Thesis topics

Currently available MSc thesis topics:
Can you establish a biodiverse urban meadow?

Contact: Pasi Pouta, or Johan Kotze

Cities in Europe and Finland have been interested in creating biodiverse urban meadows by reducing management intensity in lawns or by sowing native meadow plants. However, little is known about what has come out of these experiments in practice. As a master’s student, you will aim to understand the plant communities created in meadowing projects in the cities of Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen, collecting field data during the summer of 2023. Have they been able to create biodiverse meadow vegetation? How do they compare to other kinds of urban open vegetation in the area?

Carabid beetles in urban greenspace

Contact: Johan Kotze, Heikki Setälä, or Basile Finand

Ground beetles have been used in various urban ecological research questions. The group is well-known, and responds rapidly to various disturbances. We offer various MSc thesis topics related to the response of these beetles to urbanisation, including i) how body size of these beetles vary in various types of urban greenspace, ii) linking contemporary carabid beetle assembly to historical urban landscape configuration, iii) exploring whether some traits (characteristics) of carabid beetle are influenced by urbanisation. The MSc student(s) will join our recently-appointed postdoc and senior members of the group to do fieldwork primarily in Helsinki, but opportunities are also available for fieldwork in Lahti.

The impacts of turning lawns into meadows 

Contact: Anna Oldén

Unused lawns could be turned into biodiverse meadow-like habitats by changing their management and possibly modifying the topsoil and sowing meadow species. Different methods of this transformation are expected to have varying impacts on the price of the transformation, the development of the plant community, soil properties, greenhouse gas emissions and the aesthetics of the site. An experiment was set up in autumn 2022 in the lawns of Lammi Biological Station. Four different topsoil treatments are tested with or without the sowing of a hemiparasitic plant that should weaken the lawn vegetation. Each of these eight treatment combinations are repeated on eight different blocks. During the summer of 2023 you could study the impacts of the treatments on greenhouse gas emissions and/or soil properties. 

Hungry Microbes: Do clippings from lawn mowing deplete or increase soil carbon pools?

Contact: Alexander Stelzer, Johan Kotze, or Heikki Setälä

Soil organic carbon is the fuel for many biogenic processes. Hence, it is an accepted indicator for soil and plant health. Lawn mowing in urban parks enhances grass/herb growth and reintroduces clippings and their carbon back into the soil. Intuitively, carbon pools in the soil should increase when carbon from grass litter enters the soils as the clippings decompose and then eventually equilibrate to the carbon level before the mowing. However, the addition of new litter has been observed to decrease C in the soils across various ecosystems. This may happen when the biomass and activity of soil microbiota increases due to litter addition to the soil. Our current understand suggests that soil microbes get fueled with fresh labile carbon and consequently metabolize also the “old” and more stable carbon pools. Whether this, so called, priming effect takes place in urban parks is not known. In this thesis, you will monitor soil carbon pools for three lawn mowing treatments within urban parks in Lahti. You will explore how the soil responds when no clippings, the normal or the double amount of clippings are reintroduced into park lawn soil. This thesis comprises of field work from spring to early fall 2023 and subsequent laboratory analyses. In the lab you will quantify the carbon pools depending on their lability in the decomposition process.

Can biochar be used to reduce the impact of dogs in urban parks?

Contact: John Allen, Heikki Setälä or Johan Kotze

Research from our group and others has shown that domestic dogs are a significant source of nitrogen in urban greenspaces. Not only does this input degrade the aesthetics of city parks, it also results in increased fluxes of nitrogenous gases from the impacted soils and may contribute to pollution of ground and surface waters. Biochar has been shown to significantly reduce the leaching of nutrients from soils and could help to mitigate these impacts.

As an MSc student you will work in collaboration with the research team to design and implement a study to examine the effectiveness of biochar amendments to soils in urban greenspaces and to determine if they can be used to sequester and treat excess nitrogen deposition by dogs.

