Department of Biology
I am an evolutionary biologist interested in eco-evolutionary dynamics of species interactions in communities. To study this, I use experimental evolution approach to culture microbial populations (bacteria, bacteriophages and protists) in defined laboratory environments for hundreds or thousands of generations. This approach allows one to create a ‘living fossil record’ of species evolutionary history that can be further studied with direct fitness assays and by comparing evolutionary changes at the genome level.
I have recently advanced my research to environmental sampling and field experiments to bridge the gap between laboratory and natural environments. I am specifically interested how abiotic and biotic factors determine the evolution of species interactions, and how this rapid adaptation might feedback and change the composition, stability and ecosystem functioning of complex microbial communities. I am also interested in how changes in microbial communities affect the survival of higher-level organisms such as plants and insects. For example, host-associated microbial communities often form the first line of defense against invading pathogens and thus play an important role for the health of associated ‘hosts’.
I welcome interest from prospective research students and postdoctoral fellows from a variety of backgrounds who are interested in studying the ecology and evolution of species interactions in complex communities. I am specifically interested in the evolution of predator-prey and host-parasite interactions, pairwise evolution in multi-species communities, species response to environmental change and the ecology and evolution of pathogen virulence in host-associated microbial communities.
The diversification of Serratia marcescens bacterium into competitive red and defensive white colony types under Tetrahymena thermophila protist predation.
Bacterial aggregation into large, inedible, biofilm structures that are resistant to predation by Tetrahymena thermophila protist.
Electron microscope picture of bacteriophages infecting Ralstonia solanacearum bacterial pathogen.
I hold qualified teacher status in Biology and Geography and have experience in teaching students from varied age classes in both the Finland and the UK. I believe in equipping students with broad conceptual eco-evolutionary framework and ability to learn and acquire new information independently. I encourage students to think critically and creatively in order to come up with new exciting hypotheses and ideas that could be tested experimentally.
My lectures reflect my personal interest in microbial world invisible to the naked eye. I have always been fascinated by the speed with bacteria are able to adapt to novel environments (e.g. evolving resistance to antibiotics) and the incredible microbial diversity found in nature. Microbes are also important drivers of large-scale ecosystem processes such as nutrient cycling and disease epidemics and thus important in their own right. Lastly, microbes form close associations with higher-order organisms and play an important role in the health and wellbeing of plants, animals and humans. Microbes offer thus an exciting context for teaching ecology and evolution through basic and applied research.
My tutorials cover a wide array of topics from community ecology to evolution and microbiology to scientific reading, writing and critical analysis of scientific publications. I often link my tutorials with concurrent science news and promote scientific thinking and discourse via small written and oral presentations. I like to create an encouraging environment that allows active participation from all group members. Students also have an opportunity to propose specific tutorial topics to follow their own specific interests.
Students taking a project in my lab will have change to work on varied topics aligned with my research. Previous projects include work on predator-prey and host-parasite interactions in microbial communities, the efficiency of phage therapy in model lung communities and bacterial community response to environmental change. All of our research projects have dealt with questions of species adaptation to the environment or each other. We use basic microbiological and molecular biology techniques and some bioinformatics.