"I always think about diatoms"


All conference participants gathered outdoors

Anna Godhe Memorial Conference

The GU marine field station on Tjärnö has hosted a conference in memory of Professor Anna Godhe, who passed away earlier this year. Nearly 60 colleagues from eleven countries were gathered to present and discuss results within Anna Godhe's research area.

“I always think about diatoms”

Portrait of Anna Godhe"I think about diatoms when I'm out running, I think about diatoms when I take a shower, I think about diatoms ... well, I always think about diatoms!". This is how Anna Godhe expressed her fascination for the world of diatoms and in particular the species Skeletonema marinoi that became her model organism. The research was constantly going on and each experiment and publication became another small part of the big puzzle she laid.

Anna Godhe was in the middle of her career when she passed away after a period of illness. She was a recognized and very productive researcher, and conference speaker Professor Karin Rengefors from Lund admitted that it was a challenge to summarize her great efforts:
– Anna had so many publications, so many projects and so many collaborations; how do I cover everything, or pick out the most interesting things? So, I did as I usually do when I have a big task ahead of me – I draw a mind map.

A scientist with wide range

So, with many bubbles and arrows, Karin Rengefors guided the conference participants on an odyssey through Anna Godhe's extensive research. From basic studies on how certain phytoplankton can switch from living free floating and photosynthesizing in the water to passive resting stages down in oxygen-free sediments and then waking up after a hundred years, on to intraspecific variation, population genetics and evolution of single-celled organisms and even to India and pathogenic bacteria in fish farms.

Karin Rengefors ended her memorial talk by addressing Anna's many PhD students and young co-workers:
- Now, the future is really with all you young people! And I'm sure that whether you will work in academia, industry or management, you will carry on Anna's way of working and her way of collaborating.

International commitments

Anna Godhe was installed as professor at the University of Gothenburg in 2013, but was to a large extent an international researcher. She was a visiting professor at the University of Washington and Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn in Italy, among others. But closest to her heart was perhaps Nitte University in India, where she spent several months every year. Just a few weeks before her death, she was on a field trip to collect water samples to investigate the presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Indrani KarunasagarIndrani Karunasagar is a professor at Nitte University Center for Science Education and Research. Just over twenty years ago, Anna Godhe came to her as a student to do an exam work. Anna had read about the serious cases of deadly algae toxins that hit southwestern India and became interested.

– We are microbiologists and had no previous experience with algae toxins, says Indrani Karunasagar. And though we were looking, we couldn't find any algae in the water.

Successful collaborations

That's when Anna came into the picture. She took samples along the coast and found resting spores of Alexandrium, a dinoflagellate that can produce algae toxins that are deadly to humans.

– Now we could understand the background to the serious poisonings, says Indrani Karunasagar. Together, we were a successful combination between our molecular techniques and Anna's knowledge of phytoplankton, something we then developed further in many joint projects focusing on health and well-being.

The conference is hosted by CeMEB, Centre for Marine Evolutionary Biology, which is headed by Professor Kerstin Johannesson. Anna Godhe was a very appreciated member of CeMEB:
– When Anna died, she was in the middle of a very successful research career and she left a big void behind her, of course primarily in her family but also in academia, says Kerstin Johannesson. She had just received the faculty research award and had several projects going on.

– Thus, it feels natural to gather her scientific colleagues and friends in honor of her memory, but also - completely in Anna's spirit - to see how we can take her ideas and initiatives further. Anna always wanted to go further.

Text: Susanne Liljenström

Conference facts
“In dialogue with diatoms: Anna Godhe Memorial Conference” runs November 5-7, 2019. The Centre for Marine Evolutionary Biology, CeMEB, hosts the conference, located at the University of Gothenburg's field station Tjärnö Marine Laboratory. For more information contact: Eva Marie Rödström,

Photo 1: All conference participants outdoors. Photo: Susanne Liljenström
Photo 2: Anna Godhe was a professor at the Department of Marine Sciences. She passed away in April 2019. Photo: Susanne Liljenström
Photo 3: Professor Indrani Karunasagar from Nitte university has had a long collaboration with Anna Godhe, among others on toxic plankton blooms and antibiotic resistant bacteria in fish farms. Photo: Susanne Liljenström.