Completed MSc theses:

Sem de Waard (2023): Detecting recent and historically fragmented forest patches in the Helsinki City Region, Finland

Riku Kangasniemi (2023): Specialists in the city – Indicator species as a tool for assessing the ecological quality of urban grasslands

Nuria Keeve (2023): Towards multispecies spaces. Rethinking architectural practice in the context of urban biodiversity loss

Annina Malmsten (2023): Comparing soil carbon content in urban meadows and managed lawns in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area

Cameron Bechthold (2022): Using the tea bag index to compare litter decomposition in the sub-littoral zone of urban and vegetated coastlines around Helsinki, Finland

Johanna Huttunen (2022): Bumblebee diversity in urban brownfields as affected by local and landscape characteristics

Riikka Järvinen (2022): Examining the impacts of dog urine in urban environments

Ilmo Kapanen (2022): Nordic living wall: Integration of plants on brick façade

Yanxia Qiu (2022): Flight of the Bumblebee - Improving urban green for ecosystem services in Helsinki

Meeri Tahvanainen (2022): Urban forest habitat heterogeneity and its effects on carabid beetles

Ida Torvinen (2022): The contribution of root biomass to soil C and N accumulation under evergreen and deciduous trees in urban parks.

Maria Hämäläinen (2020): Eri-ikäisten komealupiinikasvustojen vaikutus alkuperäiseen kasviyhteisöön

Allan Delesantro (2020): Animals as Stakeholders in Urban Spatial Planning: A Case Study of the Jokeri Light Rail, Helsinki, Finland

Anna Ojala (2020): Maapuun ja latvuskerrokseen muodostuneen aukon vaikutus maakiitäjäisiin: kokeellinen tutkimus Helsingin kaupunkimetsissä

Gausul Azam (2020): Accumulation of nitrogen in the snowpack of urban parks and its connection to dog activities

Peter Immonen (2020): Pinnoituksen vaikutus kaupunkimaaperän hiilen ja typen varastoitumiseen kylmässä ilmastossa

Janne Auranen (2020): Kasvityypin vaikutus kaupunkimaaperän orgaanisen aineksen, hiilen ja typen dynamiikkaan eri biomeissa

Sampsa Malmberg (2019): Pääkaupunkiseudun täyttömäkien etelä- ja pohjoisrinteiden maakiitäjäisyhteisöt

Suvi Kolu (2019): Lahopuun määrä ja laatu Lahden kaupunkimetsissä – indikaatoit monimuotoisuudelle

Liisa Ikonen (2019): Kasvien ja kasvualustan merkitys huleveden hallinnassa

Henri Järvisalo (2016): Niveljalkaisten viherkatoilla esiintymiseen vaikuttavat viherkaton ja läheisen maiseman ominaisuudet

Steven Collins (2016): Thermal behaviour of green roofs in winter conditions

Xuefei Li (2015): Impacts of biochar on the retention of water and nutrients from newly established green roofs

Marju Prass (2015): Effects of the matrix on carabid beetle assemblages in urban ruderal habitats: a railway verge case

Emmi Silvennoinen (2015): Water retention performance of newly constructed green roofs in cold climates

Jessica Latus (2014): Bees in urban community gardens – local versus landscape determinants

Sveta Silvennoinen (2014): Economic valuation of ecosystem services provided by urban green spaces in terms of stormwater quality management

Tiina Helkavaara (2014): Kaupungistumisen vaikutus maaperään, hajottajaeliöstöön ja lehtikarikkeen hajoamiseen

Chhabi Neupane (2013): The effects of biochar on noxious gas and toxic metals from landfill waste

Matti Mäkilä (2012): Kaupungistumisen vaikutukset maakiitäjäislajistoon (Coleoptera: Carabidae) Helsingissä ja Lahdessa

Norbertas Noreika (2011): Forest edge contrasts have a predictable effect on the spatial distribution of carabid beetles in urban forests

Soetken Maene (2005): Dead Wood in Urban Forests in Helsinki, Finland