Suvi Ruuskanen

My research fields are at the intersection of evolutionary ecology, ecophysiology, behavioral ecology, molecular ecology and ecotoxicology. I am broadly interested in the proximate and ultimate mechanisms underlying variation in phenotypic, behavioral and fitness traits and their plasticity. I want to understand how physiologically-regulated traits enable organismal adaptation to changing environmental conditions and play a part in species interactions.  Also,  I want to understand more broadly how various early-life environmental conditions affects offspring development and fitness with a specific interest in non-genetic inheritance, such as maternal effects and epigenetics. 

I am currently an Academy research fellow at the University of Turku, Finland. In addition to my research, I lead the journal Ornis Fennica as the Editor-in-Chief and work as a Subject Editor in Journal of Avian Biology.

We are very interested in collaborating in various projects, so dont hesitate to contact us! Prospective students and post-docs, I am interesting in writing grant proposals together.

Research team: 

Dr. Bin-Yan Hsu, postdoc (Maternal thyroid hormones)

Dr. Antoine Stier, postdoc (Maternal hormones, aging, mitochondia function)
Tom Sarraude, PhD student (Maternal thyroid hormones)
Dr. Hannu Mäkinen, postdoc (early-life env vs epigenetics)


Piia Pajunen, MSc student (Pollution vs maternal investment)

Venla Kuosmanen, MSc student (Effects of glyphosate on vertebrates)

Maiju Uusitalo, MSc student ( Glyphosate vs histopathology)

Ida Palmroos, BSc (Glyphosate vs behavior)

Nina Cossin Sevrin MSc student (Maternal THs vs telomere dynamics)

Melanie Cromeque MSc (TH axis programming) 

Janina Stauffer, technician (THs vs oxidative stress)

Rusul Al-Kacahci, technician (THs in fish eggs)


New papers out!

Hsu B-Y, Doligez B, Gustafsson L, Ruuskanen S. 2018. ansient growth‐enhancing effects of elevated maternal thyroid hormones at no apparent oxidative cost during early postnatal period. Journal of Avian Biology, DOI:  10.1111/jav.01919

Ruuskanen S, Hsu B-Y, Heinonen A, Vainio M, Darras VM, Rokka A. 2018 A new method for measuring thyroid hormones using nano-LC-MS/MS. Journal of Chromatography B 1093-94: 24-30.Ruuskanen_JChromB2018.pdfRuuskanen_JChromB2018.pdf

Ruuskanen S, Hsu B-Y.  2018. Maternal thyroid hormones - an unexplored mechanism underlying maternal effects in an ecological framework. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology, 91:904-916. Ruuskanen_PBZ_2018.pdfRuuskanen_PBZ_2018.pdf

Morosinotto C, Rainio M, Ruuskanen S, Korpimäki E. 2018
Antioxidant enzyme activities vary with predation risk and environmental conditions in free-living passerine birds. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology, 91: 837-48. Morosinotto_2018PBZ.pdfMorosinotto_2018PBZ.pdf

