Academician Ilkka Hanski was one of Finland's best-known scientists. His field of research was (population) ecology and conservation biology. He had a particular interest in issues related to the preservation of biodiversity. Combining mathematical modelling and long-term ecological monitoring data, he became globally recognised, in particular as a developer of the metapopulation theory. In 1991, Ilkka started research into the Glanville fritillary butterfly occurring in the Åland islands. Over the years, the project developed into a metapopulation biology research model species, especially in relation to studies on how species respond to habitat fragmentation. Besides the Åland islands, Ilkka also carried out research on dung beetles from Borneo and Madagascar. In his final work, Ilkka studied the impact of people's living environment and biodiversity on allergies and other inflammatory-related diseases.
Ilkka Hanski was a member of both the British Royal Society and the US National Academy of Sciences. During his career he was awarded several prestigious awards: the Crafoord Prize, known as the ‘little Nobel’, granted by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences; the Balzan Prize, as well as the Frontiers of Knowledge Award issued by the BBVA Foundation. In 2015 he received the honorary title of Academician on Science from the Academy of Finland.
The University of Helsinki has set up the Academician Ilkka Hanski Fund. Honouring Hanski's life work, the fund raises support for research and promotes social interaction in the fields of population and conservation biology.