The last twelve months have seen 5 new PhD students start at the NTNU University Museum. With disciplines ranging from freshwater ecology to botanical geneology, it’s an exciting time for young researchers. I sat down with Tanja Petersen, the Museum’s newest member. Tanja has just started work on a project that will look at land use and its impact on local biodiversity, which will have important implications for local management and landscape.
Tanja, you’ve just started work on your PhD at the Museum. Where were you before this?
Before Trondheim I was at the University of Copenhagen at the Section for Ecology and Evolution. I completed both my Masters and Bachelors there. I’m from Denmark, so it was the obvious choice.
What did you write your thesis about?
It was about seed dispersal by animals, more specifically red deer. The title was Seed dispersal by Red Deer; a comparison of dung, fur and hooves. I tried to figure out which seeds were dispersed through the dung, and through the hooves and furs, and whether these seed compositions differed, and whether it mattered where the seeds came from – if they came from a natural reserve or from a forest where the animals had access to open fields and so on. It was quite fun.
How did you come across the position at NTNU?
I was looking through a few Facebook groups my old supervisor had added me to and I came across a project with an ecology group here. It looked interesting, so I took a closer look, and I really liked the sound of the project.
What was it about the project that appealed to you?
It sounded like something that was quite academic, but that had very obvious real-world applications. It sounded great career-wise, and would be a great door-opener to both academia and private organisations.
How much prior knowledge did you have about the study systems?
Very little. They department hadn’t gotten into the minutiae yet. There was a grand idea and we’d planned to figure out the details later.
What we basically want to figure out is whether there are spatial or temporal gradients in species compositions along an urbanisation gradient. How human activity affects communities, so to speak.
What sort of data will you be working with?
It sounds like I’ll be working with a lot of old data that the museum has stored. They have data from the past few decades, so we’ll be able to see how things have evolved through time I’ll also likely be working with the milijodirektorat and some of the nature agencies in Trondheim. So there will be lots of dialogue with end users and practical applications.
What sort of ecosystems will you be studying?
As far as I know, the entire Trondheim municipality. We’ll be primarily looking at red or black listed species. We haven’t decided on what sort of species groups we’ll be looking at.
Who else will you be working with?
I’m jointly hired by both the Museum and the Centre for Biodiversity Dynamics. I’ll also be working with the Community Dynamics group up at the CBD.
We at the Museum wish Tanja the best of luck for her PhD.