Ecology and evolutionary biology
University of Helsinki
Ilkka Hanski (b. 1953) is Director of the Finnish Centre of Excellence in Metapopulation Research at the University of Helsinki. Widely regarded as one of the world’s leading ecologists, Professor Hanski has made metapopulation biology one of the most exciting fields of ecological research. Metapopulation biology is focused on studying species that live in fragmented habitats.
Professor Hanski has studied insect populations in many exotic places, including Madagascar, Borneo and Greenland. He is particularly well-known for his field-based studies of the ecology and evolutionary biology of the Glanville fritillary butterfly that lives in the Åland Islands. This research has become a world-renowned classic application of model systems. Hanski’s models are used by ecologists throughout the world in their studies of the survival of organisms in fragmented habitats. Natural habitat fragmentation is caused primarily by human land use and climate change. The aim is to determine the conditions necessary for species survival and to find ways to help species survive under the pressure of human influence.
During his new term as Academy Professor, Ilkka Hanski will turn his research focus to two areas of ecology and evolutionary biology that have enjoyed dramatic advances, viz. eco-evolutionary dynamics and ecological genomics. Eco-evolutionary research is interested in the interplay of within-species population variation (ecological dynamics) and micro-evolutionary dynamics. Ecological genomics applies the latest tools of genomics research to studying natural populations. Professor Hanski’s research will focus on the metapopulation of Glanville fritillary butterflies in the Åland Islands and on the evolutionary radiation of the dung beetles indigenous to the Madagascar rainforests. The main concern in his studies of the Glanville fritillary is with the ecological, genetic and evolutionary consequences of habitat fragmentation. The results are expected to have application in promoting the conservation of biodiversity.
Professor Hanski’s scientific publications are very highly cited. He is a member of several international science academies, and he has received numerous prestigious international science awards. In spring 2011, he was awarded the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences Crafoord Prize, an annual science award in disciplines chosen to complement those for which the Nobel Prizes are awarded.