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Evolutionary biologist Jeanine Olsen new honorary doctorate

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Jeanine Olsen, researcher in marine evolutionary biology, has been appointed an honorary doctorate at the Faculty of Science. Jeanine Olsen has collaborated closely with the University of Gothenburg in her research on different species of brown algae and seagrass. Among other things, she led the mapping of the eelgrass' genome.

Portrait of Jeanine Olsen
Jeanine Olsen has been appointed an honorary doctorate at the Faculty of Science.

Congratulations on the honorary doctorate, what are your feelings and reactions to this?

"I´m deeply honored and it´s also very exciting."

What is so interesting about seagrass?

- Seagrass are the only flowering plants in the sea. Eelgrass (Zostera marina) is the most geographically widespread seagrass species and is the foundation for an entire ecosystem where it contributes to sustainable fisheries by acting as a nursery ground. It also improves water clarity, counteracts coastal erosion and binds significant amounts of carbon.

How have you worked with the University of Gothenburg in your research?

- My contacts with the University of Gothenburg go back to the early 1990s and my first EU grant, where my own university in Groningen and the University of Gothenburg were partners. We investigated the interplay between genetic and species diversity in several seaweed species with different origins. We were also able to show that biodiversity at the genetic level is a driving force for ecosystem functioning. Soon the work expanded to other species and then to the seagrass Zostera marina.

At the national level, the start of the Linnaeus Center for Marine Evolutionary Biology (CeMEB) was very important as it was a long-term investment over 10 years (2008–2018 and onwards). I was a member of the CeMEB advisory board which was a great opportunity to advance genomic research with a set of key species. During this period, I was also a guest professor at the University of Gothenburg. I went to Gothenburg University at least twice a year for almost 25 years, most of my visits were to Tjärnö. The quality of research at this research station is in the top tier of marine labs worldwide.

What are you doing now?

- I retired from the University of Groningen in 2016 but continue to be active in various ways. Everyone seems to think that I have "nothing to do" and therefore I am often asked as a coordinator in various networks. In that way I can be involved in the fun research without too much responsibility. What could be better than that?

The promotion ceremony takes place on March 24, 2023.