Join the team
We sometimes have research student and other opportunities available and we also welcome collaborative projects using the data we collect, please send enquiries to email@example.com
Principal research staff
Prof. Virpi Lummaa
Virpi is a professor at the University of Turku and the principal investigator in the Myanmar Timber Elephant Project. Her research has focused on the evolution of senescence and life histories, primarily in humans using a large historic genealogical dataset she has collated from her native Finland. She has used this experience to establish the Elephant Project at the University of Turku, Finland, funded by the EU’s Horizon2020 / ERC (European Research Council) Consolidator Grant 648766.
The long-term aim is, in collaboration with the Myanmar Timber Enterprise, to utilise the unique opportunity to establish a longitudinal study on Asian elephants employed in Myanmar timber camps to address questions ranging from demography, social behaviour, welfare and conservation, ageing and life-history patterns to veterinary topics in this endangered species.
Tel: +358 504382 044
Dr Khin Than Win
Khin is a veterinarian and conservation biologist from Myanmar. She has worked in the wildlife department of the Ministry of Forestry in Myanmar for about 20 years. Khin facilitates all aspects of the Myanmar Timber Elephant Project in Myanmar and liaises between the UK and Myanmar teams and the Myanma Timber Enterprise and Government representatives.
Postdoctoral research associates
Dr. Mirkka Lahdenperä
Mirkka is a Kone foundation funded Postdoctoral researcher at the University of Turku, Finland. Her PhD focused on the benefits and conflicts of family living in humans. Her current research combines this previous expertise on longevity and co-operative breeding in humans with examining the longitudinal dataset on Asian elephants from Myanmar. Asian elephants make a fascinating comparison to humans with lifespans extending to 80 years and social groups containing several generations of breeders.
Dr. Martin Seltmann
Martin is a Kone Foundation funded postdoctoral researcher at the University of Turku, Finland. For his PhD thesis, he investigated the link between life-history trade-offs, personality, stress physiology, individual quality and nest-site selection in female eiders (Somateria mollissima). Now he is assessing the personality structure of individual elephants via behavioural ratings done by experienced observers, usually the oozies. Martin is interested in the interplay of the elephants’ personality differences, individual quality, their social organization (especially allomothering) and ultimately their life prospects.
Dr. Carly Lynsdale
Carly is investigating the host-parasite dynamics in Asian elephants by focusing on associations between infection and host condition, measures of fitness and fecundity. She aims to establish determinants of individual variation in infection re-establishment and outline the effects of co-infection by multiple parasite fauna.
Carly finished her PhD at the University of Sheffield in December 2017. She continues elephant research as a postdoc researcher at the University of Turku, Finland.
Tel: + 44 7590 595403
Dr. Sophie Reichert
Sophie is a postdoc researcher at the University of Turku, Finland. Sophie finished her Marie Curie postdoc fellowship at the University of Sheffield at the end of 2017, and is now a TCSM Research Fellow at the University of Turku in Finland.
Working at the cross-road ecophysiology and evolutionary ecology, Sophie’s PhD focused on investigating the determinants of telomere dynamics and how these mechanisms are involved in key evolutionary processes. The aim of this work was also to establish telomeres as a health marker. Building on her expertise on studying the mechanisms of ageing, she now aims to examine how different ageing mechanisms interact with lifelong health risks, workload, reproductive history and endocrinological measures of stress and reproductive status in Asian elephants.
Dr. Vérane Berger
Vérane is an evolutionary ecologist working as a Post Doctoral researcher at the University of Turku, Finland. Her research aims to understand the influence of biotic and abiotic factors in shaping senescence and the consequences on life history strategy. Senescence is a highly complex process that varies across species, population, individuals and traits and investigations are needed to identify factors and understand how they modulate senescence patterns. Do individuals that are helped or born in good year senesce later and/or slower than other individuals?
Vérane has used long-term monitoring in a wild population of Alpine marmots to investigate the influence of sociality on senescence during her PhD at the University of Lyon, France. She is now extending her research by searching what ecological and social factors could explain variation in senescence between cohorts, individuals and traits thanks to extensive longitudinal datasets of the Finnish population and the semi-captive population of Asian elephants in Myanmar.
Vérane is funded by the EU’s Horizon2020, ERC (How elephants grow old / Prof. Virpi Lummaa, 648766 ERC-2014-CoG).
Dr. Emily Lynch
Emily is a Post Doctoral researcher at the University of Turku, Finland. Her work focuses on the influence of kinship on individual health, fertility, and behavior. Relationships with kin play an important role in the social lives of long-lived mammals, but the adaptive consequences of these interactions remain unclear. For her PhD work (Rutgers University, USA), Emily examined kin-biased social and foraging behaviors among wild olive baboons. Emily is now exploring similar effects in Asian elephants, testing links between kin networks, hormonal stress profiles, health, and reproductive patterns. This work will enhance our understanding of how changes in demographic conditions affect population dynamics and is likely to guide conservation initiatives and captive management protocols.
Emily is funded by the Ella and Georg Ehrnrooth Foundation.
