The Lab Group

circa. 2016


Johanna Mappes

Principal Investigator
Professor of Ecology
Academy Professor

I have always been curious about how things work in nature, and I really enjoy problem-solving and experimental design. 

My main research focus is to understand how prey traits are shaped by their predators, especially with regards to colour.

I often use colourful animals as models of adaptation because colour is deeply connected with biotic and abiotic interactions. Colour mediates so much of communication, from attracting mates to deterring hungry predators. But colour is also a physical property involved with thermoregulation, immunity, and environmental shielding. 

Because colours interact with the environment in predictable and specific ways, they provide an excellent opportunity to relate environmental changes with organisms and their capacity to adapt in a variable world.

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tel. +358405372263

Organismal and Evolutionary Biology Research Programme,
Faculty of Biological 
and Environmental Sciences.
Viikki Biocenter 3 
PO Box 65
FIN-00014 Helsinki University

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Melanie Brien

Research Scientist

I am interested in the evolution and genetic basis of colour pattern traits in Lepidoptera. 

Here, I study the mechanisms producing colour polymorphism in the wood tiger moth. Specifically, I aim to determine the genes involved in controlling colour patterns, and investigate the differences in regulatory networks between different morphs.

Juan Galarza

Senior Researcher

I am interested in elucidating the molecular bases of colour polymorphisms and evolutionary novelties. 

I also study how microbial symbionts can induce alternative modes of evolution in their host species.

Jimi Kirvesoja


Jimi is an institution unto himself. He is the glue that holds everyone together. Outside of the lab he is a world-class e-sport champion and poker player (but he’ll never tell you).

Jenna Lommi

Master’s Student

I study how variation in colour, smell, and taste interact to influence the survival of the wood tiger moth during predation.

Liam Murphy

Doctoral Student

My main research revolves around the interactions between invertebrates and their endosymbiotic bacterial communities.

With my supervisors, Juan Galarza & Johanna Mappes, I am trying to understand the role bacteria play in the efficacy of defence fluids, alongside the natural variation of these bacterial communities.

Aside from the moths’ interactions with bacterial communities, I am also interested in their physiological and behavioural immune functions as they resist the effects of pathogens.


Marjut Mähönen

Master’s Student

I study the costs and fitness trade-offs of pyrrolizidine alkaloid sequestration in a generalist herbivore, the wood tiger moth.

Ossi Nokelainen

Academy of Finland Research Scientist

My research probes how colours relate to visual perception, and how this may escalate fitness trade-offs in colouration, polymorphism and predator-prey interactions. 

I use multispectral imaging, vision modelling and experimental approaches in the wood tiger moth system.

Alma Oksanen

Laboratory Coordinator

I started working as a Laboratory Coordinator in the Ecology & Evolution of Interactions Group in December 2020 at Viikki.

I’m passionate about larval rearing and keeping good care of the moth stock is my top priority. Entering the world of Arctia plantaginis moths has been a fantastic step in my technician career!


Cristina Ottocento

Doctoral Student

I am interested in understanding the mechanisms that drive speciation.

My PhD project considers the role of chemical communication in the ongoing divergence between wood tiger moth populations.

Chiara De Pasqual

Doctoral Student

My main interest lies in polymorphic colouration, animal behaviour and chemical communication.

My PhD work concerns sexual selection and chemical communication in the wood tiger moth, focusing on the potential differences in genotypes and pheromones in the Finnish population.

Eetu Selenius

Doctoral Student

I am interested in better understanding the positive and negative effects of sexual selection on a population level.

My PhD focuses on whether strong sexual selection, female choosiness and male harassment could increase the extinction risk of wood tiger moth populations.


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Tuisku Siirilä

Master’s Student

I study how context affects the choices made by two different bird predators (great tits and blue tits) on the colour signals of the wood tiger moth.


Kaisa Suisto

Moth Whisperer

Sari Viinikainen