Professor of Plant Ecology, cand
Head of the Plant Ecology Laboratory
Head of the research teams at University of Tartu at the Centre of
Excellence in Research - EcolChange: Ecology of Global Change: Natural
and Managed Ecosystems
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).
Head of the Community Ecology Working Group, Research Professor in Community Ecology, PhD
mari.moora [ät] ut.ee
My 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 – mycorrhiza – influence the outcome of plant interactions and hence, the structure of plant communities? How does the community composition of mycorrhizal fungal communities vary at local and global scale; and how this variation relates to the composition and diversity of plant communities? Also, I address the relationships between plants and mycorrhizal fungi in general – how the mycorrhizal traits of plant species are related to other plant traits; do different plant functional groups harbour different mycorrhizal fungal communities in their roots; what role plays mycorrhizal symbiosis in plant invasions and distribution globally?
Head of the Molecular Ecology Working Group, Research Professor in Molecular Ecology, PhD
maarja.opik [ät] ut.ee
The main focus of my research has been the molecular detection and identification of arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi (subphylum Glomeromycotina). I have been at the forefront of molecular AM fungal research by developing DNA sequence-based nomenclatural system for Glomeromycotina 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). Our team continues developing the system, as the data volumes and types continuously progress.
With the Virtual Taxon tool in our hands and accumulating ecological content of MaarjAM database, we look into the lives of AM fungi in natural and (strongly) human impacted habitats, in interaction with other micro-and macro-organisms and in relation to the functioning of the ecosystems.
On the applied side, we are exploring how to make use of AM fungi and soil biota for restoring vegetation, for directing succession of vegetation and in sustainable agricultural production. Much of this research happens in collaboration with our research partners and partners in the field.
I contribute as academic editor for the journals New Phytologist, Fungal Ecology, IMA Fungus and Plant and Soil.
Senior Research Fellow of Plant Ecology, Doctoral tutor, PhD
john.davison [ät] ut.ee
My research has recently focused on the ways in which symbiotic interactions (plant-mycorrhizal) shape biodiversity, but I retain a wide interest in many ecological and evolutionary questions. My work often has a strong quantitative component and I aim to develop and apply analytical techniques that allow me to accurately test ecological hypotheses. I regularly make use of high-throughput sequencing, phylogenetic information and organism trait data in order to understand the structure of biological communities. In my role as doctoral tutor I provide consultation on study design and analysis to departmental and visiting PhD students.
Senior Research Fellow of Plant Ecology, PhD
marina.semchenko [ät] ut.ee
The main focus of my research is on biotic interactions between plants. I am particularly interested in the role of root exudates and soil microbes in mediating plant-plant interactions and in establishing how the nature of plant responses to neighbours is affected by the evolutionary history of the species involved in the interaction. My research has included studies of individual plants from single species; multiple plant species, with the aim of explaining interspecific variation in various traits; and entire plant communities. I’m currently working towards incorporating an ecosystem perspective in my research.
I currently hold a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship at the University of Tartu (2020-2022).
Research Fellow of Plant Ecology, PhD
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.
Research Fellow, PhD
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.
Research Fellow, PhD
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 focused 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.
Surya Mudavasseril Sudheer
Senior Specialist in Plant Ecology, PhD
surya.mudavasseril.sudheer [ät] ut.ee
My research is focused on developing granulated biofertilizers. Arbuscular Mycorrhizal fungi (AM fungi) will be used as inocula for developing biofertilizers. The development of AM fungi biofertilizers will be based on local resources from Estonia, especially from agricultural lands, which would help to increase the yield and market orientation of organic crop production in Estonia. I am also interested in the studies of interaction among AM fungi and other soil microorganisms that colonize in the rhizosphere and promote plant growth by increasing the availability of primary nutrients to the host plants.
Specialist of Ecology, PhD
jane.oja [ät] ut.ee
martti.vasar [ät] ut.ee
My main goal in the workgroup is in helping to deal with large-scale analysis using different workflows and cluster computers. We mainly use BLAST program to compare different plant roots and organism sequences. In collaboration with other workgroup members we have managed to create workflow to analyze 454 sequence data.
Addition to above, I also help to develop database "EcoBank", which contains various metadata and holds information about samples gathered all over the world. Database is developed in the fashion, that it would be easy to make flexible search engine on it.
During my PhD studies I developed a workflow and a pipeline to analyse sequence data from Illumina sequencing platform and how it compares with other sequencing platforms like 454 sequencing.