• P.O. Box 65 (Viikinkaari 1), Biocentre 3

    00014 University of Helsinki


  • Viikinkaari 1, Biocentre 3

    00790 Helsinki


  • Viikinkaari 1, Biokeskus 3

    00790 Helsinki


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Personal profile

Description of research and teaching

Bud burst and leaf development in forests are fine-tuned to climate and use a suite of environmental cues to coordinate development between the canopy and understorey and with the biodiversity dependent on the forest.

This in turn feeds back to processes such as nutrient cycles and water use that determine forest ecosystem function. In addition to temperature, changing day length and light quality (UV:PAR, red:far-red, blue:green) help control phenology, allowing plants to optimise resource use.

By monitoring the changing spectral composition of solar radiation from UV through to near infra-red, the response of understorey plants and tree seedlings can be better understood, and selected candidate signals from field data, can be tested in greenhouse experiments.

Gaining knowledge of how species adapt to live at different latitudes is a priority for testing expectations of range shift and altered ecosystem function under climate change, as it is important to understand how such changes affecting temperatures, snow, rain and frosts, may interfere with the co-ordination of phenology within the forest canopy.

Description of research and teaching

I am an Academy of Finland Research Fellow employed at the University of Helsinki (September 2013-2018).  I lead a research group investigating Canopy Spectral Ecology and Ecophysiology (CanSEE), and am a Principal Investigator in the Viikki Plant Science Centre (ViPS 2016-2019) and in the Plant Biology Division of the Dept. Biosciences. I am also leader of the Academy Key Research Project "Optimising site-specific solar radiation modelling for its application in the horticultural, agricultural and photonics industries" (2016-2018).

Plant ecophysiology is my general research area and as part of my current position I sometimes teach courses in Physiological Plant Ecology and Ecosystem Ecology within the Plant Biology Division at Helsinki University. I also run the Plant Biology Journal Discussion for graduate students interested in broadening their knowledge of plant sciences. This is complemented by a blog highlighting interesting new research (papers2read.wordpress.com) which I coordinate.

My research focus is on signalling that affects plant responses and interactions. In particular I am investigating how plants detect and response to changes in the spectral quality of radiation in the canopy of understorey of forests.  My research spans ecosystem and physiological ecology, and aims to provide empirical research for application in models related to global change. 

I largely work as a field ecologist, recently publishing on issues related to (1) tree species range shift and phenology, (2) photobiology involving signalling from UV radiation and changes in spectral quality, (3) plant community & ecosystem processes under land use change, and (4) functional trait responses to stress combinations.  My teaching experience includes planning, coordinating and giving practical field courses in ecology, as well as lecturing and supervision.  I have undertaken Pedagogical training at Helsinki University and obtained my Docentship in Plant Ecology in October 2012.

Education information

Adjunct Professor in Plant Ecology (Docent) Helsinki University, Finland 19-10-2012

Ecology (PhD) Utah State University, Logan, Utah, USA. (Advisor, Martyn M Caldwell) 01-05-2004

Forest Science (M.Sc.) Institute of Ecology & Resource Management, University of Edinburgh, UK. (Advisor, John Grace) 01-11-1998

Biological Sciences (B.Sc. Hons. 2:1 Dunelm) Collingwood College, Durham University, UK. (Advisor, Phil Hulme) 07-07-1996

External positions

Treasurer, International Organisation for Research into the effects of UV radiation on Plants (uv4plants)

21 Nov 201431 May 2018


  • 1183 Plant biology, microbiology, virology
  • Photosynthesis
  • Abiotic Stress
  • 411 Agriculture and forestry
  • Forest Ecology
  • Leaf Traits
  • Forest Genetic Resources
  • Land use change
  • Terraced Grasslands
  • 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
  • Physiological Ecology
  • Peatlands
  • Photobiology

International and National Collaboration Publications and projects within past five years.

Publications 2010 2019

Phenotypic trait variation measured on European genetic trials of Fagus sylvatica L

BeechCOSTe52 Database Consortium, 31 Jul 2018, In : Scientific data . 5, 7 p., 180149.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Open Access

Environmental effects of ozone depletion, UV radiation and interactions with climate change: UNEP Environmental Effects Assessment Panel, update 2017

Bais, A. F., Lucas, R. M., Bornman, J. F., Williamson, C. E., Sulzberger, B., Austin, A. T., Wilson, S. R., Andrady, A. L., Bernhard, G., McKenzie, R. L., Aucamp, P. J., Madronich, S., Neale, R. E., Yazar, S., Young, A. R., de Gruijl, F. R., Norval, M., Takizawa, Y., Barnes, P. W., Robson, T. M. & 18 othersRobinson, S. A., Ballare, C. L., Flint, S. D., Neale, P. J., Hylander, S., Rose, K. C., Wangberg, S. -A., Haeder, D. -P., Worrest, R. C., Zepp, R. G., Paul, N. D., Cory, R. M., Solomon, K. R., Longstreth, J., Pandey, K. K., Redhwi, H. H., Torikaiaj, A. & Heikkila, A. M., Feb 2018, In : Photochemical & Photobiological Sciences. 17, 2, p. 127-179 53 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Assessing scale-wise similarity of curves with a thick pen: As illustrated through comparisons of spectral irradiance

Hartikainen, S. M., Jach, A., Grane, A. & Robson, T. M., Oct 2018, In : Ecology and Evolution. 8, 20, p. 10206-10218 13 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Open Access

Projects 2011 2018

Activities 2004 2018

UV4Plants Training School

T Matthew Robson (Scientific Committee Member), Pedro J. Aphalo (Scientific Committee Member), Titta Katariina Kotilainen (Scientific Committee Member), Marta Pieristé (Attendee), Yan Yan (Attendee), Neha Rai (Attendee)
1 Jun 20162 Jun 2016

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesOrganisation and participation in conferences, workshops, courses, seminars

Lammi Science Trail Videos

T Matthew Robson (Speaker: Presenter), Saara Maria Hartikainen (Speaker: Presenter)
9 Sep 2016

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesPublic Talks

Grading Committee for Doctoral Defense and Dissertation

T Matthew Robson (Pre-examiner)
9 Mar 2018

Activity: Examination typesMember of doctoral thesis committee / follow-up group

Plant Physiology and Biochemistry (Journal)

T Matthew Robson (Reviewer)
1 Jan 2018 → …

Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesPeer review of manuscripts

University of Nottingham

T Matthew Robson (Visiting researcher)
4 Jul 201812 Jul 2018

Activity: Visiting an external institution typesAcademic visit to other institution