Meet our group members in the Plant-Microbe-Soil Interactions research group!
Jussi Heinonsalo, Group Leader

My major research interest is the carbon, phosphorus and nitrogen cycling in soils and the role of mycorrhizal fungi in belowground nutrient and carbon dynamics. The role of plant species and plant diversity on belowground microbial and fungal community structures, their activities and C sequestration and stabilization on both forest and agricultural soils are the focus of our on-going research projects. 

In addition, I am interested in how belowground processes are linked to greenhouse gas fluxes from soil and how better understanding on soil processes could be used to improve soil C modelling. From practical perspective, many of our projects are linked to different forest and agricultural management practices and their development and we are therefore active collaborating with forest owners, companies and farmers, in order to implement scientific findings in everyday practices.

Rashmi Shrestha, Doctoral Researcher

I am a doctoral researcher motivated by working towards climate-smart agriculture. My research involves around plant-soil-microbe interactions in relations to carbon cycling. I am interested to study how diversification in agriculture affects soil bacterial and fungal diversity, community composition and microbial activity to soil carbon sequestration. In addition, I study how plant diversity impacts root associated fungal community with special focus on arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. I mostly use high throughput sequencing based methods. 

Laura Häkkinen, Doctoral Researcher

My research interest is in agricultural soil microbiology. I am especially interested how agricultural soil management affects microbial diversity and community structure at taxonomic and functional levels, and how these relate to plant health, soil carbon and nutrient runoff. I study both fungi and bacteria, mainly by DNA methods, with special focus on arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi. On a larger scope, I am motivated by working towards more sustainable agriculture.

Gonzalo de Quesada Alzamora, Doctoral Researcher

I Study how tree physiology and tree-soil interactions change under different forest management treatments. In particular, I am interested in the effects of thinning on forest water and carbon balance. Currently, I am working on a temporal carbon balance of two recently thinned forest stands with different soil conditions. 

PhD supervisors: Jussi Heinonsalo, Anna Lintunen, and Yann Salmon.

Anna-Reetta Salonen

Joint PhD project between University of Helsinki and Wageningen University and Research (The Netherlands)

Yiyang Ding, Postdoctoral Researcher

My research focus in forest soil and root ecology, with a specific emphasis on fine root dynamics and above- and below-ground litter C input into soil in agricultural and forest ecosystems. I expertise in detecting the fine root and mycelia growth phenology, turnover by using two belowground root-imaging systems (Minirhizotron and flat-bed scanner). Unlike aboveground litter, fine roots, with their recalcitrant content, decompose slowly, significantly contributing to soil organic matter. My research delves into unraveling the mysteries of the hidden half of trees, exploring the dynamics of their root growth, turnover, and litter decomposition rates. Additionally, I aim to establish connections between these belowground traits and the corresponding aboveground characteristics.

Eva Kanari, Postdoctoral Researcher

My work evolves around analytical methods of soil organic carbon (SOC) characterization. I am interested in defining and using empirical indicators of SOC quality and persistence. My expertise relates to the use of thermal analysis of soils as key to answering questions from the plot to the landscape scale. The focus of my experimental work has been on organo-mineral interactions in natural soils and in model systems. My research interest is the potential to link SOC characterization data obtained at the plot scale to SOC temporal changes at a regional scale through implementation of SOC dynamics models. At the interface between experimentalists and modelers, collaboration and communication actions are key to my research goals. My major motivation is the perspective of contributing to science-based solutions for climate-smart land management. 

Jie Xu, Doctoral Researcher

My research is mainly about the response of plant, especially roots, and ectomycorrhiza to the environmental changes. I’m interested in the relationship between forest plants and soil microorganisms, especially ectomycorrhiza fungi. I study how forest soil freezing affects pine root growth and soil fungi community by using root image analyzer (Winrhizo) and high-throughput sequencing method. My current study aims to detect the role of ectomycorrhiza network between different plant species in the boreal forest. 

Lukas Bornholdt, Doctoral Researcher

I study how different forest management options affect wooden plants physiology, soils, microbes, and their interactions in boreal forests. The aim is to draw conclusions on how different forest management options affect the resilience of boreal forests to climate change in order to ensure a sustainable forestry in the future.

PhD supervisors Jussi Heinonsalo and Anna Lintunen

Joanna Simms, Doctoral Researcher

I am a doctoral student that is interested in ecosystem modelling. My current project is to mathematically model the transfer between mycorrhiza and pine trees using game theory, optimisation and values from literature, along with the University of Helsinki Forest Modelling group. This will allow us to look at strategies in interspecies relationships, as well as adding more realistic nitrogen limitations to ecosystem models. 

Wenhao Jin, Doctoral Researcher

Wenhao is a visiting PhD student from School of Environment and resource science, Zhejiang A&F University, China (2024-2025).

Janni Ryynälä, Technical Assistant

Janni works as technical assistant for MULTA, Deep-SOM, Digi4CSA and FREACS projects.

Saana Hakkola, Technical Assistant

PhD project starts in August 2024


Doc. Bartosz Adamczyk (soil chemistry)

Prof. Hui Sun (molecular biology and bioinformatics)

PhD Minna Santalahti (molecular biology and bioinformatics)

PhD Outi-Maaria Sietiö (enzymatic analyses and molecular biology)

PhD Mari Mäki (VOC analysis) (main supervisor prof. Jaana Bäck)

Anu Ahvenainen MSc (soil N chemistry)

Prof. Mari Pihlatie (GHG fluxes)

PhD Antti-Jussi Kieloaho (soil chemistry)

Kirsi Bäcklund, MSc (microbiology)

Ulla Mikkola, MSc (microbiology)

Oona Uhlgren, MSc (soil science)

Julie Villemot, MSc (microbiology, Université d’Angers, France)