Metla uutiskirje

Metla Bulletin

June 30, 2014
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Trees4Future – research without borders

The Trees4Future project is integrating European knowledge and expertise on forest genetics, forestry and wood technology into a single portal. The experts from the 13 European project partner countries can also utilise each other’s research equipment and infrastructure; a work period usually lasts a couple of months. “Useful and productive”, commented Azahara Barra Jiménez, a Spanish forestry student who has been finalising her dissertation at Metla’s Punkaharju location, utilising the expertise of the local researchers.

The main result of the Trees4Future project is a portal providing the scientific community access to the main European forest genetics and forest ecology databases and laboratories. Metla and the European Forest Institute are the Finnish project partners.

The project’s experts networked not only over the Internet but also by offering their research facilities and equipment for use by each other. There are 28 modern infrastructures available, related to genetics and genomics, forest tree improvement, wood research, and modelling and data analyses. Metla can offer foreign experts access to a cryopreservation laboratory and vegetative propagation facilities, both located in the Punkaharju unit.

"Thanks to Azahara, we found things like an agar brand with a good price-quality ratio and a new type of caps used in liquid culture vessels that we have now adopted”

Azahara Barra Jiménez worked in Punkaharju for four months. The visit brought an international flavour to the research unit in south Savonia. Azahara was left with a pleasant aftertaste of her visit, and the Punkaharju staff was also satisfied with the experience. “Trading experiences and comparing methods with other researchers in the same field is always useful. Thanks to Azahara, we found things like an agar brand with a good price-quality ratio and a new type of caps used in liquid culture vessels that we have now adopted”, recounts Senior Researcher Tuija Aronen, laboratory team leader in the Punkaharju unit. “With another visiting T4F researcher, German Dr Juliane Langer, we have combined our cell tissue culture and virus research competencies.”

Azahara was impressed by the competence of the Metla staff and the high-quality workspaces. She also praised the helpful nature and warm attitude of her colleagues.

There was not a lot of free time, but what little there was, was of the highest quality. Drinking coffee, from left to right, Azahara with project manager Susanne Heiska and senior researcher Tuija Aronen from Metla.

Tell us about yourself, Azahara.
Azahara: “I am currently finalising my dissertation related to plant biotechnology titled ”Somatic Embryogenesis in Quercus species” (the embryo production in oak species). I primarily study the holm oak, which is a  species related to the cork oak. Both are Mediterranean tree species. “I came to Punkaharju in order to learn more about the various field methods from Senior Researcher Tuija Aronen’s research team”.

“Describe your stay in Punkaharju”
Azahara: “I worked and lived in Punkaharju from February to June of 2013. When I came, I brought along oak cell cultures from Spain with the goal of developing a cryopreservation method suitable for them. I received assistance from Aronen’s team that uses cryogenic methods as part of their everyday research work. We were also successful in verifying the genetic fidelity of my cultures using DNA markers. The development of the cryopreservation method is important for preserving cell cultures, reducing labour input and reducing contamination risk, while molecular biology means can be used to verify the genuineness of cultures of known trees at an early stage of their culture.

I could not have completed any of this work without the support of the Punkaharju laboratory team, and I am deeply grateful to them."

"Trees4Future offers a unique opportunity to work in a foreign country and familiarise yourself with different methods and, in particular, the top experts in the field in other countries. What is your experience of this?”
Azahara: “Trees4Future allowed me to carry out several experiments that I would have been unable to do in my own research unit. It is also really important to develop co-operation between different research teams, as we can learn a lot from each other. This way, science will not gather moss but will keep rolling. Doing science does not depend on borders – we should remember to market work methods and opportunities that are this valuable more extensively.”

“Can you share any funny/unforgettable memories from Punkaharju?”
Azahara: “My funniest memories are related to my small amount of free time that I spent with the rest of the staff and students. We were lucky, as we got to see Northern Lights twice. Learning cross-country skiing was a unique experience. Well, more accurately, my learning consisted of falling time after time – I was lucky not to hurt myself. I had never skied in Spain, but now I can tick that off my list. Constantly slipping was also otherwise typical for me, and the foreign trainees working at the unit – while the locals were walking about in the icy conditions with practice and ease. The people at the laboratory taught me Finnish laboratory terminology and other everyday words. Oh, how many cases the Finnish language has! The differences between the baking powders and wheat flours used in Finland and Spain were also interesting – I love baking, and I truly noticed those differences. Now that I am back home, I miss the tranquillity and gorgeous scenery of Punkaharju.

My big thanks to the Trees4Future project and the Punkaharju laboratory staff for making my work period possible in the first place. I will always remember the warm welcome I received and how everybody did their utmost to make me feel as comfortable as possible. It was a fine experience to be part of a small research community in which the people care for each other”. 


Duration: 2011–2015.
Funding: Around EUR 9 million, funded by the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme.
Coordinators: The French National Institute for Agricultural Research INRA and the European Forest Institute (EFI), which is responsible for project communications and training.
Project participants: 28 partners from 13 different countries.  The Finnish participants were Metla and EFI.

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Header image: Metla/Essi Puranen, Photos: Metla/Erkki Oksanen, unless otherwise stated