I am a PI at the Centre of Excellence in Biological
Interactions, with personal funding from the Kone foundation. My main interest
is social evolution, especially evolutionary genetics and social behavior of
ants. I started my career in social insects in 1998, studying worker
reproduction and policing in Formica
fusca as my MSc thesis. After finishing my PhD in 2004 I spent some years
in the UK working together with Francis Ratnieks and Stephen J. Martin at the
Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects in Sheffield, and later Sussex,
before returning to Helsinki.
I have three main lines of research. First, I study
the causes and consequences of caste differences in gene expression. We use
genomic and transcriptomic data to study evolution of caste specific gene
expression, especially how caste biases affect the strength of natural
selection on genes, and what are the common traits of genes that are expressed
in a caste biased manner. To this end, we have carried out comparative
transcriptomics in 16 ant species, with a special focus in the genus Formica. Collaborators: Dr. Claire
Morandin in Helsinki, Dr. Lumi Viljakainen at the University of Oulu, Dr. Jes
S. Pedersen at the Centre for Social Evolution, University of Copenhagen, and
Dr. Alexander Mikheyev at Okinawa Institute for Science and Technology.
My second main interest is communication and conflict
in ant societies. I study how queens, workers and brood communicate their
presence to each other, and how kin competition and chemical signaling in nests
affects reproductive allocation decisions, gene expression and competitive
interactions such as cannibalism again mainly concentrating on Formica ants. Main collaborators: Dr.
Martina Ozan, MSc. Unni Pulliainen and prof. Lotta Sundström in Helsinki, Dr.
Eva Schultner, Univ. Regensburg and Dr. Luke Holman, Univ. Melbourne.
In addition to the above, I am interested in
evolutionary theory in general. Here my main focus is on the major transitions
in evolution, and the empirical value of the superorganism concept for
understanding insect societies. I also carry out work on inclusive fitness
theory and the evolution of eusociality (with MSc. Petri Rautiala and Dr.
Mikael Puurtinen, University of Jyväskylä) and conceptual issues in
evolutionary biology more generally (with Dr. Tobias Uller, University of