Research groups

Our high-standard international research groups investigate developmental regulation and cell signalling in plants and animals, the adaptation of organisms to stress and its effect on the survival of organisms in a changing climate, as well as factors that affect organismal evolution. Our broad-based basic research offers limitless opportunities for the public utilisation of research findings.
Research groups of the Organismal and Evolutionary Biology Research Programme

Research groups that operate wholly or partly under the Research Programme OEB in alphabetical order.


Ancient genes of North-Eastern Europe
Group leader: Päivi Onkamo (University of Turku)
The SUGRIGE project aims at getting a whole-genome picture of ancient and contemporary Finns and Finno-Ugrians. We sequence ancient human remains from the regions where Finno-Ugrians live or used to live, in collaboration with Max Planck Institute for the Science of human history, Jena.


Behavioural Ecology
Group leader: Ulrika Candolin
Behavioural responses to environmental change, causes mechanisms and consequences for individuals, populations, communities, ecosystems.

Bioinformatics for Molecular Biology and Genomics
Group leader: Jarkko Salojärvi 
We study evolution; speciation, adaptation and host-microbe interactions in plants using statistical modeling and different -omics data sources.


Canopy Spectral Ecology and Ecophysiology
Group leader: T Matthew Robson
CanSEE studies how plants respond to changes in spectral composition, how these cues are processed and received by leaves and by the whole plant. We place this research in context, considering how the spectral irradiance perceived by plants changes depending on their environment.

Cell Wall and Epidermal Integrity
Group Leader: Cezary Waszczak
Toward understanding epidermal integrity and extrastomatal control of transpiration.
According to the classical understanding of plant gas exchange, the uncontrolled loss of water from plant aerial organs is restricted by epidermis that is covered by a hydrophobic layer called cuticle. Because of these properties, the majority of plant gas exchange occurs through stomata. Consequently, composition of cuticle and fast guard cell signaling are thought to be the major factors limiting transpiration. We are expanding this classical model with the use of forward genetic approaches. Our results indicate that modifications of cell wall structure and composition leading to e.g. loss of cell adhesion, can affect plant gas exchange independently of cuticle synthesis and guard cell function.

Centre of Excellence in Tree Biology – TreeBio
Group leader: Ykä Helariutta
Unraveling the carbon sequestration in trees and its potential improvement to mitigate climate change requires knowledge from and interaction between many branches of science and society. Understanding of the carbon sink effect in trees at a molecular level is still relatively superficial compared to many other aspects of this complex problem. The Principal Investigators of TreeBio CoE constitute a long tradition and scientific continuum of the studies on the physiology and genetic regulation of CO2 uptake through stomata, long distance transport and radial growth in trees. In order to approach the tree traits significant for the carbon sink effect and to integrate our research on the role of trees in forest vegetation as key carbon storage, we are consolidating here our approach by expanding our consortium to a multidisciplinary team representing a broad base in tree genetics, physiology and computational modelling of whole tree physiology.

Crop Light
Group leader: Saijaliisa Kangasjärvi
Resilience, flavor tailoring and indoor cultivation
We study how light affects the growth, chemical composition and ageing of plants. Many stress-induced phytochemicals affect the resilience, color, flavor and nutritional value of vegetables. Our aim is to apply the basic knowledge of plant photobiology for improved indoor cultivation and post-harvest quality of vegetables.


Eco-Evolutionary Dynamics
Group leader: Frédéric Guillaume
How do species adapt to changing environments? How does genetic variation map onto phenotypic variation, and ultimately fitness? We address these questions with a mix of theoretical (modelling) and experimental approaches. We use experimental evolution in the lab with the beetle Tribolium castaneum to unravel the evolutionary importance of genetic and phenotypic changes over time utilizing genomics and quantitative genetics data. With models we seek to understand how evolutionary constraints affect the pace of adaptation to fluctuating environments in different species with different genetic architectures and different life-history strategies.

Ecology and Evolution of Interactions
Group leader: Johanna Mappes
Our lab has long-standing interests to understand the behavioural and genetic processes that underscore variation in animal interactions. Our main line of questioning investigates the evolution of polymorphism within populations and divergence between populations. Experimental studies in the lab and field are our speciality.

