Knowledge of the ecology of species and communities is becoming increasingly important in this age of significant global change. If you want to contribute to biodiversity conservation and the organization of its protection, consider doing a bachelor's and master's thesis in the University of Tartu 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 molecular analyses that shed light on the genetic component of biodiversity in the laboratory. As you see, the workgroup combines the so-called green and white biology in the best possible way.

Below is a list of the Bachelor's and Master's thesis topics of the Landscape Biodiversity Group. Please be aware that a bachelor's thesis can grow out of a master's thesis and a master's thesis literature review can be a bachelor's thesis. However, if you are attracted to a topic related to the working group that is not on the list or see that the proposed topic would suit you from a slightly different angle, please contact us - we will find a solution together!


Studies have often found that some habitats have high species diversity even though the area and quality of that habitat has decreased and fragmentation has increased. However, species diversity will likely decline over time if habitat is not restored. Similar time delays have been observed in the genetic patterns of plants. Based on the literature, the bachelor's thesis examines which and how large time delays have been found in the genetic patterns of plants.

Supervisors of the thesis are Tsipe Aavik and Iris Reinula.

During the last hundred years, the area of meadows in Europe has drastically decreased. This has created a situation where meadows are strongly fragmented in several landscapes. The bachelor's thesis examines whether the morphological characteristics (e.g. the number of flowers or the size of the leaf rosette) of a common meadow plant, cowslip (Primula veris) in a fragmented landscape, can differ from those of a more connected landscape, and what consequences the possible differences can bring. Data from the project FuncNet will be used and there’s a possibility to participate in the project’s field work. 

Supervisors of the thesis are Marianne Kaldra and Iris Reinula.

Ecosystem services are services provided by nature that benefit humanity. One important pillar of their supply is genetic diversity, which ensures the survival of the species in the long term. Based on the literature, the bachelor's thesis examines whether and how genetic diversity supports the provision of ecosystem services and whether the abundance of ecosystem services could in turn support the genetic diversity of different species.

Supervisors of the thesis are Elisabeth Prangel and Iris Reinula.

Genetic diversity is one part of the intra-species variation that is necessary for the survival of the species. In changing environmental conditions, the existence of genetic variability is especially necessary, because it allows individuals that are better adapted to certain environmental conditions to cope better in new conditions. The bachelor's thesis provides an overview of the landscape genomics research field, which studies the influence of the environment on genetic variation under natural selection (adaptive). In the workgroup we have collected data on the genetic diversity of Primula veris with various projects (e.g. FuncNet), which could be used in the bachelor's thesis if desired or further developed for a master's thesis. If interested, there is an opportunity to participate in the activities of the Funcnet project. 

Supervisors of the thesis are Tsipe Aavik and Iris Reinula.

Ditches have an important role in harboring biodiversity in 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 topic of the bachelor’s thesis is related to the LIFE IP project “ForEst&FarmLand”. 

Supervisors of the thesis are Krista Takkis and Kristiina Jürisoo.

Biodiverse agricultural landscapes support sustainable agriculture through pollination and natural pest management services. To benefit functioning ecosystem services, we need to ensure beneficial organisms in field margins, that can be supported by less intensive field margin management. In the bachelor’s thesis, we investigate, which methods can be used for less intensive field margin management, how well they support beneficial organisms and if there are any negative sides to the methods. The topic of the thesis is related to the LIFE IP project “ForEst&FarmLand”.

Supervisors of the thesis are Krista Takkis and Kristiina Jürisoo.

Wide-scale restoration of degraded ecosystems is essential for stopping biodiversity loss and climate change. However, it is still unclear, which criteria would be the best to estimate the effectiveness of nature restoration and how to quantify it. In the bachelor’s thesis, we investigate how to define nature restoration, which indicators have been used to estimate the effectiveness of restoration and how it has been quantified. We estimate, which indicators and methods would be best to use across ecosystems, in order to be able to compare restoration effectiveness in different systems.  

The supervisor of the thesis is Krista Takkis.

Increasing urbanization has a significant impact on both pollinators and the flowering plants that depend on them. The impact of urbanization on biodiversity can be both favorable and unfavorable, depending on both the degree of urbanization and the characteristics of the organisms. The bachelor's thesis provides an overview of the scientific literature, which have discussed the relationship between changes in the diversity and abundance of pollinating insects and pollinating plants with the rate of urbanization.  

The supervisors of the thesis are Virve Sõber and Tsipe Aavik.

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 G-BiKE (Genomic BIodiversity Knowledge for Resilient Ecosystems) and ConservePlants (An Integrated Approach to Conservation of Threatened Plants for the 21st Century).

The supervisor of the thesis is Tsipe Aavik.

Genetic diversity of organisms is one of the main components of biodiversity alongside species and ecosystem diversity. Although the assessment of genetic diversity has become increasingly common in recent years, most research continues to be limited to assessing the fate of one or a few species. Therefore, it is difficult to make generalizations about regional and global patterns of genetic diversity and their determinants. It is also almost impossible to assess whether and to what extent global change, including climate change and the loss of natural habitats, has affected this important component of biodiversity. Macrogenetics is a new discipline that combines existing research on the genetic diversity of organisms to assess the patterns of this important component of biodiversity and identify the patterns that determine it. The aim of the bachelor's thesis is to provide a literature-based overview of macrogenetics as a field of science, plant-focused macrogenetic research and the main research results in this field.  

