Introducing Maria

I am a PhD student at the Department of Biology, University of Turku, Finland since late 2012. My current work deals with arctic community ecology and herbivore-plant-soil interactions, with voles and lemmings as the focal herbivore species. Focus on species interactions and community ecology stems from my background in both zoology and plant ecology, in which I have graduated as BSc. and MSc., respectively, at the University of Helsinki. I have a strong interest towards the role of spatial scales, spatial context dependency and methodology, both in terms of sampling and experimental design as well as modeling approaches and statistics. My PhD thesis is supervised by Dr. Kari Anne Bråthen at Arctic University of Norway – UIT, Dr. Hanna Tuomisto at University of Turku and prof. Lauri Oksanen at Arctic University of Norway – UIT. My current and past group and project affiliatons include Plants and Ecosystems group and the Nordic Centre of Excellence Tundra. My work has been funded by Turku University Foundation and the FRAM Centre.

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During the past years, I have been lucky to meet inspiring peers, and some of these discussions have evolved into interesting side projects, greatly broadening my understanding of ecology, as well as the creative process that is in the heart of research. I am a member of a pan-arctic network for researchers studying herbivory in arctic and alpine ecosystems, the Herbivory Network, launched during spring 2014. Within HN, I am co-leading the Soil Working Group, aiming ultimately to increase general understanding of herbivory effects on arctic and alpine soils. In addition, my current scientific interests cover ecological and social-ecological aspects of reindeer grazing and herding in Northern Fennoscandia (peer-reviewed book chapter in press) and the conservation and spatial distribution of rare arctic-alpine plant species.

Field work has been an important part of my doctoral studies. I greatly enjoy and appreciate the tundra landscape and being in that environment, which perhaps played a role in the initial selection of the PhD thesis topic. During 2011-2014 I have spent periods of various lengts (from 5 months to couple of weeks) in West-Finnmark collecting data on plants, herbivores, predatory birds and soil as well as leading field work of groups with up to ca. 20 people. From earlier years, I have also research experience from the Kilpisjärvi region, North-Western Finland.

In the future, I hope to apply my knowledge to multi- and interdisciplinary questions and projects in addition to basic ecological research. To this end, my studies during the PhD include a minor in Sustainable Development Studies, and courses in Futures research at the Finland Futures Recearch Centre (FFRC) at the School of Economics, University of Turku. These studies and associated multidisciplinary collaborations have truly awakened me to the importance of science communication and popularization. Therefore, during the past year I have been involved in initiating a science blog for the docoral students of the Doctoral Programme in Biology, Geography and Geology (BGG) – now for me the next challenge is to learn how to communicate science. My text on using futures research methods in environmental management and research planning can be read here.

Outside working hours I spend most of my time with my family and our alaskan huskies, an super-energetic and cheerful boy Rumpali (engl. the Drummer) and our very own Queen, Brownie. I’m very keen on outdoor activities, be it long walks, hikes, skiing, biking or bird watching – or since very recently, ice swimming (the famous finnish invention “avanto”). I love building stuff (this has resulted e.g. in a front and back terrace at home), gardening and cooking, and when I have time, brewing beer. And of course, spending time with friends!

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