CV page

Tomas Roslin

Tomas Roslin
To a close approximation, all animals on Earth are arthropods – both in terms of species numbers and biomass. Thus, to understand life on Earth, we should essentially focus on arthropods. That is why I have sifted through some ten tons of cow dung in search of insects, that is why I have spent nine summers on Greenland, and that is why I have baked baits of rotten fish in the rain forest.


I was born in Turku, Finland, but moved to Helsinki when I was five. The summers I spent on the island of Wattkast in the Finnish archipelago, where my grandparents introduced me to the life of both birds and insects. In 1994, I graduated as Masters in Zoology from the University of Helsinki, and in 1999 I defended a PhD thesis on the population biology of dung beetles – and on just how drastically they have been affected by recent changes in Finnish agriculture. After a postdoctoral period at the University of Alberta, Canada, I returned to the Metapopulation Research Group at the University of Helsinki. There I served first as a post doc, then as an Academy Research Fellow and team leader. In 2009 I joined the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry as a Senior Lecturer in Agroecology. From September 2015 I serve as Professor of Insect Ecology at SLU.


In my research, I focus on insects as the building blocks of food webs world wide. I am particularly interested in how insect food webs are built from first principles: how (meta)populations of multiple species interact, and how species-specific characteristics blend with interspecific interactions in shaping what insects occur where and at what abundances. I am also interested in the relationship between the structure and functioning of such interaction webs; how the strength of different interactions reflect into ecological process of which we all benefit, like the decomposition of dung or the pollination of key plants.

In my research I try to assimilate the rapid development of molecular methods. As a part of this work, we have invested particular effort in dissecting the structure of a “simple” interaction web in Northeast Greenland. Here, we have tried to understand the structure of the full interaction web (including who eats whom, who pollinates whom, who decomposes whom etc.) To date we have worked our way through interactions between arthropods, plants, mammals, birds and some fungi - showing that the move from “traditional” to molecular methods really upsets what we thought that we knew about food web structure. 


As ecologists, we are typically asking questions on patterns and processes much larger than we can grasp by ourselves. At the same time, the world is full of potential collaborators both professional and layman. Quite a few of them will be happy to lend us a hand if we just tell them how and what for. Through approaches variously referred to as citizen science, distributed experiments or just collaborations, we can thus achieve so much more. And by involving wide audiences in generating scientific information, we make the dissemination of results a part of the process rather than a challenging chore at the end of it. In our work, we try to apply these principles in projects conducted in Finland, Sweden and the rest of the world.

Selected publications

Tiusanen, M., Hebert, P. D. N., Schmidt, N. M., Roslin T. 2016 One fly to rule them all – muscid flies are the key pollinators in the Arctic. Proc. R. Soc. B 20161271. 

Hammer, T. J., Fierer, N., Hardwick, B., Simojoki, A., Slade, E., Taponen, J., Viljanen, H., Roslin, T. 2016. Treating cattle with antibiotics affects greenhouse gas emissions, and microbiota in dung and dung beetles. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 283: 20160150. 

Roslin, T. & Majaneva, S. 2016. The use of DNA barcodes in food web construction – terrestrial and aquatic ecologists unite! Genome 59: 603-628. DOI: 10.1139/gen-2015-0229. 

Schmidt, N., Mosbacher, J., Nielsen, P., Rasmussen, C., Høye, T., Roslin, T. 2016. An ecological function in crisis? – the temporal overlap between plant flowering and pollinator function shrinks as the Arctic warms. Ecography DOI: 10.1111/ecog.02261. 

Slade, E. & Roslin, T. 2016. Dung beetle species interactions and multifunctionality are affected by an experimentally warmed climate. Oikos 125: 1607–1616 DOI: 10.1111/oik.03207. 

Hardwick, B., Kaartinen, R., Koponen, M. & Roslin, T. 2016. A rapid assessment of a poorly known insect group. Insect Conservation and Diversity 9: 49–62. 

Wirta, H., Várkonyi, G., Rasmussen, C., Kaartinen, R., Schmidt, N. M., Hebert, P. D. N., Barták, M., Blagoev, G., Disney, H., Ertl, S., Gjelstrup, P., Gwiazdowicz, D. J., Huldén, L., Ilmonen, J., Jakovlev, J., Jaschhof, M., Kahanpää, J., Kankaanpää, T., Krogh, P. H., Labbee, R., Lettner, C., Michelsen, V., Nielsen, S. A., Nielsen, T. R., Paasivirta, L., Pedersen, S., Pohjoismäki, J., Salmela, J., Vilkamaa, P., Väre, H., von Tschirnhaus, M. & Roslin, T. 2016. Establishing a community-wide DNA barcode library as a new tool for arctic research. Molecular Ecology Resources 16: 809–822.

Slade, E. M., Roslin, T., Santalahti, M., & Bell, T. 2016. Disentangling the 'brown world' faecal-detritus interaction web: dung beetle effects on soil microbial properties. Oikos 125: 629–635 doi: 10.1111/oik.02640

 Zheng, C., Ovaskainen, O., Roslin, T., Tack, A. 2015. Beyond metacommunity paradigms: habitat configuration, life-history and movement shape an herbivore community on oak Ecology 96: 3175–3185. 

Wirta, H. K., Vesterinen, E. J., Hambäck, P. A., Weingartner, E., Rasmussen, C., Reneerkens, J., Schmidt, N. M., Gilg, O. and Roslin, T. 2015. Exposing the structure of an Arctic food web. Ecology and Evolution 5: 3842–3856.


Professor at the Department of Ecology; NJ, Insect Ecology Unit
Telephone: +4618672383
Postal address:
Inst för ekologi, Box 7044
756 51 UPPSALA
Visiting address: Ulls Väg 16, Uppsala