Eco- evolutionary community dynamics

In general I am interested about the eco-evolutionary dynamics and biodiversity in the aquatic microbial communities. In the past I have done mainly work that could be described as an experimental community / population ecology and experimental evolution. My study organisms have ranged from bacterial viruses to zooplankton (and more and less everything in between) and in the majority of my experiments I have used chemostat / microcosm set-up. Most of my work has also contained a strong theoretical component and I try to continue incorporating theoretical and experimental approaches in my ongoing work also.

Majority of my research is done by using model organism, such as bacteria, phages and protozoans on testing ecological and evolutionary theory in simple microcosm environments. Common theme in this line of work is to test what is the role of rapid contemporary evolution on the community dynamics.  

My other line of research concentrates on more applied questions using harmful Baltic Sea cyanobacteria as a model organism. In this project we investigate what is the ecological and evolutionary role of cyanobacterial viruses on cyanobacterial population dynamics and in bloom formation. In here I apply recent eco- evolutionary theory to the relatively well-studied field of harmful cyanobacteria, with a focus on the Baltic Sea, where the cyanobacteria have wide socioeconomic impacts. 

Other activities: 2014 we launched a minisymposium named "Experimental evolution and community dynamics", EECD. Next meeting in 2018.

Academic history:

2017-2020 Helsinki Institute of Life Science (HiLIFE) Fellow

2016-2021 Academy Research Fellow

2014 Docent in Ecology and evolutionary biology (University of Helsinki)

2012-2016 Postdoctoral associate at University of Helsinki working in collaboration with Prof. Kaarina Sivonen. A position funded by Nessling foundation and Academy of Finland.

2008 - 2011 Postdoctoral associate at Cornell University USA, with Prof. Nelson Hairston jr. and Prof. Stephen Ellner in project funded by James S. McDonnell Foundation and NSF.

2008 PhD: University of Jyväskylä, Finland, Ecology (With Jouni Laakso and Veijo Kaitala)


Hiltunen T*, Kaitala, V, Laakso J and Becks L (2017) Evolutionary contribution to coexistence of competitors in microbial food webs Proceedings of the Royal Society B. In press

Mattila S, Ruotsalainen P, Ojala V, Tuononen T, Hiltunen T and Jalasvuori M (2017) Conjugative ESBL-plasmids differ in their potential to rescue susceptible bacteria via horizontal gene transfer in lethal antibiotic concentrations. Journal of Antibiotics. In press.

Cairns J, Frickel J, Jalasvuori M, Hiltunen T and Becks L, Genomic evolution of bacterial populations under co-selection by antibiotics and phage Molecular Ecology accepted

Cairns J, Coloma S, Sivonen K and Hiltunen T* Evolving interactions between diazotrophic cyanobacterium and phage mediate nitrogen release and host competitive ability Royal Society Open Science accepted

Coloma S, Dienstbier A, Bamford D, Sivonen K, Roine E and Hiltunen T* Newly isolated Nodularia phage influences cyanobacterial community dynamics Environmental Microbiology accepted

Suominen S., Brauer V., Rantala-Ylinen A., Sivonen K. and Hiltunen T* Competition between a toxic and a non-toxic Microcystis strain under constant and pulsed nitrogen and phosphorus supply Aquatic Ecology in press

Hiltunen T. Virta M. and Laine A-L. Antibiotic resistance in the wild: an eco-evolutionary perspective Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences in press

Cairns, J. Becks, L. Jalasvuori, M. and Hiltunen, T.* Sublethal streptomycin concentrations and lytic bacteriophage together promote resistance evolution Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences in press

Ojala, V. Mattila, S. Hoikkala, V. Bamford, J. Hiltunen, T. and Jalasvuori, M. 2016 Scoping the effectiveness and evolutionary obstacles in utilizing plasmid-dependent phages to fight antibiotic resistance Future Microbiology in press

Cairns, J. Jalasvuori, M. Ojala, V. Brockhurst, M. and Hiltunen, T.* 2016 Conjugation is necessary for a bacterial plasmid to survive under protozoan predation Biology Letters 12 20150953