Ruuskanen S, Groothuis TGG; Baugh A, Schaper S, deVries B, van Oers K. 2017. Maternal effects in the mating context: effect of pair personality. Functional Ecology, 32:439-449. Ruuskanen_et_al-2018-Functional_Ecology.pdfRuuskanen_et_al-2018-Functional_Ecology.pdf
Rainio M, Ruuskanen S, Eeva T. 2017.  Spatio-temporal variation in the body condition of female pied flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca) in a polluted environment. Urban Ecosystems 20:1035-1042.Rainio_2017UrbanEcology.pdfRainio_2017UrbanEcology.pdf
Ruuskanen S, Morosinotto RL, Thomson RL, Pradeep Ratnayake C, Korpimaki E. Food supplementation, but not predation risk, alters female antioxidant status during breeding. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 71:4Ruuskanen_et_al_BEAS2017.pdfRuuskanen_et_al_BEAS2017.pdf
Morosinotto C, Ruuskanen S, Korpimäki E, Lehikoinen E, Möstl E, Laaksonen T. 2016.  Maternal transfer of androgens in eggs is affected by food supplementatio but not predation risk. Journal of Avian Biology, 47: 629-641.Morosinotto_2016JAB.pdfMorosinotto_2016JAB.pdf
Ruuskanen S, Darras V, Visser ME, Groothuis TGG 2016. Effects of experimentally manipulated yolk thyroid hormone levels on offspring development in a wild bird. Hormones and Behavior 81: 38-44. Ruuskanen_2016HB.pdfRuuskanen_2016HB.pdf
Ruuskanen S, Groothuis TGG, Gienapp P, Schaper SV, Darras VM, Pereira C, deVries B, Visser ME. 2016. Heritable variation in maternally-derived yolk androgens, thyroid hormones and immune factors. Heredity, 117:184-190Ruuskanen_2016Heredity.pdfRuuskanen_2016Heredity.pdf
Ruuskanen S, Groothuis TGG, Schaper, SV, Darras VM, deVries B, Visser ME. 2016. Temperature-induced variation in yolk androgen and thyroid hormone levels in avian eggs. General and Comparative Endocrinology, 235:29-37Ruuskanen_GCE2016.pdfRuuskanen_GCE2016
Lessells CMRuuskanen S, Schwabl H. 2016. Yolk hormones in great tits: multiple correlates of dihydrotestosterone. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 70:843-856 Lessells_BEAS2016.pdfLessells_BEAS2016.pdf
Current projects:
Maternal effects
Maternal thyroid hormones: ecology, evolution and environmental disruption
In my 5-year project (2016-2020) funded by the Academy of Finland, I will study the function, environmental plasticity and evolutionary correlates of maternally-derived egg thyroid hormones in birds. I also study the potential for pollutants as (transgenerational) thyroid function disruptors. Research methods include international large-scale inter-and intraspecific sample collection and experimental manipulation of hormones and environmental conditions. For example, we study the short- and long-term effects of maternal thyroid hormones on development, behavior, physiology, aging (oxidative stress and telomeres) and ultimately, fitness in multiple model systems (precocial and altricial). We also develop new methodology to measure thyroid hormones (nano-LC-MS/MS).
My collaborators include e.g., prof Veerle Darras (KUleuven, Belgium), Dr. Bladine Doligez (CRSN, Lyon), prof Ton Groothuis (Univ Groningen, NL), prof Marcel Visser (Netherlands Institute of Ecology, NL), Dr. Tapio Eeva (Univ. Turku) and Dr. Rodrigo Vasquez (Univ Chile) ​and numerous other groups involved in sample collection. 
In my previous project I focused especially on how climate and hormonally-mediated maternal effects via eggs may interplay and affect reproductive success, using great tits (Parus major) as a model species. In this Academy of Finland post-doctoral project (2012-2015) I was a guest researcher at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (with prof. Marcel Visser, Phillip Gienapp, Kees van Oers) and at University of Groningen (with prof. Ton Groothuis).
Maternally-derived yolk steroids and avian personalities
We investigate whether avian personality traits and stress reactivity are associated with reproductive strategies, especially varying hormone levels in eggs. Collaboration: Dr. Kees van Oers (NIOO; NL), Dr Alex Baugh 
Predation risk and maternal allocation
Together with Dr. Chiara Morosinotto and Dr. Robert Thomson we study how breeding under simulated predation risk affects resource allocation to egg in pied flycatchers (Ficedula hypoleuca).
We study how early-life exposure to pollutants and poor nutrition affects methylation markers in a wild bird model (great tits). My collaborators are Dr. Hannu Mäkinen, Dr. Tapio Eeva (UTU) and Dr. Kees van Oers and Dr. Veronika Laine (NIOO, NL).
Local density, reproductive success and physiology
Using experimental density manipulations we study the effects of breeding density on reproduction (EPP, reproductive output) and physiology, including oxidative stress in pied flycatchers. Collaborators: Dr. Robert Thomson, Dr.  Chiara Morosinotto, Dr. Alex Villers, Prof Erkki Korpimäki (UTU)
Environmental correlates of oxidative stress
Using 2x2 experimental designs, we study how winter feeding and predation risk interact on female physiology during. We also study how the cost of reproduction can be modified by environmental conditions using similar x 2 experiments. Collaboration: prof. Erkki Korpimäki, Dr. Chiara Morosinotto, Dr. Miia Rainio (UTU).
Effects of early-life pollution
Young kids and animals are especially vulnerable to effects of toxicants and early exposure even at low levels can have detrimental long-term consequences. Using experimental manipulation of early metal exposure with environmentally relevant levels, we study both shor​t and long-term consequences on growth, physiology, immunology, behavior and learning. Collaboration:  Dr. Tapio Eeva, Dr. Miia Rainio. Dr. Mirella Kanerva, Dr. Thomas Lilley, Janina Stauffer (UTU).
Effects of glyphosate on non-target taxa: glyphosate in a vertebrate model
Glyphosate is herbidice widely used worldwide. Data on the effects of non-target taxa in environmentally relevant concentration is scarce. Together with the group of Marjo Helander (5-year Academy of Finland project, 2017-2021) we study its short-​ and long-term effects on development, physiology, and importantly, gut microbiota, in a vertebrate model (Japanese quail). Collaboration: Marjo Helander, Irma Saloniemi, Pere Puigpo, Miia Rainio (UTU), the group of Seppo Salminen (Functional Foods Forum, UTU), among others.

