As ecologists, we believe that any researcher should dedicate both time and effort to make his or her findings available to the general public. In our research, we have also attempted to involve volunteers in data collection.
The Arctic is changing fast, both in terms of climate warming and in how organisms interact with each other. To understand the implications of such changes, we need to understand how Arctic ecosystems are structured, and how Arctic species are interlinked by complex, live interactions, such as predation and herbivory. In short, we need modern theory on ecological interactions, and on networks of interactions, to understand Arctic ecology and the challenges it is facing. Learning such theories – and applying them for real – that is what this course is about.
Since the professional scientific audience is rather small, the dissemination of more popular accounts will significantly augment the impact of any scientific finding. Hence, we actively strive to complement our publications in scientific journals with more popular accounts in the mass media, and also arranged a course on the key skills involved.
Citizen scientists helped us find Finnish habitats of the rare beetle Osmoderma barnabita.
In our research, we have attempted to involve volunteers in data collection. In the summer of 2008, we planned and coordinated the sampling of dung beetles on 133 cattle farms all across Finland in co-operation with the Finnish 4H Federation. By comparing these new samples to those taken by the same technique in 1996 (cf. Roslin 2001), we gained unique insight into the large-scale metacommunity dynamics of the focal insect species. Between 1996 and 2008, about half of the Finnish cattle farms went out of business, and we analyzed this as a large-scale ecological experiment.
In 2011, we conducted another nationwide dung beetle project involving volunteers from the Finnish 4H Federation. We built on what we learned from the previous study by having volunteers conduct field experiments. They placed experimental cowpats into the field, with treatments that excluded various groups of dung beetles and other decomposers. The aim was to determine what effects the decreased diversity of dung beetles has on the decomposition rate of dung in pastures, and whether certain species are especially important.
In 2007, we implemented yet another research project based on laymen: a nationwide survey of gall-wasps on oak. During this venture, we sampled a total of 232 oak trees in the spring and 184 oak trees in the autumn, finding two gall wasp species new to Finland in the process. The resultant material has allowed us to produce the first distribution maps for an insect group previously next-to-unknown in Finland, and – for the first time – to evaluate the threat status of these species. Results were published in 2016.