Since this blog (mostly) will be about empirical (field) experiments in ecology, let me tell something about my own career in that field. I’m an ecologist focusing on behavioural ecology, trophic level interactions, chemical signalling, and movements of birds in smaller and larger scale.
Summer 1997: I started to study biology at the University of Turku, Finland in September 1997. I worked already in June-July 1997 as a research assistant at the Kevo Subarctic Research Institute of the University of Turku. I worked in professor Erkki Haukioja’s project of interactions between mountain birches (Betula pubescens ssp. czerepanovii) and autumnal moths (Epirrita autumnata). I helped rearing the larvae, collected birch leaves and did what was needed in the field experiments of PhD students Kyösti Lempa and Janne Henriksson.
Summer 1999: I wanted to try something different and did bird territory mapping at the river Kokemäenjoki delta in my hometown Pori.
Summer 2000: I returned to work at the University of Turku, this time as a trainee at the Satakunta Environmental Research Center. There I followed the phenology of the nature around the Center, helped rearing hundreds of micropropagated birch seedlings in the greenhouse and generally assisted in all projects there. At this point I realized that ecology is the part of biology I’m most interested in. So, I started to study mainly ecological courses at university.
Summer 2001: I worked as a research assistant for Dr. Julia Koricheva. She and her colleagues had started a big and long research project in the previous year in Satakunta. I have never been as sun-tanned as I was after that summer in those clear-cut areas. We replaced dead seedlings, collected all kinds of insects, measured and monitored plants, and ate lots of raspberries. 😉
2002: In December 2001 I got an offer to work as a substitute teacher of biology and geography for the spring term at the Länsi-Pori high school. I thought it was a good moment to have a short break from my studies. I had almost enough courses for MSc but I needed to decide whether I wanted to be a teacher or a researcher. So, from January to June 2002 I taught biology and geography. It was ok, but I realized that I’m more interested in research. In autumn 2002 and spring 2003 I did the missing courses at university and started to think about a topic for my MSc thesis.
Summer 2003: I noticed an ad from Dr. Kai Ruohomäki and Dr. Tero Klemola that they were looking for a research assistant in Kevo for their project with mountain birches, autumnal moths and parasitoids. There was also a possibility to gather data for an MSc thesis. I got the job and quite soon after that I got a message from Erkki Haukioja that he wanted to talk to me. He had a suggestion for my MSc thesis. He showed me an article (De Moraes et al. 1998) and told that maybe this system could work with birds as predators of herbivorous insects, too. He said that this is a risky topic, because no results are guaranteed and he said that I should wait before answering. I could have said yes right away but waited until the next day. He and Tero Klemola became the supervisors of my MSc thesis. So, in summer 2003 I worked first as a research assistant, then did my bird experiments [with mountain birches, sawfly larvae (Arge fuscinervis) and willow warblers (Phylloscopus trochilus)] for few weeks and then continued working as a research assistant until mid-September. I enjoyed working with the moths and parasitoids (e.g. Klemola et al. 2008), and I got really good results of my bird experiment. So, it became my MSc thesis (pdf in Finnish) and also a publication (Mäntylä et al. 2004).
Summer 2004: I graduated in June 2004 and also continued working at Kevo. Erkki Haukioja wanted me to continue from what I did previous summer. And he also hired a research assistant for me, Päivi Sirkiä. We did a lot work but in the end the results were not as good as we expected. In 2004 started the outbreak of autumnal moths and also our intact control trees had herbivores. I still hope one day to publish those results.
Summer 2005: Once more I returned to Kevo, although that was not my original plan. They needed someone to work as a research technician during the summer months. So, I was again helping in the research projects with mountain birches, autumnal moths and parasitoids (Klemola et al. 2007). But also checking insect light traps, answering phone at the office, checking phenology etc.
Summer 2006: In autumn 2005 I got good news that I got funding for my PhD from the Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation. Now I could continue my bird experiments for real. Tero Klemola continued as my supervisor, now with Dr. Toni Laaksonen. My first field season was in 2006 and then I repeated the experiment of 2003 but with a different set of species [silver birch (Betula pendula), autumnal moth, great tit (Parus major) and blue tit (Cyanistes caeruleus)] and in a different location (Ruissalo botanical garden of the University of Turku). The results were as good as in 2003 (Mäntylä et al. 2008b).
Summer 2007: I returned to Kevo and did a bird experiment with free-living birds. This time we did the experiment as cooperation with researchers from the University of Eastern Finland. Also this experiment went well and we got a good article of it (Mäntylä et al. 2008a).
Summer 2008: I stayed mainly in Turku. We wanted to study whether pied flycatchers (Ficedula hypoleuca) could use signs of herbivory in their territory choice. We actually got two publications of that field work, one when we continued the experiment in 2009 (Mäntylä et al. 2010) and one when we combined it with data collected at the same time by Päivi Sirkiä (Mäntylä et al. 2015). I did also some aviary and field experiments (both in Turku and in Kevo) and those results are part of this article (Koski et al. 2015).
I defended my PhD thesis in January 2009 and it was a wonderful day. Dr. Christiaan Both was an excellent opponent. I was also surprised how much the traditional media (newspapers etc) were interested in my research. ‘Trees call for help from birds’ was a catchy title the university press office invented for the press release of my PhD thesis (Mäntylä 2008, pdf).
From January to July 2009 I worked as a teaching assistant at the University of Turku. Some teaching for the first and second year biology students but I also had time write the manuscripts of my not-yet-published research and do some field work. So, I continued with the pied flycatcher territory choice experiment. We had also an experiment with silver birches in Ruissalo. Results from that will hopefully (finally) be published soon.
In 2010 happened a lot: I got one-year postdoc research grant from the Emil Aaltonen foundation, I got married and we moved to Berlin, Germany. And I did again field work in Kevo (before moving to Germany). Again with mountain birches, autumnal moths and birds + this time also methyl jasmonate. The results are published here (Mäntylä et al. 2014).
In 2010 began also another research project that still continues. I was asked to join a project that tries to find the wintering areas and migration routes of Arctic skuas (Stercorarius parasiticus) breeding in Satakunta, Finland. We used light-level measuring geolocators. The data we have collected so far has been combined with data from similar studies in Europe, and the results will hopefully be published soon. We still have birds that we haven’t been able to recapture. So, maybe we’ll get more data and another publication one day.
In autumn 2011 I got good news that I got a two-year postdoc research grant from the Foundations’ Post Doc Pool in Finland. This meant that in 2012-13 I worked at the Freie Universität Berlin. I had my own research project with Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris), pine sawflies (Diprion pini), great tits and blue tits, but I also worked together with professor Monika Hilker and professor Silke Kipper, and their research groups. I got good results of my experiments and those are published here, here, here and here.
In 2014 — 2016 I continued living in Berlin. My husband has a permanent job here, so there’s no point moving elsewhere before I get a new job. I wrote manuscripts, sent applications, attended conferences, collected data for a new meta-analysis study etc.
In April 2017 I got good news as I was chosen as a postdoc researcher in the group of Prof. Vojtech Novotny in at the Biology Centre of Czech Academy of Sciences in Ceske Budejovice, Czech Republic. I started there in July 2017 and continued working with tritrophic interactions of plants, herbivores and their predators, but now in the tropics. In 2018 and 2019 I did three fieldwork trips to Papua New Guinea. The experiments have been quite successful so far, so I have lots of data and samples now to analyse. Let’s see how long this project will continue. 🙂
My CV (pdf) CV_Mantyla_EN
© Elina Mäntylä (email@example.com), 22 September 2020