Having traveled from University of Helsinki to LNU, Sanna and Markus Majaneva are not strangers to the marine ecology of the Baltic Sea – or the Arctic Sea for that matter! Below, we get to know our new friends in the MPEA group, as they answer questions about their research back home, and their futures at LNU.
CLK: Where in Finland do you come from, and what projects were you working on there?
SM: Originally, I come from southeast Finland from a town called Imatra. But studied marine biology at the University of Helsinki, and thus, lived in Helsinki. Already as a master student, I faced an opportunity to conduct research in High Arctic at the University Centre in Svalbard. It turned out to be an experience that grounded my interest to further our understanding of the structure and interactions of Arctic pelagic systems, and ever since I have had my irregular regular visits in Svalbard ranging from weeks to three years.
During the last few years, I have been interested in how northern networks of ecological interactions are structured and how this has a major impact on their functioning and on species distribution, especially in different spatio-temporal scales. I’m especially fascinated about the nodes and interactions of the food webs which have drawn less attention previously, such as poorly known taxa e.g. jellyfish or indirect interactions. I have used combinations of intensive field sampling, experimental work, morphological and molecular taxonomy, molecular gut content and time-series analysis as well as some ecological modeling.
MM: Originally, I come from the west coast town called Vaasa. But studied marine biology at the University of Helsinki, and thus, lived in Helsinki. I was part of a sea ice ecology research group that was studying biochemical processes of Baltic Sea ice. Our smaller sub-group studied taxonomy and diversity of protists living in sea ice. We did some traditional taxonomic work, including culturing and light and electron microscopy, but also some experiments where we followed the effect of e.g. UV radiation on sea ice algae and algal photosynthetic capacity.
CLK: What interested you to pursue research at LNU?
SM: When I was applying postdoc positions, I had one main goal in my mind: I wanted to challenge myself to develop and apply new methods and ideas to address key questions in marine food-web ecology. This is where working with Samuel fits perfectly.
MM: My wife got a post doc position here, and we do not want to live in two separate places. Samuel was so kind and arranged me a status as a guest researcher at LNU. I have done quite a lot of molecular work, including bioinformatics, that can be helpful for the projects at LNU. So there should be mutual benefits for me and projects at LNU.
CLK: Can you tell me a bit about the work you’re doing here with Samuel?
SM: Every year massive algal blooms occur in the Baltic Sea. Despite the surplus of food many organisms at higher trophic levels seem to display symptoms of starvation, for example, vitamin and pigment deficiency. With Samuel, we address this contradiction by using long-term time-series and experiments aiming to understand the factors regulating the transfer of essential biomolecules (vitamins and pigments) from phytoplankton to zooplankton and by having a special emphasis on seasonality and effects of oxidative stress.
MM: I just started a post doc work at NTNU University Museum, in Trondheim (not with Samuel), where we are testing new ways of monitoring fresh waters, using next generation sequencing techniques. We are doing some field work and DNA extractions this autumn. Here in Kalmar, I will talk with the researchers and try to find ways to help them if they have specific bioinformatic problems.
CLK: When you’re not studying zooplankton in food webs and biodiversity in the Baltic Sea, what are your hobbies?
SM: I love all kinds of outdoor activities, especially skiing, hiking and collecting berries and mushrooms. Naturally, our son being so young has changed abit the way we do outdoor activities these days, but mainly the speed and not the frequency.
MM: Well, at the moment, my hobby is to take care of our soon two year old son and four year old dog 🙂 We have been traveling (e.g. Japan this spring) and lived in Tromso, Norway for the summer. In Tromso we were hiking a lot.
CLK: How are you liking Kalmar so far?
SM: Since I have spent so much time in the north wearing several layers of cloths already in September, it is nice chance to be more in the south. The area seems to have a lot of green areas and beautiful nature around, so we are happy.
MM: In wikipedia (Finnish version) it is said that Kalmar has around 36000 inhabitants, but the town feels bigger. We live in Smedy, so we have nice country side around us. I like the contrast between the high mountains and small trees in Tromso and flat fields and big oak trees in Kalmar. Nice place!