UCL Division of Biosciences


The Ben Collen Memorial Lecture -20 March 2023 -Professor Marjo Saastamoinen, University of Helsinki

20 March 2023, 5:30 pm–8:00 pm


The Ben Collen Memorial Lecture is an annual event at which UCL's Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research hosts a world-leading, mid-career scientist in the field of conservation biology. The lecture is in honour of Dr Ben Collen who was a renowned conservation scientist and greatly admired colleague. Ben died in 2018 aged 40.

Event Information

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Amy Godfrey


A V Hill LT
Medical Sciences Building
Malet Place

Title: 'Using long-term monitoring data of natural populations to understand responses to anthropogenic change'

Professor Marjo Saastamoinen, Associate Professor in Evolutionary Ecology, HiLIFE, University of Helsinki

Research Profile: https://researchportal.helsinki.fi/en/persons/marjo-saastamoinen

Venue: A V Hill LT (Medical Sciences Building)

Host: Professor Jon Bridle

Abstract: Natural populations and communities are drastically influenced by changes in their environment with habitat loss and climate change being some of the key drivers. It is evident, however, that species and communities are not responding equally to these changes. We thus need a better understanding of the factors and potential (adaptive) mechanisms that determine whether species can mitigate negative impacts of anthropogenic change. Long-term systematic monitoring is a crucial tool to this aim.  

I will first present some work in the classic model in eco-evolutionary dynamics, the Glanville fritillary butterfly, where we have assessed adaptive responses in relation to both habitat fragmentation and climate change via experimental, genomic and observational approaches. I will then present results in temporal shifts in phenology and spatial shifts in northern range boundaries using long-term monitoring of moths and butterflies in Finland. We relate the observed changes to species-specific traits and population trends over two decades. I will finish my talk with results from two recent studies, where we use multi-taxon approach to assess how species’ positions shift within their climatic niches and compare occupancy patterns between protected and unprotected sites in boreal ecosystems across four decades. Our results show mixed responses across species as well as mixed impacts of protected areas, highlighting that protected areas alone will not suffice to halt the biodiversity crisis and that biodiversity changes at higher latitudes are most prominent. Ultimately, by using long-term monitoring data, we hope to find patterns and identify mechanisms that might contribute to help threatened populations and communities under anthropogenic pressures.

About the Speaker

Professor Marjo Saastamoinen

Associate Professor in Evolutionary Ecology at University of Helsinki

Marjo Saastamoinen is an Associate professor in Evolutionary Ecology at the Helsinki Life Science Institute, University of Helsinki, where she leads the Life-history evolution research group. She is also a PI at the Research Centre for Ecological Change and Centre for Ecological Genetics. Her research focuses on the responses and underlying mechanisms of natural populations and communities to environmental change. She is particularly interested in how individual-level responses or strategies impact population dynamics as well as how species-level traits may reflect abundance and populations trends. In her research she combines long-term monitoring data with experimental, genomic and modelling approaches. Most of her work involves using the Glanville fritillary butterfly and its metapopulation in the Åland islands as a model system. More recently her work also extends to other Lepidoptera, insects and beyond, and assessments at more community level responses.

More about Professor Marjo Saastamoinen