Outi Vesakoski

Principal investigator in the BEDLAN team, based at the University of Turku, Department of Biology

Outi Vesakoski

As a former student of the Finnish and Estonian languages I was interested in applying research methods derived from population biology to dialectal data and, in general, studying language change using ideas from evolutionary biology. These ideas realized eventually when I met people that became the initial members of the BEDLAN initiative. The encounter was organized by Kone Foundation that organized a workshop for reserarcher interested in applying evolutionary aspects to humanistic science. The first BEDLAN funding was achieved already 10 years ago (Urho Määttä as PI), and since Unni-Päivi Leino and I have been very lucky with the proceeding financings. Unni has been leading the linguistic side of the project, I have lead the natural science side. This has been a fruitful combination indeed.

I still work with purely biological questions. This side of my work includes another PhD project about evolution of personality in marine isopods Idotea balthica, and especially sexual differences therein. For this I study the same species that I used in my own doctoral thesis – marine crustacean herbivore Idotea balthica (Pallas). The work is a co-operation between PhD-student Maria Yli-Renko and Dr. Jenni Pettay. The title of my PhD thesis was “Local and sexual divergence in host-use traits and anti-predator adaptations in the marine herbivore Idotea balthica”. The study dealed with local adaptation and ecological speciation; I studied population divergence in phenotypical traits. This work was supervised by doctors Veijo Jormalainen, Sami Merilaita and Tuija Ramsay.

With a master thesis and PhD thesis projects by Tiia Forsström – and in co-operation with Dr. Amy Fowler –  I initiated studies on the ecology of marine invasive species with focus on the American white fingered mud crab (Rhitropanopeus harrissii). The thesis was defended 2017 and was supervised by Prof. Veijo Jormalainen and Academy Researcher Anti Vasemägi. Finally, to my great pleasure, my hobby expanded to a master thesis project by Iida Nikkilä: She collected baseline information about phenotypic variation in the growth factors and morphology of the Archipelago Sheep. The goal is to maintain genetic diversity in this breed while breeding it towards faster growth or better quality of the fur. Also this thesis was supervised jointly with Dr Jenni Pettay.

Happened so far

  • 2018 Visiting researcher at the Department of Linguistics and Phylology at the Uppsala University, Sweden
  • 2014-2018 PI of the BEDLAN-initiative with Kone Foundation funding (SumuraSyyni and AikaSyyni) at the Department of Biology, University of Turku
  • 2013-2014 (Sep-Aug) EU adviser at MTT Agrifood research Finland (at Jokioinen)
  • 2011-2013 (Jan-July, 2,5 years) University lecturer in (aquatic) ecology at Department of Biology, University of Turku
  • Nov 2010→ Post doc at BEDLAN
  • 2010
    • a) Part time post doc at BEDLAN and
    • b) Part time planner at the South-West Finland Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (former LOS) as a marine biologist in the NANNUT project
  • 2009 Post roc research in a project financed by Kone Foundation: Herbivore adaptations to local selective environment: Variation in gut microbial activity, predator avoidance and behavior in Idotea balthica
  • 2009 PhD finally defended
  • 2007-2009 All together 9 mo at the South-West Finland Regional Environmental Centre (LOS); Preparing an EU-project called NANNUT to study the underwater biodiversity of the Baltic Sea and applying the data to environmental governance
  • 2003-2009 PhD studies at the University of Turku, Department of Biology, Section of Ecology
  • 2001 MSc about the effects of acidification to fluctuating asymmetry of perch (Perca fluviatilis). The degree included also studies of Finnish and Estonian language.

List of publications


  • Maurits, L., de Heer, M., Honkola, T., Dunn, M. & Vesakoski, O. 2020: Best practices in justifying calibrations for dating language families. Journal of Language Evolution 5 (1,), 17–38. https://doi.org/10.1093/jole/lzz009


  • Tambets, K., Yunusbayev, B., Hudjashov, G., Ilumäe, A-M., Rootsi, S., Honkola, T., Vesakoski, O., Atkinson, Q., Skoglund, P., Kushniarevich, A., Litvinov, S., Reidla, M., Metspalu, E., Saag, L., Rantanen, T., Karmin, M., Parik, J., Zhadanov, S.I., Gubina, M., Damba, L.L., Bermisheva, M., Reisberg, T., Dibirova, K., Evseeva, I., Nelis, M., Klovins, J., Metspalu, A., Esko, T., Balanovsky, O., Balanovska, E., Khusnutdinova, E., Osipova, L., Voevoda, M., Villems, R., Kivisild, T., Metspalu, M. (2018). Genes reveal traces of common recent demographic history for most of the Uralic-speaking populations. Genome Biology. 19:139.
  • Honkola, T., Ruokolainen, K., Syrjänen, K. J. J., Leino U, Tammi, I, Wahlberg, N. & Vesakoski, O. (2018). Evolution within a language: Environmental differences contribute to divergence of dialect groups. BMC Evolutionary Biology. 18:132.
  • Forsström, T., Vesakoski, O., Riipinen, K., Fowler, AE (2018). Post-invasions demography and persistence of a novel functional species in an estuarine system. Biological Invasions 20 (11): 3331–3345
  • Yli-Renko M., Pettay J.E., Vesakoski O. (2018). Sex and size matters: Selection on personality in natural prey-predator interactions. Behavioural Processes 148: 20-26.
  • Lehtonen T., Vesakoski O., Yli-Rosti J., Saarinen A., Lindström K. (2018). The impact of an invasive mud crab on brood success of nest-building fish in the Northern Baltic Sea. Biological Invasions 20(4): 981-993.


