Thesis topics

Currently available MSc thesis topics:
Ants in urban remnant forests

Contact: Johan Kotze, Basile Finand, or Heikki Setälä

Habitat fragmentation is a major threat to biodiversity. Many studies show the link between current habitat configuration and contemporary communities. However, some studies suggest that past habitat configuration could also affects current communities. We offer a MSc thesis topic to investigate the impact of past habitat fragmentation on current communities of ants. We have sampled ants in 2023 in 25 urban forests in Helsinki with different history of habitat fragmentation. This MSc thesis would be involving the identification of the ant samples and the analysis to link the history of habitat fragmentation to the characteristics of current ant communities (species richness, traits diversity, etc). The MSc student will join a postdoc and senior members of the group in Helsinki.

Exploring Labile Carbon Dynamics in Urban Greenspaces

Contact: Alexander Stelzer, Johan Kotze, or Heikki Setälä

Carbon serves as the currency of the soil, as nearly all soil functions are intricately linked to carbon. Similar to monetary systems, carbon storage involves both readily exchangeable carbon (labile carbon) and carbon allocated for long-term storage (recalcitrant carbon). In this master's thesis opportunity, you will closely monitor the labile carbon budget within one of our urban greenspace studies in Lahti. Specifically, you will investigate how the introduction of grass clippings, rich in labile carbon, impacts the overall carbon budget in urban park soils. As part of this research, you will have the opportunity to participate in fieldwork for soil and gas analyses, laboratory experiments, and, if interested, engage in modeling activities.

Investigating Rooting Systems in Lahti City Parks

Contact: Alexander Stelzer, Johan Kotze, or Heikki Setälä

This thesis delves into soil-plant interactions within Lahti city parks. Our study examines the impact of meadows and lawns on soil carbon levels, where we will put a focus on root structures with this thesis. Roots play a crucial role, contributing approximately 70% of soil carbon input. The objective of this master’s thesis is to collect bulk samples of the lawn and meadow soils, preserve root structures using resin, and analyze them through photographic imaging and some advanced modeling techniques. You should possess a keen interest in modeling and some experience with Python and/or R.

The impact of salt production on ocean salinity

Contact: John Allen, Petteri Uotila or Johan Kotze

Global salt production is approximately 300 million tons annually, consisting primarily of NaCl, but also other salts such as KCl, MgCl2  and other compounds. Similar to the use of fossil hydrocarbons, much of the salt we consume is taken from deposits which are hundreds of millions of years old. This “fossil salt”, long ago removed from the water cycle, is then reintroduced to the hydrosphere. Traditional treatment methods, such as those used at municipal wastewater treatment plants, do no remove salt from water and so most is discharged to surface waters and eventually to the world’s oceans. 

In this MSc project, you will determine the annual global production of all forms of salt and will work with researchers to model how the input of fossil salt could impact the salinity of the world’s seas and oceans.

The moss animal 𝙋𝙚𝙘𝙩𝙞𝙣𝙖𝙩𝙚𝙡𝙡𝙖 𝙢𝙖𝙜𝙣𝙞𝙛𝙞𝙘𝙖, an invasive species

Contact: Kirsi Kuoppamäki or Leena Nurminen

The moss animal Pectinatella magnifica (Leidy 1851), originating from North America, has spread by humans all over the northern hemisphere, including (so far) two watercourses in Finland. The most noticeable harm of this invasive species is biofouling of, for instance fishing equipment, aquatic structures like water pipes and jetties. Furthermore, being a large (it can grow up to more than 1 m in diameter) gelatinous animal colony, many perceive it as rather non-aesthetic, hampering recreation. More knowledge is needed on the occurrence of Pectinatella in Finland, the potential and mechanisms of invasions to new watercourses and methods on how to manage the species and how to prevent it from spreading further.

Completed MSc theses:

Xiwei Li (2024): Beyond barks and walks: Reassessing the relationship between humans, dogs, and parks through the lens of sustainability

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

Petra Liljebäck (2023): Carbon sequestration and storage capacity of urban park soils in the city of Helsinki as influenced by vegetation type and park size

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