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Research interests and projects

I have been doing research and teaching at the Department of Biological and Environmental Science, University of Jyväskylä, for over twenty years, and am currently the director of the Konnevesi Research Station. At Konnevesi we have developed excellent facilities for terrestrial and aquatic ecology and, regarding my own research, for small mammal ecology, both in the laboratory and large outdoor enclosures.

MAIN RESEARCH PROJECTS

Evolutionary ecology of small mammals

The main collaborators in this project are Janne Sundell and Ines Klemme (Helsinki), Jana Eccard (Bielefeld, Potsdam), PhD students Lenka Trebaticka, Marko Haapakoski and Annika Reckordt (Jyväskylä) and many cooperators around the world. Our research topics are

My main scientific interests have always been devoted to mammalian behavioural and evolutionary ecology. My favorite study species is the bank vole Clethrionomys glareolus, presently known as Myodes glareolus. This common holarctic - boreal forest species with reddish fur is an excellent model organism for small mammal behavioural ecology and life histories. Particularly fascinating features of bank vole ecology are female territoriality, promiscuous mating system, male dominance hierarchies with careful social signaling by urine marking, and other adaptations to inhabit the vast spruce-dominated taiga forests and temperate deciduous forests.

Together with its fierce enemy, the least weasel Mustela nivalis nivalis, the bank vole and the field vole Microtus agrestis, provide a system to study predator-prey arms race and the fascinating population ecological play expressed in the multiannual cyclicity of both the voles and the weasel.

Side paths of my research on other taxa have mostly been derived from the questions studied with boreal voles, vole-weasel interactions, sexual selection, and reproduction in the bank vole. These paths have led to fish and otter ecology, predator-prey studies in fish, breeding ecology of the Australian house mouse and antipredatory behaviour in the Antechinus in Australian woodlands.

The ecology of an invasive species (Lipoptena cervi)

with Arja Kaitala, Raine Kortet, Sauli Laaksonen (Oulu), Sauli Härkönen (Joensuu), Pekka Niemelä (Turku), Olli Vapalahti (Helsinki), and other Nordic collaborators.

A completely new direction for our research emerged just in 2007 when a project on the ecology and social impact of the parasitic fly, the deer ked Lipoptena cervi, was initiated. This major research project, with several collaborating institutes, is about to reveal its first results. Already the initiation of this project -- which involved collecting over 10,000 deer ked pupae with help of hundreds of volunteers, mainly hunters -- attracted a great public interest to this project. A more detailed description of the project, with all major collaborators, is available here.