Merja Hannele Kontro
  • Niemenkatu 73



  • Viikinkaari 1, Biocentre 3

    00790 Helsinki


  • Viikinkaari 5, Biocenter 2

    00790 Helsinki


1988 …2023

Research activity per year

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Personal profile

Description of research and teaching

Research in my group, and teaching at the University of Helsinki, is related to Aquatic Ecotoxicology, Environmental Chemistry and Technology in an Urbanized World, including remediation of persistent compounds in the environment; and various aspects of material recycling (circular economy) to discover new valuable processing methods and products.

The aim in the remediation research is to elucidate the relationships between microbial ecology, microbial physiology, and physicochemical properties in the environment, and to use the data obtained in enhancing natural pesticide dissipation. The research focuses on pesticides in groundwater in Finland, including triazines atratzine, simazine, terbutryn, terbutylazine, hexazinone, and their degradation products, as well as dichlobenil and its degradation product 2,6-dichlorobezamide (BAM). The most promising approaches in enhancing pesticide dissipation using organic matter and its fractions are being extended to improve the dissipation of chlorinated hydrocarbons and polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). The acknowledged funding sources are Maj and Tor Nessling foundation, and Kolli foundation.

The research in circular economy focuses on novel circular economy products, process development, and safety issues. Molecular methods (real-time PCR, pyrosequencing/metagenomics, enzymology, lipids) combined with traditional approaches (organic matter, elements, physicochemical conditions), and recyclable materials are used as tools to discover novel approaches in material recycling issues. The current research in this field is related to molecular detection of hospital bacteria Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa in waste treatment, and bioactive molecules isolated from waste to disrupt biofilms formed by hospital bacteria, the Academy of Finland BioFuture program, and Maa- ja vesitekniikan tuki ry being acknowledged as a funding sources.

In the European Regional Development Fund project BIOKIERTO 8/2019 – 8/2022, a process is being developed to convert organic material from waste into polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs), which can be used as a raw material for biodegradable/compostable plastic.



The courses to be taught in 2020-23 are:

ENV-392 Bio- and Environmental Technology in Urban Context

ECGS-046 Advanced Course in Bio- and Environmental Technology

ECGS-045 Laboratory Course in Environmental Biotechnology and Chemistry

ECGS-078 Challenge Course


Fields of Science

  • 1172 Environmental sciences
  • 219 Environmental biotechnology
  • 218 Environmental engineering
  • 1183 Plant biology, microbiology, virology
  • 1182 Biochemistry, cell and molecular biology
  • 416 Food Science
  • 116 Chemical sciences

International and National Collaboration

Publications and projects within past five years.