Academy Professor Ilkka Hanski wins the European Latsis Prize 2010 for Biodiversity


Academy Professor Ilkka Hanski of the University of Helsinki has been awarded the European Latsis Prize for his contributions to research concerning biodiversity in general and metapopulation biology in particular.

The European Latsis Prize is valued at 100,000 Swiss francs (€74,000). The prize is funded by the Geneva-based Latsis Foundation and awarded by the European Science Foundation (ESF) to an individual or a research group who, in the opinion of their peers, has made the greatest contribution to a particular field of European research. The European Latsis Prize 2010 is awarded during the ESF Annual Assembly.

Ilkka Hanski (b. 1953) is an internationally-acclaimed pioneer in ecology who has changed the way of thinking in his field. Metapopulation biology – the study of species living in networks of fragmented habitats – has been his most pressing concern for more than 20 years. The lessons from his research have shed light on the mechanisms that maintain biodiversity and have given insight to its conservation. 

He is best known for his work on the Glanville fritillary butterfly on the Åland Islands in southern Finland, which has become an important model system in population biology. The latest step is to try to identify the genetic basis of traits that underpin survival in fragmented habitats.

"We've done a lot of work on the Glanville fritillary, not only to understand the biology of this particular species, but because it has several characteristics that make it a good model system to study more general questions," says Professor Hanski.

"For example, we've shed light on the processes involved in extinction at the landscape level and we now have a better understanding of the situations that allow species to survive in a fragmented environment. Metapopulation models tell us the extinction threshold – the critical level of habitat fragmentation for a species to persist long-term."

The criteria used in the selection procedure are scientific excellence, societal impact, and contribution to European progress. The nominations were evaluated by a jury of eminent scientists in the field.

"The expert jury emphasised the development of his innovative ground-breaking theories as having had a major impact on the emergence of metapopulation biology as an important field of research," said Professor Marja Makarow, ESF Chief Executive. "His work has been saluted far beyond Finland. Metapopulation research can answer vital questions about the practical management of the landscape for conservation. This has become particularly important as we confront landscapes that are increasingly fragmented and try to reconcile the needs of humans and nature."

For more information on the Latsis Prize please see

The European Science Foundation (ESF) is an independent, non-governmental organisation that promotes collaboration in scientific research, funding of research and science policy across Europe. It represents 79 national funding bodies, research-performing agencies, academies and learned societies from 30 countries. Through its activities and influential membership the foundation has enabled cross-border cooperation in Europe and made major contributions to science globally. ESF website:

Chloe Kembery, ESF press office                      
ckembery(at)  Tel +33 (0) 388-762-158 Mobile: +33 (0) 643-172-382 

Riitta Tirronen, Academy of Finland Communications Unit
riitta.tirronen(at), tel. +358 9 7748 8369, mobile +358 40 828 1724

Photo: Tapio Vanhatalo

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