Emotion science
Group leader: Sonja Koski
We are developing thermographic techniques to measure animal emotions and researching factors that affecting human skills in detecting those emotions. We are collaborating with Helsinki Zoo, Korkeasaari

Environmental and Ecological Statistics Group
Group leader: Jarno Vanhatalo
Environmental sciences includes a broad range of scientific fields studying the environment and solutions to environmental challenges. Ecology studies the distribution and abundance of species, and their interactions with other species and the environment. Statistical inference and uncertainty estimation are essential for both fields to ensure that appropriate conclusions and decisions can be reached from experiments and observations.

Evolution, Conservation, and Genomics
Group leader: Craig Primmer
Life history is the nexus of biology, because various biological questions ultimately revolve around the causes and consequences of variation in reproduction and survival, i.e. fitness. The fitness of male vs female life histories, however, do not always align, and hence life history traits may be...

Evolution, Sociality and Behaviour
Our group is a consortium of multiple principal investigators working around the common theme of sociality, behaviour and evolution. We studie in­ter­ac­tions cre­at­ing evol­u­tion­ary pro­cesses and pat­terns.


Global Change and Conservation
Group leader: Mar Cabeza
Inter­disciplinary ap­proaches for applied con­ser­va­tion


Integrative Evolutionary Biology
Group leader: Claudius Kratochwil
The Integrative Evolutionary Biology (IEB) group is dedicated to understanding the intricacies of phenotypic diversity. Our primary research centers on the coloration of tropical fish species. Using them as a model, we explore the genomic, developmental, and cellular mechanisms behind their remarkable diversity and the evolutionary forces that have shaped it.


Life-history evolution
Group leader: Marjo Saastamoinen
Life-History Evolution research group focuses on understanding how organisms cope with environmental variation in nature, such as habitat fragmentation or environmental stress. Our main study system is the Glanville fritillary butterfly (Melitaea cinxia) metapopulation in the Åland Islands.

Mitochondrial Signalling and Translation Stress Responses
Group leader: Uwe Richter
We are dedicated to improve the life of patients with mitochondrial disease by understanding the mechanisms underlying these maladies that have no treatment option.


Oxygen Stress Tolerance and Lignin Biosynthesis
Group leader: Kurt Fagerstedt
Research in this group is directed to oxidative stress tolerance of plants and to lignin biosynthesis in xylem of trees.


Plant Ecophysiology and Climate Change
Group leader: Helena Åström
Research on snow and winter ecology in northern ecosystems.

Plant Environmental Signalling
Group Leader: Maija Sierla
Our research group studies stomatal function at a molecular level to uncover mechanisms by which guard cells sense and respond to environmental changes.

Plant Growth Dynamics
Group leader: Ari Pekka Mähönen
We combine lineage tracing and microscopy with molecular genetics to understand growth dynamics of the stem cells of the vascular cambium at a cellular resolution.

Plant Receptors
Group leader: Michael Wrzaczek
Our research focus is to understand the function of receptor proteins, specifically receptor-like protein kinases, and their role in mediating the effects of reactive oxygen species (ROS).

Plant ROS-signalling
In an effort to get a better understanding of plant physiology during adverse or favourable growth conditions. We elucidate signalling mechanisms in plants that are associated with reactive oxygen species.

Plant Stress Natural Variation
Group leader: Mikael Brosche
Plant growth is limited by growth conditions. In our group we focus on identification of molecular mechanisms activated by reactive oxygen species that contribute to defense signaling, ultimately leading to adaptation to abiotic stress.


Research Centre for Ecological Change
Group leader: Anna-Liisa Laine
By fully utilising long-term series of nature observations, we can understand environmental change and its impact on communities of organisms and the ecosystem services they provide.


Sensory and Physiological Ecology of Plants
Group leader: Pedro J. Aphalo
We are elucidating the role of information in plant fitness. Plants sense their environment. They perceive signals and cues, using acquired information to adjust growth, morphology and development. Plants also emit informational signals. Acclimation that relies on information can be anticipatory.

Stomatal Development and Plasticity
Group leader: Anne Vatén
We study regulation of stomatal development in seed plants. We are interested how environmental information is integrated into this process.


Wood Development
Group leader: Ykä Helariutta
Our group studies the de­vel­op­ment of plant vas­cu­lar tis­sue (xylem & phloem).