The supervisor of the thesis is Tsipe Aavik.

In the 1960s, Soviet campaigns decided to afforest and thus make a large number of rich meadow communities "economically viable". Half a century later, the same solution is being proposed for afforesting the few remaining meadows in order to achieve climate goals. Is this an effective method or are there significant shortcomings in afforestation plans? The aim of the bachelor's thesis is to gather knowledge about the history and current state of afforestation of open landscapes and to describe the ecological consequences of afforestation, including the impact on pollinators, soil biota and meadow biodiversity and nature's benefits as a whole.  

The supervisors of the thesis are Aveliina Helm and Elisabeth Prangel.


Increasing urbanization has a significant impact on both pollinators and the flowering plants that depend on them. The impact of urbanization on biodiversity can be both favorable and unfavorable, depending on both the degree of urbanization and the characteristics of the organisms. As part of the master's thesis, the impact of different management techniques on pollinator and plant communities in the green areas of the city of Tartu can be compared.  

The supervisors of the thesis are Virve Sõber and Tsipe Aavik.

As part of the citizen science campaign “Looking for Cowslips” launched in 2019, data on cowslips (Primula veris) were collected across Estonia also in the spring of 2020. Participants were asked to find out how many flowers of two different types of cowslip are in one place. One type has anthers lower and the style higher (L-type), the other has anthers higher and the style lower (S-type). Plants with such flowers are called heterostylous, and this is one way for plants to prevent self-fertilization, because only pollen from the other type of flower is able to fertilize. In good conditions, both types of flowers are usually about equal, but this balance may be lost due to the loss of habitats suitable for cowslips. Biodiversity patterns usually respond to such landscape changes with a time lag. In the framework of the master's thesis, it will be studied whether we can immediately see an answer to the decline of habitats in patterns of heterostyly. As part of the work, spatial data must be collected using various modern as well as historical maps. The results of the master's thesis are also planned to be formalized as a research article.

The supervisors of the thesis are Tsipe AavikMarianne Kaldra and Iris Reinula.

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.

In a situation where the meadow communities found in Estonian traditional landscapes have drastically decreased, the road edges offer important habitats for Estonian meadow species. Road edges can also be ecological corridors between fragmented meadow habitats. In the work group, we have previously prepared an overview for the Estonian Road Administration of more environmentally friendly maintenance of road edges, but the condition and role of Estonian road edges in maintaining biodiversity needs more specific attention. The aim of the master's thesis is to map the road edges that support species richness in Estonia, to find out which factors influence the occurrence of high nature value road edges and to identify the role of road edges in ensuring the coherence of meadow communities. The work will also identify areas where nature-friendly roadside maintenance contributes to the creation of habitat corridors and to ensuring the connectivity of landscapes. The work will be carried out as part of the RESTFUNC project and will use both existing map data and fieldwork data collected by the Master's student in the summer of 2022.

The supervisors of the thesis are Aveliina Helm and Triin Reitalu.

Recovery of populations and species interactions after the restoration of communities occurs always with a time lag. In a Master’s thesis we test, how the recovery of populations and species interactions depends on landscape history and structure, and the characteristics of species and their interactions. This important work creates new scientific knowledge, looking at systems and processes that have been studied very little in the past. In our work we use data collected from plants, bees and butterflies in the restored alvar grasslands. The work is carried out as part of the RESTFUNC project.

The supervisors of thesis are Krista Takkis and Jelle Devalez.

The United Nations Decade of Ecosystem Restoration is under way, and there is a strong global focus on restoring functioning ecosystems that ensure the sustainability and preservation of essential nature's benefits, or ecosystem services. However, the recovery of ecosystem services can take some time, causing a significant time lag between restoration activities and the full functioning of ecosystems. The master's thesis answers the question of how quickly the bnature's benefits recover and to what extent the recovery of various ecosystem services depends on the landscape composition, the techniques chosen for restoration and the degree of ecosystem degradation. As a model system, we use Estonian alvar grasslands, where the large-scale restoration activities are just coming to an end. Much of the data already exists, but there is also scope for fieldwork and data collection.  

The supervisors of the thesis are Aveliina Helm and Elisabeth Prangel.

A large-scale nature protection project has began 2021, during which 500 hectares of wooded meadows will be restored in Estonia and 200 hectares in Latvia. Wooded meadows are extremely species-rich and rare ecosystems, but their area has decreased more than 1000 times in the last 100 years. Prior to restoration work, we carry out monitoring on non-restored wooded meadows to determine the impact of restoration on different species groups and other important characteristics of wooded meadows. During the fieldwork in the summer of 2023, we will collect data on plants, insects, soil fungi as well as old trees and traditional ways of working. The aim of the master's thesis is to describe the biodiversity of so far little-known groups in wooded meadows and to give recommendations for restoration work. The work will be carried out as part of the WoodMeadowLIFE project.

The supervisors of thesis are Triin Reitalu and Aveliina Helm.