Suvi Ruuskanen

My research fields are at the intersection of evolutionary ecology, ecophysiology and behavioral and environmental ecology. I focus especially on non-genetic inheritance mechanisms, such as maternal effects and recently epigenetics. A major part of my research deals with parental effects, their short- and long-lasting effects, family conflicts and potential adaptive value, using avian eggs as my model system. I am broadly interested in the proximate physiological mechanisms underlying variation in phenotypic and behavioral traits and their plasticity, and especially how physiologically-regulated traits enable organismal adaptation to changing environmental conditions. Furthermore, I want to understand more broadly how various early-life environmental conditions, including exposure to pollution of various types, affects offspring development and fitness. 

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. In autumn 2017 my colleagues and I are organizing EOU 2017 conference in Turku!

Research team: 

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

Dr. Antoine Stier, postdoc (starting in 2018)
Tom Sarraude, PhD student (Maternal thyroid hormones, see below)

Dr. Hannu Mäkinen, postdoc (Nov 2017, early-life env vs epigenetics)


Piia Pajunen, MSc student (Pollution vs maternal investment)

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


We are looking for an intern/MSc students on a project on glyphosate-herbicide

We study experimentally how long-term exposure to low doses of glyphosate affects vertebrate development, physiology, reproduction and gut microbes. Our model species is the Japanese quail. The experiment starts autumn 2017, and now we are looking for students fom spring-summer 2018. The work will be conducted at the University of Turku, Finland.

The project is suitable for students in e.g. physiology, ecotoxicology or environmental ecology. The exact project topic can be tailored to student’s interests. Travel and accommondation will be covered!

Contact Suvi Ruuskanen (, Uni Turku, FIN

New papers out!
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, in press.
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, in press
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, in press.
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 CM, Ruuskanen 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:
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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. We also develop new methodology to measure thyroid hormones (nano-LCMS).
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 Groothu
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 hypole
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 (bird model). 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]
15-2020    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


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!

1.4.2017. Plans for fieldwork have been finished and equiptment have been aqcuired. Tom and our French trainee Florine are taking care of the experiment in Turku. Bin-Yan and a team of 3 assistants are working in Gotland, Sweden in collaboration with Lars Gustafsson and Blandine Doligez + their teams.