Research

Population genetics and biodiversity group main research areas:

1. DNA barcoding and its applications: methodological development and production of DNA barcodes and biodiversity analyses via DNA metabarcoding 

We are conducting methodological development and production of DNA barcodes for Finnish plant taxa. The project involves national and international collaboration (Finnish Barcode of Life (FinBOL) and International Barcode of Life (iBOL) consortia). The main goals are to provide DNA barcodes as a taxonomical key and to create, collaboratively within FinBOL, a national barcode library for all multicellular species occurring in Finland (see http://www.finbol.org). Practical applications include a) using DNA barcodes to detect indoor fungal composition, b) biodiversity analyses via DNA metabarcoding and c) testing the content of food products using DNA barcodes.

2. Crop wild relatives and their potential for plant breeding

Crop wild relatives (CWR) are wild species closely related crops or their ancestors. Many of them possess useful traits, such as pest and disease resistance and ability to withstand drought, salinity or extreme temperatures. Plant breeders can used them to add needed variation to crops. However, many CWR species are themselves threatened. Besides conservation planning activities, an example of our CWR work is the characterization of the genetic resources of sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides).

3. Genotypic identification, relationships and dispersal routes of ornamental plants, including invasive ones

We are using different DNA marker techniques and sequencing to reveal precise identities of the genotypes of the popular ornamental plant, common lilac (Syringa vulgaris) and the widely spread invasive garden escapee Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera), and to discover their genetic relationships and dispersal routes. We have collected a large set of international material for these analyses.

4. Conservation genetics of the endangered palm Medemia argun from the Nubian Desert.

We investigate the occurrence, characteristics and use of the Nubian desert palm, Medemia argun, the emphasis being on genetic profiling, on the evaluation of genetic variation and on the planning of conservation actions. Very little is known about the species’ population size, exact locations and distribution in Sudan and in parts of Egypt. Once it was believed to be extinct, but now it is classified as a critically endangered species.

5. Forest tree ecophysiology and genomics

We work on a set of projects based on long-lasting collaboration with researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Hangzhou Normal University with large-scale experimental work taking place in China. Research has targeted a range of questions on several tree species, such as responses to climate change and adaptation mechanisms, with implications for forest management. The research also involves work on the restoration of degraded forest lands and biodiversity conservation.