of their research and will give examples of case studies by giving presentations and by leading the afternoon workshop sessions.
Content: Lectures (ca. 15 h) and workshops (1 credit), compulsory book exam (2-3 credits), optional poster or talk in the meeting (2 credits) 
Study material and literature: It is required to choose one of the books listed below and prepare in advance for the exam that will take place on the last day of the course:
Stokland JN, Siitonen J, & Jonsson BG 2012. Biodiversity in Dead Wood. Cambridge Univ. Press, 524 pp. ISBN 9780521717038 (3 credits) 
Bobiec A, Gutowski JM, Zub K, Pawlaczyk P, Laudenslayer WF 2005. The Afterlife of a Tree. WWF Poland, 252 pp. ISBN 83-920712-1-2 (2 credits)
Completion: Active participation in the lectures and workshops, book exam.
Grading: Pass/fail
Number of students: 50 students mainly from Nordic and Russian universities, of which up to 20 students from University of Helsinki. We also welcome participants from all other countries, who will however need to find own resources to cover the costs. 
Connections to other courses: It is recommended that students have taken the basic courses in entomology, mycology, and ecology as well as the courses Biology and Taxonomy of Polypores and Population Biology in Fragmented Landscapes. 
Other information: Registration through the Course & Meeting website in spring:
Contact person: Dmitry Schigel, dmitry.shchigel|at|

Taught next in 2017

523108 Conservation Genetics, 3 cr
Time, place and registration
Target group: MSc and PhD students
Time: Period II every other year (next in 2017)
Prerequisites: Basic knowledge in population genetics and statistics (e.g., 59931).
Aims: The aim of the course is that students
understand the basic theory of population genetic analysis in finite and particularly small-sized populations
understand how genetic methods can be used for helping to conserve endangered species
train to prepare and present a literature-based project
Content: The course consists on lectures on population genetics of small populations and group work and presentations of projects on recent conservation genetics topics.
Study material and literature:Optional book exam on a recent book in Conservation Genetics
Completion: Written exam on lectures, activity in group work, preparation and presentation of project, optional book exam
Grading: 1-5
Connections to other courses 
Number of students: 20
Contact person: Perttu Seppä, perttu.seppa|at|