Professor Martin Zobel
Head of the Plant Ecology Laboratory, Professor of Plant Ecology
martin.zobel [ät] ut.ee
My main research topic is the variation of plant diversity and the processes underlying the variability. I try to combine approaches that work at different scales (from the interactions of individuals to the evolutionary history of higher taxa) and focus on different taxonomic groups (plants and mycorrhizal fungi). Besides understanding the fundamental nature of plant and fungal communities, my research addresses the impact of humans on natural community structure and attempts to find useful indicators of this impact.
I am the editor of the Journal of Vegetation Science and Applied Vegetation Science, council member of the International Association for Vegetation Science, member of Estonian Academy of Sciences and head of the University of Tartu team in the centre of excellence EcolChange (‘Ecology of global change: natural and managed ecosystems’, 2016-2023). I am the principal investigator of the institutional grant IUT 20-28 by Estonian Research Council ‘The role of arbuscular mycorrhiza (AM) in shaping plant community patterns and plant interactions’ (2014-2019).
PhD Mari Moora
Senior Research Fellow
mari.moora [ät] ut.ee
My main research addresses biotic interactions underlying the diversity and composition of plant communities. How does competition and facilitation between plants influence the structure of communities and how do these interactions interfere with forest and grassland management? How does the most widespread symbiosis between fungus and plant root – arbuscular mycorrhiza (AM) – influence the outcome of plant interactions and hence, the structure of plant communities? How does the community composition of AM fungal communities vary at local and global scale; and how this variation relates to the composition and diversity of plant communities? More recently I have addressed the relationships between plants and AM fungi in general – how the mycorrhizal traits of plants are related to other traits; do different plant functional groups harbour different AM fungal communities in their roots; what role plays AM symbiosis in plant invasions and distribution in general?
My research is part of the targeted financing grant ‘The role of arbuscular mycorrhiza (AM) in shaping plant community patterns and plant interactions’ (1.01.2014−31.12.2019), being also the member of the centre of excellence Ecolchange. See my CV with full publication list in Estonian Research Portal.
I am supervising doctoral student Maret Gerz and co-supervising doctoral student Daniela Leon Velandia.
PhD Maarja Öpik
Senior Research Fellow
maarja.opik [ät] ut.ee
The main focus of my research is molecular detection and identification of arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi (Phylum Glomeromycota). I am developing DNA sequence-based nomenclatural system for Glomeromycota with the goal to link the specimen (culture-) originating and environmental sequence information. This system of virtual taxa (VT) is implemented in the database MaarjAM, which collates published information about Glomeromycota sequences and related metadata (location, host, habitat information).
I apply the virtual taxon system to investigate diversity patterns of AM fungi from local to global spatial scales. I am asking in my research, which factors determine AM fungal diversity: abiotic (physical, chemical, climatic, spatio-temporal) and/or biotic (incl. host ecological groups). I am also interested in functional properties of AM fungi: are all fungal species compatible with all host species, or do some fungi affect plant growth and overall performance more than others. I also look at how land use affects diversity and functioning of AM fungi and which are the ways to use these fungi in vegetation restoration, sustainable agriculture etc.
I am an editor in the journal New Phytologist.
PhD John Davison
Senior Research Fellow
john.davison [ät] ut.ee; johndavison77 [ät] gmail.com
I use bioinformatical and analytical approaches to study biodiversity and community interactions. This includes the analysis of large quantities of molecular data derived from high-throughput sequencing of environmental samples. I also design and implement randomisation-based assembly-rules analyses. I currently split my time between the Plant Ecology Laboratory and the department of Zoology (also University of Tartu). My zoological research includes phylogeography, animal behaviour and wildlife management. See my CV and full publication list in the Estonian Research Portal.
PhD Guillermo Bueno
guillermo.bueno [ät] ut.ee
I am interested in how biotic interactions (especially plant-animal, plant-plant and plant-fungi) can shape plant communities at different scales in relation to environmental gradients and global changes. I have been working in different environments with a strong prevalence of alpine and subarctic locations. My research involves many approaches aimed at understanding the ecological consequences of global changes, disturbances and their interactions. My work at the University of Tartu focuses on plant-fungi interactions and tries to understand their distribution at large spatial scales and their role along main environmental gradients and factors, including human impacts.
Previous working locations include the Pyrenean Institute of Ecology in Spain, where I worked on the impact of wild boar disturbances on alpine protected grasslands, and the University of Alberta in Canada, where I worked on the combined effect of climate change and herbivory on tundra vegetation. Alongside my main research, I am involved in the creation and development of the Herbivory Network.
I am co-supervising doctoral student Daniela Leon Velandia.
For further info, see my profile and the list of my publications here.
PhD Inga Hiiesalu
inga.hiiesalu [ät] ut.ee
I am broadly interested in community ecology, namely in the belowground compartment. Specifically I am investigating how AMF and their host plant richness varies along altitudinal gradients in the arid Himalayas, and what are the abiotic and biotic factors underlying the observed patterns. I am fascinated by the ability of plants to grow in one of the most hostile and extreme environments and I am exploring the role of symbiotic fungi in plant adaptation and ultimately structure of high-altitude plant communities. I utilize next-generation sequencing and bioinformatical tools to analyze AM fungal communities across various spatial scales.
In addition to research on AM fungi I am dealing with the effects of land-use change on plant belowground diversity in semi-natural grasslands.
I am the principal investigator of a personal research grant funded by the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research “Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi along altitudinal gradients: relationships with evolutionary and ecological processes at multiple spatial scales” (2016-2019).
PhD Kadri Koorem
kadri.koorem [ät] ut.ee
My scientific research is built around plant interactions. In my postdoctoral research in Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO KNAW), I focus on the ecology of range expanding plant species. Shortly, I want to know if the interactions of range expanding plant species and soil organisms change during the expansion. More specifically, I focus on the composition and effect of arbuscular-mycorrhizal fungal communities, associated to range expanding plant species. This knowledge will help us understand if range expanding plant species can threaten existing communities in their new range.
Personal postdoctoral research grant, funded by Estonian Research Council: “Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi in the roots of range-expanding plants: composition, function and eco-evolutionary dynamics”
My complete CV and publication record is available in Estonian Research Information System (ETIS).
lena [ät] ut.ee
My research is about the dynamics of plant communities under changing land use in seminatural grasslands. Hereby I address the effect management on community structure, and the possible role of diaspore and symbiont limitation on community change. I study plant community composition, seed bank and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi to estimate the `restoration potential´ of different dynamic stages of grasslands: extensively used (abandoned), intensively used and disturbed grasslands (gravel pits). In particular, my study shall focus both on the mechanisms behind community changes, as well as on finding the best techniques for restoration of biodiverse grasslands.