The career of Professor Anna-Liisa Laine featured in Current Biology

The career of REC's director and Professor of Plant Biodiversity Anna-Liisa Laine was featured in a recent issue of Current Biology.

Professor Anna-Liisa Laine's career story was featured in Volume 34, Issue 6 of Current Biology. 

Professor Laine described how she became drawn to biology in high school and as a university student developed a passion for plant ecology as well as antagonistic plant-based interactions and microbes. After graduating with a MSc degree from the University of Oulu in 2001, Professor Laine continued as a PhD student researching spatial ecology and plant-pathogen interactions of the host plant Plantago lanceolata and its obligate pathogen fungus Podosphaera plantaginis under the supervision of Ilkka Hanski, the renowed scientist at the forefront of metapopulation ecology research.

After several years of postdoctoral research abroad, Professor Laine returned to the University of Helsinki to start her own lab, which focuses on the ecology and evolution of plant-microbe interactions. "I enjoy the challenge of adapting new techniques to the lab and I love how diverse the backgrounds of our lab members are. It provides a great learning environment for all of us," Professor Laine describes her lab. 

After four years as the Professor of Ecology at the University of Zurich, Professor Laine returned to the University of Helsinki in 2023, where she is currently the Professor of Plant Biodiversity and the Director of the Research Centre for Ecological Change.

Recounting her career so far, Professor Laine shared words of advice for young scientists on utilising the autonomy that being a researcher offers and highlighting the importance of temporal data, encouraging young scientists to set up long term monitoring systems upon receiving their first permanent position. She also expressed a wish for the realignment of public discussion during the time of the biodiversity crisis; instead of focusing on a few charismatic species and specific ecosystem functions, the discussions and concrete actions should move towards a system-level approach to combat the decline of biodiversity. 

"Nature needs space to thrive, and where human interference cannot be avoided we need to look for sustainable means of managing our natural resources", Professor Laine states.

Read the full article on Professor Laine's career here. You can follow Professor Laine's and her lab's work in X at @annaliisalaine and on the website of Laine Lab.

Professor Anna-Liisa Laine is an evolutionary ecologist with a strong background in studying plant-microbe interactions. She has investigated the mechanisms that govern plant–pathogen dynamics across scales from molecular to regional epidemiological levels. Laine’s past research has generated breakthrough insights on how human-imposed environmental change is altering the interactions between plants and their pathogens in natural populations. With her research team Laine has demonstrated how habitat fragmentation renders isolated populations vulnerable to disease in nature, and how plant biodiversity–mediated infection risk in natural communities.