Short CV [more details in link on the right-hand side]
2015-2020    Academy of Finland research fellow, Univ Turku
2012-2015     Academy of Finland postdoctoral researcher, Netherlands Institute of ecology/University of Groningen, NL
2010-2012     Post-doctoral researcher, Univ Turku
2007-2010     PhD, Univ Turku

Contact information

Section of Ecology
Department of Biology
FI-20014 University of Turku

 Suvi Ruuskanen


​My ResearchGate page



Twitter: @RuuskanenSuvi

News and updates!

 28.11.2018 Submitted abstract for SETAC 2019 in Helsinki - fingers crossed!

27.11.2018 Does iodine availability affect transgenerational transfer of iodine and hormones to offspring? Trade-off between mother and offspring over these crucial resouces? Tom just finished his experiment on pigeons, and yolk thyroid hormones are starting today!

23.11.2018 Hooray, we finished our 12-month glyphosate experiment in Japanese quails! Hundreds of tissue, microbiome, embryo adn blood samples collected. Important data on its way! Thank you Academy of Finland for funding and all our students and assistants for the help!

 3.11.2018 New paper conditionally accepted in Journal of Avian Biology! in Hsu et al. we show that exposure to elevated prenatal thyroid hormone levels has transient effects on growth, but do not cause oxidative stress nor affect nestling survival. Great work Bin-Yan!

29.10.2018 Rusul and Suvi are running hormone analyses from sticklebacks to study the environmental influences on transgenerational hormone transfer. Thanks to Giovanna Mottola and Katja Anttia for collecting samples. Cool, our first real fish samples!

 1.11.2018 Antoine is leaving to Antartica for 4 months. Good luck!

27.10.2018 We are running some behavioral tests on our quails from glyphosate experiment.

8.10.2018 Suvi submitted ERC starter grant application. Fingers crossed!!

10.10.2018 Suvi will present our work on prenatal hormones and telomere dynamics at 3rd Finnish Molecular Ecology meeting in JYU

1.10.2018 Janina Stauffer will join our group for labwork on oxidative stress and telomeres.

1.10.2018 Bin-Yan submitted a proposal for Academy post-doc. Fingers crossed!

19.9.2018 We are busy catching juvenile great tits from the experiments this summer. Looking good!

20.8.2018 Suvi, Bin-Yan and Tom had presentations at IOC Vancouver. What a great conference! Many new collaborations emerged :)

16.7.2018 Suvi just submitted our ms on transgenerational endocrine disruption to Science of the Total Environment, and Bin-Yan submitted our ms on individual plasticity in thyroid hormones to Functional Ecology :) Fingers crossed!!


1.7.2018 Our paper on the novel method analysing thyroid hormones using nano-LC-MS/MS is now out in Journal of Chromatography!

25.6.2018 Starting analyses of thyroid hormones from great tits lines selected for timing of breeding. Exciting!

14.6.2018 Microbiota analyses from fecal samples from glyphosate experiment are starting at Functional Foods Unit. So exciting!​ 

30.5.2018 It was the hottest May in history, and of course we conducted a nest-heating experiment!

25.5.2018. Tom, Bin-Yan and myself all got talks to IOC in Vancouver in Aug 2018. Well done! Looking forward to their very interesting program.

17.5.2018. Hormonal manipulations on great tit eggs are almost done and first chicks are hatching. In Turku, we have have a team of 5 researchers/students thus busybusy!


23.4. 2018 Fieldwork on Gotland started!  This year it is a team of 5 students, and the aim is to study long-term fitness consequences of maternal THs on recruitment, life-history traits and telomere dynamics.

20.4. First trials on mitochondrial activity measurements on quail blood were quite successfull. Looking forward to using the methodology in samples from our wild populations.

16.4.2018. We conducted our first next box monitoring round! Some nest building activity of tits, but still slow.

12.4.2018 Huh, we finished analysing some 150 samples of eggs and plasma for THs. We study the mechanism of TH transfer to the egg using experimental elevation of THs during egg laying (via TH implants) in pied flycatchers.

11.4.2018 Received wonderful 'late easter eggs' from Irene Verhagen at NIOO-KNAW. We study correlated selection on timing of breeding and reproductive investment in eggs using samples and data from their unique artificial selection lines on laying time.​​

1.4.2018. We welcome Ida Palmroos to our group! Ida will conduct her BSc on the effects of glyphosate on behavior in our experimental quail.

30.3.2018. Ethical and enviromental permits for our field experiments arrived. Let the preparations begin! It is quite snowy outside though..

