Projects

Biodiversity data

Starting in the 1990s from building databases on biodiversity, nomenclature, and species interactions, I joined TDWG community in 2012 while working as a taxonomy coordinator in FinBIF. In TDWG, I am a member of the interest groups on Data quality, and on Biodiversity curriculum and of the Invasive Organism Information Task Group. As a scientific officer in the GBIF Secretariat – live long and prosper! – I work at the interface between the GBIF infrastructure and its academic audiences, and promote biodiversity data activities in various scientific fora, and, regionally, in the FSU countries. In 2015–2016 I coordinated work of expert groups on data fitness for use in agrobiodiversity, distribution modeling, and research on alien and invasive species. Working with biodiversity informatics is very rewarding: open data reach across borders and scholarly cultures, and bring me to interesting places and enthusiastic people.

Fungivory of Coleoptera

I study natural history of fungivorous beetles, fascinated by the hidden lives of Coleoptera grazing on and developing inside fruiting bodies of polypores, or bracket fungi. Most of my fungivory and trophic ecology research took place in the boreal and temperate forests of Finland and Russia, with occasional studies of the Mediterranean and tropical systems. I count myself amongst the student of Prof. Rustem Zhantiev, of Dr. Nikolay Nikitsky, and of Dr. Tuomo Niemelä; in turn, I supervised a few student theses in this field. I focus on rare, poorly known and overlooked species of both fungi and their beetles, therefore using old school, low-intensity sampling methods. In this work, I prefer direct observations and rearing to traps and systematic surveys. The beauty and complexity of this study system not only inspired me in my MSc and CSc studies in the Lomonosov Moscow State University and in the PhD project in the University of Helsinki, and also brought me closer to the world of biodiversity databases, and through that, to GBIF. Fungivory project never fully ends, I keep working with old materials, making new observations and exploring. Fungivory forever!

Biodiversity in dead wood

In 2009–2014 I carried out two postdoc projects in the Metapopulation Research Group in the University of Helsinki, applying high-throughput sequencing, molecular ecology and metabarcoding methods to mycelial DNA in fungal communities in dead and living trees. The first project explored the life of fungi in the fallen spruce trees (Picea abies (L.) Karst.) at various stages of decay from recently fallen logs to soil. Funded by the Academy of Finland, in the project Colonization gates and establishment of wood-decaying fungi in European Spruce I looked into the factors and vectors that drive fungal arrival into the living and seemingly uncolonized trees. These projects, keeping up with the developing NGS technologies, explore patterns and dynamics of mycelial distribution inside the wood, and ways of colonization and competition between common and old-growth polypore species, and the role of beetles as vectors of fungi. This work involves a lot of collaboration: in particular, I am grateful to Prof. Otso Ovaskainen for the analytical insights, and to Heini Ali-Kovero for the brilliant lab work. A few papers are work in progress, and a couple of spin-off projects are rooted here, such as hunt for the pioneer fungi latently present in functional sapwood (with Prof. Lynne Boddy), uncovering biodiversity in hollows in Helsinki and in Poland, and teaching biodiversity in dead wood to university students.

Mycology

Recording and collecting wood-inhabiting fungi, such as polypores, corticioid fungi, agarics, ascomycetes, and also myxomycetes, is one of my favourite projects. With the exception of a small reference collection, my fungal specimens are preserved in the Botanical Museum, part of LUOMUS – Finnish Museum of Natural History, University of Helsinki, Finland (H). These fungal specimens and the beetles associated with them have continuous numeration with DSS- prefix. Fungal specimens often have corresponding photographs in my database, which is also indicated on the labels. A number of living strains of fungi is deposited to the FBCC collection of the University of Helsinki. Some of these materials have been used in the taxonomic and biogeographical studies of fungi.

Educational projects

I coordinate, lead, assist, and create university courses for advanced master and postgraduate students. Boreal Biota and Ecology Program and LUOVA graduate school (University of Helsinki), ForBio, CIMO (Finland) and SIU (Norway) have been instrumental for the development of dead wood education. For the list of courses and educational projects, see teaching.

Conservation

My researh is linked to nature conservation and many studies took place in the protected areas in Finland, Russia, and Poland. I led the collaborative study on reintroduction of regionally extinct wood-inhabiting fungi using lab cluturing from the nearby source populations. All our species were able to establish as mycelia, and three of the seven species produced fruit bodies, which, in turn, attracted the first fungivores — look for the dipteran larva on the pink Fomitopsis rosea at 00:49 in the dead wood movie trailer. I am a member of IUCN SSC Mushroom, Bracket and Puffball Specialist Group. My non-research connection to conservation is through campaighning, including an attempt to stop logging in Białowieża forests, which I coordinated together with Maria Faticov.

Outreach

Desire to share scientific knowledge with general audiences brought me to outreach. Occasionally, I write popular texts or give interviews on various biodiversity topics. In 1991–1995 I studied, and 1995–2001 I worked in the naturalist association in the Zoological Museum of Moscow University, teaching schoolchildren in the lab and in the field; for one year I worked as a biology teacher in the Moscow 57 school. At times, I take school classes out into nature also in Helsinki and now in Copenhagen. The Dead Wood Movie project is a (shamefully slow) initiative to display, demystify, and depict the beauty of dead wood as a biodiversity treasure habitat. See the Dead Wood Movie trailer and contact me if you are willing to contribute with script, visualization and sponsorship ideas, or your footage. It was a great experience to write a chapter for the book The secret life of the forest (Metsän salainen elämä), which was translated into Finnish by Eeva-Liisa Hallanaro and Juha Siitonen. The latest outreach activity I moderate is the ξ group, from Greek ξύλον, “wood”. ξ (ksi) is an open interest group in Facebook focused on saproxylic biodiversity and wood ecology. This taxonomically agnostic group is limited only by the wood biology topic.

Funding

My research and teaching received project funding from the following agencies:

This support is gratefully acknowledged.

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