Tapani Hopkins

I am currently doing my PhD with Ilari Sääksjärvi at the Zoological Museum of Turku. This involves vast numbers of tropical parasitoid wasps, a field year in tropical Africa, and time spent wondering how there can be so extraordinarily many species on our planet.

You'll find me in the museum's insect collections room, or on the indoors balcony. Look for vast piles of tropical insect boxes, Malaise traps etc and you'll find me buried somewhere underneath them. You can also contact me by email and follow what I'm doing in the wasp blog.

As a side project, I'm also looking at archeological samples, to find out who has inhabited the island of Seili over the past 500 years.


My PhD is on the afrotropical ichneumonid species: basically, how many species exist in African rainforests compared to American rainforests. I have gathered a vast species inventory from Uganda and will compare it to the Amazon. There'll be lots of new species turning up once I get my samples processed.

More details in the original research plan (main changes since 2014: much richer sample than expected, Sulawesi postponed).

PhD in a nutshell: how many species are there in the above areas?


PhD work is expensive, especially if you intend to go on field trips to tropical Africa. The following deserve my gratitude for financing this work:

The Finnish Cultural Foundation
The Waldemar von Frenckell foundation
The Helsinki Entomology Society
Oskar Öflunds Stiftelse sr

Looking at medieval insects isn't cheap either. The following are financing the (non-PhD) Seili project:

Kone Foundation

What are parasitoid wasps?

The ichneumonid wasps are perhaps the most species rich animal family on earth: they are everywhere from Greenland to New Zealand, there may be over 100 000 species, wherever you go they'll be there in large numbers..

..yet most people have never heard of them.

The short version is that they look like wasps but aren't. The longer version involves telling the fascinating tale of how they live:
- The female finds a caterpillar (or spider), paralyses it, and lays her eggs inside it. Then she leaves and the caterpillar wakes up.
- The eggs hatch and start eating the caterpillar. While it is still alive.
- Eventually the young larvae eat the vital parts of the caterpillar, killing it. They burst out through the skin, pupate, and fly off in search of new caterpillars.

That's the basic gruesome story; variations include species that cling to the outside of spiders, hyperparasitoid species that feed on other parasitoid wasps.. Unsurprisingly, the ichneumonids have a tremendous regulatory effect on other species and are important top predators.

For the even longer version, transfer to Wikipedia. You'll see some Ugandan photos in the Finnish version..

Who am I?

The relevant details in a nutshell:

Born in Hartlepool, England, in 1986. Lived most of my life in Kronoby, Western Finland.

Native languages English* and Finnish, Swedish near native level.

MSc Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, University of Helsinki
BSc (hons) Botany, Stellenbosch University (South Africa)
BSc Theoretical Physics, University of Helsinki

The irrelevant details include a tendency to read large numbers of books, an aptitude for hen farming, and a distinct lack of aptitude for playing the bagpipes.

* Before you ask; yes, I'm more than willing to proofread articles, abstracts etc. Translation from Finnish to English also possible if I have the time.