Knowledge of the ecology of species and communities is becoming increasingly important in this age of great global change. If you want to contribute to the conservation of biodiversity and the organization of its protection, consider doing a bachelor's and master's thesis in the UT Landscape Biodiversity workgroup. We are looking for active students interested in ecology, who would be inspired by summer fieldwork in eye-catching meadow communities and/or molecular analyzes that shed light on the genetic component of biodiversity in the laboratory. Our workgroup combines the so-called "green" and "white" biology in the best possible way. Please contact Dr. Tsipe Aavik or Dr. Aveliina Helm, if you are interested in the activities of our workgroup.
TOPICS FOR BACHELOR AND MASTER THESES IN 2020/2021 ACADEMIC YEAR
If you are interested in a topic that our workgroup is working on but it is not listed below, you are welcome to contact us and we will find a solution together.
Interacting effects of host plant genetic diversity and AMF diversity on plant population recovery
The bachelor's thesis would give an overview of the existing knowledge about the interacting effects of host plant genetic diversity and the diversity of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) on plant establishment and its implications for ecosystem restoration. While the importance of AMF for the regeneration of species-rich and resilient plant communities has been well-recognized, it is not known if intra-specific diversity of host plants plays a role in the development of plant-AMF associations and restoration success. However, as the genetic diversity of host plants have often experienced a drastic decline because of habitat fragmentation, intra-specific diversity of host plants can have an important role in plant-AMF symbiosis. Therefore, the knowledge about the joint effects of plant genetic diversity and AMF diversity on restoration is highly needed. The thesis is part of the collaboration project within CELSA framework together with University of Leuven, Belgium. The preparation of the thesis will be supervised jointly by Tsipe Aavik (Landscape Biodiversity Group) and Kadri Koorem (Plant Ecology Group).
Genetic monitoring of plants in response to ecosystem restoration
Genetic diversity is an important component of biodiversity securing the resilience of populations in an era of environmental change. However, despite its increasing relevance in the light of ongoing climate change, the recovery of genetic diversity is rarely assessed in monitoring programs. The bachelor's thesis will give an overview of the different aspects of restoration success, which can be monitored with the help of plant genetic data. It will also provide an overview of the known monitoring programs relying on temporal assessment of genetic diversity and gene flow of plants. The thesis is part of the international collaboration activities COST Actions G-BiKE (Genomic BIodiversity Knowledge for Resilient Ecosystems) and ConservePlants (An integrated approach to conservation of threatened plants for the 21st Century). The preparation of the thesis will be supervised by Tsipe Aavik and Sabrina Träger.
Plant genetic diversity-species diversity relationships in Estonian alvar grasslands
The majority of conservation activities are focused on maintaining species diversity, because species diversity is often expected to also reflect other components of biodiversity, like genetic diversity. However, it has been found that interactions between the different mechanisms can result in positive or negative correlations between genetic and species diversity or sometimes no correlation at all. The aim of the master's thesis is to study on the basis of already collected data, what is the relationship between the genetic diversity of cowslip (Primula veris) populations and the species diversity of alvar grasslands, and what nature conservation conclusions can be drawn from it. The supervisors of the thesis are Tsipe Aavik and Iris Reinula.
Which indicator species are best for identifying community recovery after restoration?
Using indicator species to monitor processes in a community is a widely used method, but it’s efficiency depends on the species used as indicators. Which species groups are the best and which traits make a species most useful for identifying changes in a community? Which species could be best for monitoring changes in Estonian restored alvar grasslands? The study is associated with the project RESTFUNC. Supervisor of the bachelor’s thesis is Aveliina Helm.
Methods benefiting integrated plant disease management
Using the natural enemies of crop pests is a very important method in environmental-friendly agriculture. For the most efficient use of natural enemies we need to know, which factors benefit those species both in small and landscape scale. Do their numbers depend more on the width of the field edges, the species growing there or the structure of the surrounding landscape? The study is associated with the project “Conservation of natural biodiversity in agricultural land”. Supervisor of the bachelor’s thesis is Krista Takkis.
The effect of different management regimes on the biodiversity of ditches in agricultural landscapes
Ditches have an important role for harboring biodiversity in the agricultural landscapes. In Estonia, ditches have the largest area among all landscape elements in agricultural areas and are thus essential habitats for numerous plant and animal species both in water and on land. Therefore, we need to know, which management options can benefit different organism groups, including the rare species in the ditches. The study is associated with the project “Conservation of natural biodiversity in agricultural land”. Supervisor of the bachelor’s thesis is Krista Takkis.
Annual and permanent grassland strips in agricultural landscapes
General loss of biodiversity worldwide has also brought the condition f biodiversity in agricultural landscapes more into heightened attention. There are a number of measures recommended for supporting diversity in agroecosystems, including creating annual or permanent grassland strips for plants, pollinators, natural enemies of crop pests and other organisms. Which purposes do these strips fulfill most efficiently? Where and under which conditions should they be created? Which plant species and management options could be the best to use in Estonian agricultural landscapes? The study is associated with the project “Conservation of natural biodiversity in agricultural land”. Supervisor of the bachelor’s thesis is Krista Takkis.
Essential biodiversity variables and associated time-lags
Scientists and practitioners across the world are working together to decide upon so called essential biodiversity variables (EBV), which could help conducting long-term monitoring of biodiversity and its changes in different ecosystems. Which are the most important variables to monitor and how to use them for practical decision-making? How are these variables affected by time-lags in species responses? Supervisor of the bachelor’s thesis is Aveliina Helm.