Dr. Robin Cristofari
Robin is a Marie S. Curie individual research fellow at the University of Turku. Specialising in population genomics and bio-informatics, Robin spent his PhD modelling climate-associated past and present demographic patterns in large penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri & patagonicus). At UTU, his main interest now is to understand in elephants the interplay of large-scale evolutionary patterns and fine-scale behavioural, physiological and ecological processes in the lineage leading to that remarkably strange creature.
Postgraduate research students
Diogo is a Faculty Scholarship PhD student at the University of Sheffield. He is investigating the relationship between hosts and parasites in Asian elephants. As a veterinarian, he is especially interested in the effect that parasites have on elephant’s health. He is also studying the pathology of the elephants, to determine both the main causes of death and the prevalence of blood parasites in this semi-captive population. The main goal is to understand and prevent the death of young elephants and help achieve sustainability of this unique population.
Tel: + 44 (0)114 222 0073
John is a NERC ACCE DTP funded PhD student at the University of Sheffield. The aim of John’s research is to develop evidence-based conservation strategies for Asian elephants in Myanmar. In order to achieve this, he is investigating the variation of timber elephant population performance and demographic structure through space and time, reviewing the current management strategies for timber elephants, namely wild-capture, and elaborating on the status of wild elephants in Myanmar and their contribution to the timber elephants.
Tel: +44 (0)114 222 0073
Jennie is a PhD student studying human-elephant interactions. She is studying the unique relationship between the elephants and their handlers, or oozies, how thisancient relationship fares in the modern day, and how various aspects of this relationship impact upon elephant health, behaviour and physiology. She is also interested in the trade off between life history processes, having completed her masters within the project, investigating the relationship between size and reproduction in female Asian elephants.
Jennie started her PhD studies at the University of Turku, Finland, in September 2016. She is funded by the EU’s Horizon2020, ERC (How elephants grow old / Prof. Virpi Lummaa, 648766 ERC-2014-CoG).
Simon has completed his Master’s degree at the University of Sheffield. For his project, he investigated how elephant height and weight changes with age, as well as assessing the existing methods and creating new equations for estimation of these body measurements.
Simon works currently in the Human Life History Group at the University of Turku, Finland (www.human-life.history.science). The project is funded by the Academy of Finland. His research is aimed at investigating the evolution of behaviours and life-history traits, in particular the context-dependence of kin help in humans. Using data from the Finnish population, Simon will explore kin effects on human family success in various contexts, and how this might have changed over time with industrialisation.
ORCID ID: 0000-0003-2342-3383
Pia is a Master’s student at the University of Oulu, Finland, where her studies are focusing on biosciences and genetics. She was doing her Master’s degree related internship in the Elephant Project at the University of Turku, supervised by Dr. Robin Cristofari and Dr. Sophie Reichert. Her Bachelor’s thesis was also about elephants and the tumor suppressor p53 in their genome.
Susanna is an undergraduate student at the University of Turku, Finland. She is currently specializing in evolutionary genetics and data analysis. Her graduate thesis focuses on the effects of seasonal variation on physiological markers of stress in the Asian elephant population from Myanmar.
Jonathan is studying elephant behaviour for his Master’s degree at the University of Sheffield, UK. His project involves linking the behaviour of timber elephants when presented with novel objects to existing personality and stress data, to understand the role of personality in coping with stressful situations and to identify behavioural indicators of stress. The project is funded by the UFAW, and its findings will be used to ease elephant-oozie conflict and minimise the stress imposed daily on timber elephants.
A team of local veterinarians are actively involved in our projects and research by collecting data, providing updates of events in the field and administering veterinary care.
Dr. Win Htut
Dr. Myo Nay Zar
Dr. Aung Thura Soe
Dr. Htoo Htoo Aung
Dr. Hannah Mumby
Hannah is a Draper’s company junior research fellow, Pembroke college Cambridge and a Branco Weiss fellow, Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge. She researches how ecology and environment affect the survival, reproduction and stress levels of elephants. She is also interested in how elephants get so big and measures how the elephants grow and what factors influence their growth and maturation. Fieldtrips to Myanmar have fuelled Hannah’s interest in protecting Myanmar’s elephants and the helping the people who live and work with them.
Dr. Adam Hayward
Adam is a research Fellow at the University of Stirling. Adam’s research aims to determine the causes and consequences of variation in life-history traits in natural populations, using a variety of study systems. He is particularly interested in the drivers of variation between individuals in defence against parasite infection and the effects on individual health and fitness and disease transmission. He is also interested in the evolutionary biology of ageing and how early-life events can impact upon later life-history.
Prof. Janine Brown
Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, U.S.A. Janine is a wildlife endocrinologist and an expert in methods for measuring stress and sex hormones from faecal and hair samples.
Prof. Susan Mikota
Elephant Care International, U.S.A. Susan is a world expert in elephant biology and medicine, and collaborates with us on elephant parasitology, tuberculosis in Myanmar elephants, and other health-related topics.
Prof. Chatchote Thitaram
Chiang Mai University, Thailand. We collaborate with Chatchote on endocrinological topics such as measuring stress and sex hormones from faecal and hair samples.
Prof. Nikorn Thongtip
Kasetsart University, Thailand. We collaborate with Nikorn on male reproductive function related topics.