Presently I hold an Academy Research Fellowship at the University of Helsinki. My project concentrates on analysing the role of ecological processes in affecting the interaction between environmental opportunistic pathogens (by these I mean organisms that live freely in the environment, but are able to infect host individuals upon contact) and their hosts. This work combines both theoretical analysis and microcosm experiments.

Previously, I worked as a post-doctoral fellow in a project lead by prof. Ilkka Hanski (
✝ 2016). This project concentrates on highlighting the role of the living environment on the development of atopic sensitisation in children. This work also includes analysis of the composition human microbiota and how this might relate to the regulation of the immune function. After prof. Hanski passed away, I have been in charge of this project.

After finnishing my PhD thesis and doing a short postdoc with Peter Abrams in Toronto, I started a project (postdoctoral research project, funded by the Academy of Finland) dealing with integrating spatial and temporal environmental variation in models of ecological communities. While my main research involved analysing stochastic community models, I also collaborated in research projects dealing with ecotoxicological consequences of heavy metals on chironomid communites and their bat predators, as well as testing and developing numerical methods for empirical community ecology.

My research interests include:

Community ecology
Interspecific interactions
Environmental stochasticity
– Disease ecology
– N
umerical ecology.

Past activities

2013–2015 Postdoctoral fellow in the Metapopulation Researcg Group with prof. Ilkka Hanski.

2011–2013 Postdoctoral research project funded by the Academy of Finland, considering the role of spatio-temporal environmental variation on the dynamics of metacommunities.

In 2010 I worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the university of Turku, Finland, in the project of prof. Kai Norrdahl dealing with the predictability of food web composition.

In 2009–2010 I worked at the University of Toronto, under the supervision of professors Peter Abrams & Brian Shuter, also collaborating with prof. Kevin McCann (U of Guelph). This work in Toronto dealt with food web models and the influence of climate change on spatially coupled food chains.

I did my PhD in the University of Helsinki, working in the Integrative Ecology Group, under the supervision of profs. Esa Ranta (✝ 2008) and Veijo Kaitala, and Dr. Mike Fowler. My thesis concentrated around ecological communities and the impact of environmental stochasticity on biological systems in general.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Holistic view on health: two protective layers of biodiversity

A review on the role of biodiversity in human health

The western world has witnessed a rising epidemic of chronic inflammatory disorders, such as allergies and asthma. Adoption of western lifestyles is expected to spread this epidemic also to the rest of the world, where allergies have been practically absent. In parallel, biological diversity is globally declining. This inspired Ilkka Hanski, together with medical doctors, to formulate the biodiversity hypothesis of allergic disease. This hypothesis proposes that reduced contact with natural environments, including natural microbial diversity, is associated with unhealthy human microbiota—which is less able to educate the immune system. Contact with beneficial bacteria, particularly early on in life, seems to be instrumental to the normal development of immune responses. Changes in lifestyle and diet, destruction of natural environments, and urbanisation threaten our natural exposure to these beneficial bacteria and thus also their impact on our physiology. To ensure a healthy life, we need to preserve biodiversity in the environment and make sure it finds a favourable home in us. In this review, we will focus on the role of commensal microbiota in human health and wellbeing, as well as the interaction between our microbiota and environmental microbiota, highlighting the contribution of Ilkka Hanski. 

We (humans) are protected by two nested layers of biodiversity, consisting of bacteria (and other micro-organisms) residing in our bodies (both on the external and internal surfaces) and the one surrounding us in our living environment. The diversity and composition of the inner layer is dependent on microbial colonisation from the outer layer; a process that is under the influence of our behaviour, lifestyle, environmental management, land-use planning, etc.