HURP involves researchers in different universities and research institutes.

Contact information for HURP members can be found in their perspective institutional pages.

Tuomas Aivelo

Tuomas Aivelo is disease ecologist and evolutionary parasitologist. He has studied both small mammals and their pathogen vectors and developed new methods for identifying parasites and study their co-occurrences within host individuals. He defended his PhD thesis "Longitudinal monitoring of parasites in individual wild primates" in University of Helsinki in 2015 and then did his first postdoctoral project with tick microbiota in Barbara Tschirren's group in University of Zürich, Switzerland.

Tuomas leads the ecological and educational parts of the project and tries his best to coordinate multidisciplinary work. He openly admits that rats were not his first choice of study species. He tried to get funding to study bat viruses, but couple of years ago that was quite marginal study area. "I've grown fond of rats and see continuing this project for a long time", he's known to sigh if you give him a glass of wine or two. 

Nina V. Nygren

Nina Nygren is a senior lecturer on sustainable development in the Häme University of Applied Sciences. She has studied urban human-wildlife relations and nature conservation conflicts. She has specialized in deliberative and participatory research and multidisciplinary cooperation.

Nina leads administrative science and environmental policy research in HURP. Rats in her own backyard have also forced her to try first time autoethnographical methods.

Juha Suonpää

Juha Suonpää works as the principal lecturer of visual culture in the international Degree programme in Media and Arts at Tampere University of Applied Sciences. At the moment he is Senior Academy researcher and project manager in Finnish Academy CICAT2025 project. Juha belongs to a rare group of artists who has a title of docent in Art, Environmental and Nature Photography. Suonpää has exhibited internationally and published documentary films, including Wolf Man and upcoming Lynx Man, numerous academic monographs and researched, for example, topics related to photography, visualizing science and the construction of the identity of a place.

In HURP, Juha takes charge of bringing rats closer to the camera lens and consequently, rat presence closer to humans by means of visual documentation.

Anttoni Kervinen

Anttoni Kervinen is an educational researcher, interested in how the interplay between students, teachers and multispecies environments can lead to doing and learning science in meaningful ways. He did his PhD in the University of Helsinki on outdoor learning and joined the Helsinki Urban Rat Project in 2021 as a visiting researcher from the University of Oulu working on CitiRats project. In addition to outdoor learning and multispecies encounters, his current research interests include learning from citizen science, the role of technology in learning and teacher professional development. 

Anttoni is not only qualified biology teacher but also qualified primary school teacher, who has a bad conscience of not really identifying those plant species.

Heta Lähdesmäki

Heta Lähdesmäki is a historian specializing in human-animal studies, human-wildlife conflicts and conservation. She completed a PhD in cultural history in 2020 at the University of Turku, studying human-wolf relations in 20th century Finland. After that, she has studied the relationship between humans and nature in Seili island in a multidisciplinary research project Seili - Elämän saari funded by the Kone Foundation and led by the Biodiversity unit at the University of Turku. She is part of the Academy of Finland funded HumBio-project, investigating the human relationship with the disappeared, endangered, introduced, and non-native as well as invasive marine animals and plants in Finland.

Heta joined Helsinki Urban Rat Project to study the history of bird feeding and rat conflicts in Helsinki. She is interested in multidisciplinary research and believes that historical knowledge is an important tool when tackling present-day environmental problems. The actual reason why she has taken into animal histories is that she has bad memory for names.

Virpi Valtonen

Virpi Valtonen is an educational researcher who has worked for a long time in early-life environmental education. She is interested in multispecies storytelling and human-animal relations. She has joined HURP in 2021 to work with rodent control ethnographies, narratives and afefcts. She finished her PhD in University of Helsinki in multispecies education in 2022. 

Karolina Lukasik

Karolina Lukasik is a postdoctoral researcher in the Helsinki Urban Rats Project, where she studies the conflicts between the gardeners and non-human animals in urban allotment gardens. She completed her PhD in psychology at Åbo Akademi University and then conducted postdoctoral research at SWPS University of Humanities and Social Sciences in Warsaw, Poland, in the project “Whom to trust? Cognitive determinants of learning from others”. She also graduated from the School of Ecopoetics, where she researched the history of laboratory rats. Karolina is especially passionate about the animals that we label as “pests” and building biocentric, multispecies communities.


Viktor Zöldi

Viktor Zöldi is an epidemiologist who is interested in rodent- and vector-borne pathogens and their public health relevance. He studied biology in Eötvös Loránd University and epidemiology in University of Debrecen. He completed his PhD at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Budapest, investigating a natural tick-borne encephalitis focus in Western Hungary. He completed the two-year European field epidemiology training (EPIET) program at the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) in Helsinki. Besides his scientific work, he has worked in biocidal product authorization for many years. Also, he has developed the current Rat Control Program for the City of Budapest.

