Four morphs of the Baltic isopod Idotea balthica
The Baltic isopdod Idotea balthica is a model species for studying processes leading to strong population structure and range expansions. Molecular methods are used to characterize the genetic profile of different populations.
Photo: Pierre DeWit

Marine Molecular Ecology Group

Research group
Active research
Project owner
Department of Marine Sciences

Short description

Marine Molecular Ecology Group studies patterns and processes of evolution in natural populations. To understand how rapidly evolution can take place, we study marine species that have adapted to different micro-environments and to the brackish waters of the Baltic Sea. Topics include conservation genetics, mechanisms of divergence and local adaptation, hybrid zone analyses and speciation, and genetic effects of range expansions. Our results aid in managing species and populations, and also help us understand the mechanisms generating biodiversity.

More about our research

The evolution of species is determined both by selection, migration and random processes. We use theoretical evolutionary models to help formulate testable hypotheses about mechanisms. We use genomic methods to map populations and to estimate the genetic exchange among different geographical areas. We aim to identify genes that are important for adaptation and conservation, and that also have useful functions and applications in marine biotechnology.

The genetic studies are often combined with experimental work in the laboratory or in the field, oceanographic modelling of connectivity, or with the development and analyses of theoretical models. Target organisms include macroalgae, seagrasses, crustaceans, molluscs and fish, some species being important ecosystem engineers, and others are commercially important.

Research topics

  • Mechanisms of parallel evolution of ecotypes, and the formation of barriers to gene flow (Littorina fabalis, Littorina saxatilis).
  • Genetic population structure: The roles of connectivity, adaptation, demographic history, genomic architecture and human translocation (Fucus vesiculosus, Idotea balthica, Zostera marina, Gadus morhua, Symphodus melops, Cyclopterus lumpus, Carcinus maenas)
  • Development of management and restoration strategies for marine species based on information on population genetic structure and diversity (Mytilus edulis/trossulus, Ostrea edulis, Zostera marina, Gadus morhua, Symphodus melops).
  • Range expansions of populations: The roles of connectivity, selection, genomic architectures, mode of reproduction and plasticity (Symphodus melops, Fucus vesiculosus, Idotea balthica).
  • Evolution of clones (Fucus vesiculosus).
  • Draft reference genomes (Littorina saxatilis, Idotea balthica, Fucus vesiculosus, Symphodus melops, Ctenolabrus rupestris).
  • Development of genetic monitoring in aquatic species.
  • Development of eDNA methods for marine communities.

People & Research interests

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