22.3. Suvi is visiting Institut Pluridisciplinaire Hubert CURIEN (IPHC) to give a invited seminar

14.3.2018 Our collaboration samples from Chile arrived. Happy to contribute to interesting research on maternal effects  across populations over extreme environments.

26.2.2018 We warmly welcome Antoine Stier to our group in Turku!

20.2.2018 Licence applications for fieldwork 2018 were sent. This will again be a busy but interesting season, looking at the context-dependent effects of early hormone enviroment on fitness.

14.2.2017 Submitted a grant proposal on avian gut microbiota. Fingers crossed!

11.2.2018 Our review paper on thyroid hormone-mediated maternal effects in an ecological framework was accepted in PBZ!

23.1.2018. New paper on the effects of predation risk on antioxidant status was accepted in PBZ!

17.1.2018 New year, new data: we just finished maternal thyroid hormone nano-LC-MS/MS analyses of ca 250 eggs samples. Tests on fish eggs also succesful!

20.12.2017 We finished oxidative stress biomarker analyses from this year's experiments. Let's see what is there!

10.12.2017 We submitted our method paper on the development of an ultrasensitive nano-LC-MS/MS on thyroid hormones, to Journal of Chromatography

9.12.2017 Tom was awarded a 3 month PhD grant from Biology department.

8.12.2017 Interns for field season 2018 have been selected: Welcome Clea, Cindy, Caroline, Sophie and Thomas! We are also happy have Corisande as the team manager!

7.12.2017 Suvi is the new subject editor in Journal of Avian Biology.

5.12.2017 Tom's double-degree PhD between Uni Turku and Uni Groningen has been set officially. 

29.11.2017 Suvi participates in #BOU17TC twitter conference and presents the recent personality vs maternal homones - paper.

22.11.2017 Telomere analyses  - the effects of elevated early TH levels, are on their way!

20.11. 2017 Nicolas Steinmetz will conduct his 2-mo internship in the glyphosate project

18.11.2017 We are currently selecting interns for our field projects in Sweden and Finland. Lots of good candidates!

31.10.2017 New grant applications submitted. Topics range from maternal mRNA to theoretical models with physiological mechanisms embedded

30.10.2017 Suvi is attending Hole Nesting bird conference and associated genomics meeting in Trondheim


19.10.2017 Glyphosate experiment begins!


1.10.2017 Venla Kuosmanen is joining the group for her MSc thesis on glyphosate project



How pair personality influences the deposition of maternal hormones, key mediators of offspring development - and personality? New paper accepted in Functional Ecology! Ruuskanen, Groothuis, Baugh, Schaper, van Oers.​


22.8.2017 EOU was a success! We organizers got lots of positive feedback. Suvi was also an expert panelist in an outreach event 'Lintuilta'  for the general public.


17.8. EOU starts tomorrow! Our group is well represented: Suvi as an organizer, Ornis Fennica exhibitor and also presenting a poster (nb 111) on the costs and benefits of matenarl thyroid hormones on offspring development. Antoine, Bin-Yan ja Tom all present talks on 19.8 (physiology session) starting 15:30! So proud of my them!

1.8. 2017 We are busy organizing European Ornithologist's Conference at UTU ! There will be 400 participants, 6 plenaries, 170 talks, 153 posters and great excursions! Two weeks to go! 


18-22.7. 2017 Suvi participates Arolla 2017 workshop, organized by Barbara Taborsky (Uni Bern): 'Early environment effects: towards integrating theoretical and empirical approaches' where she has been invited to give a keynote talk and host discussion groups. This was the best workshop ever, great discussions, got to know some topmost theoreticians (some ideas for collaboration also!). 

7.6.2017 Hannu Mäkinen will join the team in the autumn to continue to work on the DNA methylation analyses on the effects of early-life pollution exposure, under a grant from Turku University foundation.


2.6. 2017 Suvi is back from Gotland. What a synchronous season!

20.5.2017 Our field experiment with collared flycatchers in Gotland has officially started. This year the team will consist of Bin-Yan and 3 assistants/students. Suvi is visiting for 2 weeks during the peak.


16.5.2017. Marjo Helander received a 4-year Academy of Finland research funding for a project on the effects of glyphosate on non-target taxa. Congrats! I am proud to be a collaborator, working on the effects on glyphosate on vertebrate models, especially gut microbes.


15.5.2017. The breeding season of collared flycatchers is delayed. Coldest May temperatures in >150 years. Hoping for fast warming up!

 7.5.2017. LC-MS analyses on great tit thyroid hormones are ready!

3.5.2017 Tom is finishing our experiment on quails. Looking forward to interesting results!

30.4.2017 Bin-Yan travels to Gotland to start our field experiment!