Viktor joined the Helsinki Urban Rats Project in September 2023 as a Postdoctoral researcher to work on Academy of Finland funded project.

Santtu Pentikäinen

Santtu Pentikäinen joined the Helsinki Urban Rat Project in March 2020 to do his PhD on movement ecology and population dynamics of city rats. He is interested in finding out how various environmental and demographic factors and human actions, intended or accidental, can effect rat populations in urban areas. Santtu did his MSc in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in University of Helsinki in 2019. In his thesis, he studied how captive breeding changes the behaviour of endangered steelhead trout, based on his work with wild and hatchery-reared steelhead in Oregon.

Markus Myllyniemi

Markus Myllyniemi is a master’s student of history at the University of Helsinki who joined the Helsinki Urban Rat Project in June 2023 to complete his master’s thesis under the supervision of Heta Lähdesmäki. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Helsinki in 2021, and his interests include social, economic, environmental, and urban history. His master’s thesis will focus on the eradication and the war on rats in Helsinki during the late 1940s and early 1950s from the perspective of municipal literary sources. 

  • Environmental Humanities 
  • Human-animal conflicts 
  • Urban and social histories 
Master students, research assistants and interns

Jose Inacio Pesu works on his BA thesis in Tampere Univeristy of Applied Sciences in multispecies representation of rats and research done on rats. Lotta Hämäläinen has worked as a research assistant and is currently finishing her MSc in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in University of Helsinki on urban rat population dynamics. Mikko Aulio is doing his MSc thesis in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology on changes in birdfeeding practices. Maija Linturi is preparing her MA (Theatre and Drama) on cohabitation with urban rats in Uniarts Helsinki. Rebekka Kukowski does her MSc thesis on the effects of sublethal rodenticide doses in rats and mice. Taru Tornikoski does her MSc thesis on the field camera footage and rat behaviour and sociality. Annika Kantokoski does her MSc thesis on urban rat spatial ecology.

Johanna Enström worked as a research assistant in University of Helsinki in 2021 by analysing the bird feeding study data.

Venla Österdahl did her MSc (Admin) thesis on urban encounters with rats in 2021 University of Tampere. 

Suvi Huovelin did her MSc in Biology Education in 2019 in University of Helsinki by interviewing students who had taken part in our track plate project. The main results of her thesis has been published in Combining formal education and citizen science: A case study on students' perceptions of learning and interest in an urban rat project in Environmental Education Research. 

Krista Koppelomäki (2020) and Suvi Sutinen (2019) have worked as summer interns in University of Helsinki in helping us with general running of the project. 


Helsinki Urban Rat Project has a wide range of collaborators, who help us in getting more out from the rats - some more literally and some more abstractly!

Otso Huitu was the mastermind behind the rat project - he has had an interest in studying rats, but - alas - the administrative duties as a principal research scientist in Natural Resources Institute Finland have taken its toll. Otso influences as a senior rodentological counsel for our project and works as a co-supervisor for Santtu's PhD thesis.

Pauliina Rautio, an university research, runs CitiRats - Citizen with Rats project from the University of Oulu. CitiRats was borne out from the fruitful collaboration between HURP and Pauliina's AniMate project and it expands our citizen science approaches to more posthumanist directions. Other researchers involved with CitiRats are Riikka Hohti, Maria Saari, Mika Simonen, Tuure Tammi and Pekka Tuominen.

Tarja Sironen is an associate professor in emerging infectious diseases in University of Helsinki and the virologist in our project who asks us to collect all those different internal organs from rat carcasses and provides us with -80C freezer space. Tarja's background is wildlife zoonoses and she gets rats also from other parts of the world, such as Kenya. 

Jarno Vanhatalo is an assistant professor in biostatistics in University of Helsinki and tries to help us make sense of all the rat occurrence data that we have more or less opportunistically gotten our hands on.

Rauni Kivistö is an university lecturer in veterinary environmental hygiene in University of Helsinki and very fond of Campylobacter. Happily our rats also seem fond of it, so Rauni has taken to culture rat poop and sequence interesting Campylobacter strains.

Jonathan Richardson works as an assistant professor in biology in University of Richmond. Jonathan has been working on population genetics of urban rats in Salvador, Brazil, New York City, USA and most recently Helsinki, Finland.

Antti Oksanen works as a research professor of parasitology in Finnish Food Authority. He is interested in Trichinella in Finnish wildlife and consequently the reason why we send rat diaphragms through bus service to Oulu.

Verena Schünemann is an assistant professor in evolutionary anthropology in University of Vienna. She runs ERC-funded project on ancient dna from rats (including those found in Helsinki!), squirrels and their pathogens.