Hiltunen, T.* Ayan, G.B and Becks, L. 2015 Environmental fluctuations restrict eco-evolutionary dynamics in predator-prey system Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 282: 20150013 (PDF)

Örmälä-Odegrip, A-M., Ojala, V., Hiltunen, T., Zhang, J., Bamford, J. and Laakso, J. 2015 Protist predation can select for bacteria with lowered susceptibility to infection by lytic phages BMC Evolutionary Biology 15: 81 (PDF)


Hiltunen, T*. & Becks, L. 2014 Consumer co-evolution as an important component of the eco-evolutionary feedback. Nature Communications, 5, doi:10.1038/ncomms6226 (PDF)

Ketola, T. & Hiltunen, T*. 2014  Rapid evolutionary adaptation to elevated salt concentrations in pathogenic freshwater bacteria Serratia marcescens. Ecology and Evolution (PDF)

Hiltunen, T*., Hairston N.G jr., Hooker, G., Jones, L.E, and Ellner, S.P. 2014  A newly discovered role of evolution in previously published consumer-resource dynamics. Ecology Letters 17: 915-923 (PDF) F1000

Hiltunen, T*., Ellner, S.P, Jones, L.E, Hooker, G., and Hairston N.G jr. 2014 Eco-evolutionary dynamics in a three-species food web with intraguild predation: intriguingly complex. Advances in Ecological Research 50: 41-73 (PDF)

Before 2014

Hiltunen, T*. & Laakso, J. 2013 The relative importance of competition and predation in environment characterized by resource pulses – an experimental test with a microbial community BMC Ecology 13:29 (PDF)

Hiltunen, T*., Jones, L.E., Ellner, S.P. and Hairston N. G Jr. 2013 Temporal dynamics of a simple community with intraguild predation: an experimental test Ecology 94: 773–779 (PDF)

Hiltunen, T*., Barreiro, A. and Hairston N.G jr. 2012 Mixotrophy and the toxicity of Ochromonas in pelagic food webs. Freshwater biology 57: 2262–2271 (PDF)
Hiltunen, T*., Friman V-P., Laakso, J., Kaitala, V. and Mappes, J. 2012 Predation and resource fluctuations drive eco-evolutionary dynamics of a bacterial community Acta Oecologica 38 77-83 (PDF)

Friman V-P., Koivu, M,. Laakso, J.,  Kaitala, V., and Hiltunen, T. 2011  Pulsed-resource dynamics increase the asymmetry of antagonistic coevolution between a predatory protist and a prey bacterium Journal of Evolutionary Biology 24 2563-2573 (PDF)

Friman V-P, Hiltunen T, Jalasvuori M, Lindstedt C, Laanto E, Örmälä A-M, Laakso J, Mappes J. and Bamford J. 2011 High Temperature and Bacteriophages Can Indirectly Select for Bacterial Pathogenicity in Environmental Reservoirs. Plos One 6(3) (PDF)

Friman V-P, Lindstedt C, Hiltunen T, Laakso J, Mappes J, 2009 Predation on Multiple Trophic Levels Shapes the Evolution of Pathogen Virulence. PLoS ONE 4(8) (PDF)

Friman V-P., Hiltunen, T., Laakso, J., and Kaitala, V., 2008 Availability of prey resources drives evolution of predator-prey interaction. Proc Royal Soc London B.,  275, 1625-1633, 2008 (PDF)

Hiltunen, T*., Laakso, J., Kaitala, V., Suomalainen, L-R., and Pekkonen, M., 2008 Temporal variability in detritus resource maintains diversity of bacterial communities. Acta Oecologia 33, 291-299 (PDF)

Hiltunen, T., Environmental Fluctuations and Predation Modulate Community Dynamics and Diversity 2008 PhD thesis University of Jyväskylä

Hiltunen, T*., Laakso, J., and Kaitala, V., 2006 Interactions between environmental variability and immigration rate control patterns of species diversity Ecological Modelling 194, 126-131 (PDF)