  • Riipinen K., Mikkola S., Ahola M.K., Aalto M.M., Olkinuora A., Vesakoski O. (2017). Habitat selection of the mud crab Rhithropanopeus harrisii in its newly invaded range. Aquatic Invasions 12: 191–200.


  • Syrjänen K., Honkola T., Lehtinen  J., Leino A., Vesakoski O. (2016). Applying population genetic approaches within languages: Finnish dialects as linguistic populations. Language Dynamics and Change 6: 235-283.
  • Forsström T, Fowler A., Vesakoski O. (2016). The introduced dark false mussel, Mytilopsis leucophaeata (Conrad, 1831) has spread in the northern Baltic Sea. BioInvasions Records.


  • Forsström T,  Fowler A.,  Vesakoski O. (2015). An introduced species meets the local fauna: Predatory behaviour of the North American White-Fingered mud crab (Rhithropanopeus harrisii) in the Fucus vesiculosus dominated habitat of the Northern Baltic Sea. Biological Invasion 17: 2727-2741.
  • Yli-Renko M., Pettay J., Vesakoski O. (2015). Personality-dependent survival in the marine isopod Idotea balthica. Ethology 121: 135-143.


  • Lehtinen J., Honkola T., Korhonen K., Syrjänen K., Wahlberg N., Vesakoski O. (2014). Behind family trees: Secondary connections in Uralic language networks. Language Dynamics and Change. 4: 189-221.
  • Mattila J.M., Zimmer M., Vesakoski O., Jormalainen V. (2014). Habitat-specific gut microbiota of the marine herbivore Idotea balthica (Isopoda). Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 455: 22–2.

2013 and earlier

  • Vesakoski O. & Jormalainen V. (2013). Ignored patterns in studies of local adaptations: When the grass is greener on the allopatric site. Ideas in Ecology and Evolution 6: 32-36.
  • Syrjänen K., Honkola T., Korhonen K., Lehtinen J., Vesakoski O., Wahlberg N. (2013). Shedding more light on language classification using basic vocabularies and phylogenetic methods: A case study of Uralic. Diachronica 30(3): 323-352.
  • Fowler A., Forsström T., von Numers M., Vesakoski O. (2013). The North American mud crab Rhithropanopeus harrisii (Gould 1841) in newly colonised Northern Baltic Sea: distribution and population demography. Aquatic Invasions 8: 89–96
  • Honkola T., Vesakoski O., Korhonen K., Lehtinen J., Syrjänen K., Wahlberg N. (2013). Cultural and climatic changes shape the evolutionary history of the Uralic languages. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 26: 1244-1253
  • Vesakoski O., Rautanen J., Jormalainen V., Honkanen T. (2009). Divergence in host use ability of a marine herbivore from two habitat types. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 22: 1545-1555.
  • Vesakoski O., Boström C., Jormalainen V., Honkanen T. (2008). Sexual and local divergence in host exploitation in the marine herbivore Idotea baltica (Isopoda). Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 367: 118-126.
  • Vesakoski O., Merilaita S., Jormalainen V. (2008). Reckless males, rational females: Dynamic trade-off between food and shelter in the marine isopod Idotea balthica. Behavioural Processes 79: 175-181.
  • Jormalainen V., Honkanen T., Vesakoski O. (2008). Geographical divergence in host use ability of a marine herbivore in alga-grazer interaction. Evolutionary Ecology 22: 545-559.
  • Korpinen S., Honkanen T., Vesakoski O., Hemmi A., Koivikko R., Loponen J., Jormalainen V. (2007). Macroalgal communities face the challenge of changing biotic interactions – Review with focus on the Baltic Sea. Ambio 36: 203-211.
  • Jormalainen V., Honkanen T., Vesakoski O., Koivikko R. (2005). Polar extracts of the brown alga Fucus vesiculosus (L.) reduce assimilation efficiency but do not deter the herbivorous isopod Idotea baltica (Pallas). Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 317: 143-157.
  • Jormalainen V., Honkanen T., Mäkinen A., Hemmi A., Vesakoski O. (2001). Why does herbivory sex matter? Sexual differences in utilization of Fucus vesiculosus by the isopod Idotea baltica. Oikos 93: 77-86.

Books and book chapters

  •  Vesakoski O. (2017). Uusia näkökulmia Suomen kielellisen alkuperän tutkimiseen. In Kaikki vapaudesta, eds. Kari Enqvist, Ilari Hetemäki, Teija Tiilikainen. 212-226. Gaudeamus p. 311.
  • Vesakoski O. (2009). Local and sexual divergence in host-use traits and anti-predator adaptations in the marine herbi-vore Idotea balthica. Annales Universitatis Turkuensis A II 235, Turku. p. 111

Contact Information

Email: outi.vesakoski(at)utu.fi