Kerstin Johannesson
Photo: Johan Wingborg

Kerstin Johannesson awarded for her work with community outreach


Kerstin Johannesson, professor at the Department for Marine Sciences, has been named the first recipient of the Synergy Award at the Faculty of Science. She is being recognised for her much-appreciated work in disseminating knowledge to both school children and national expert councils.

The Synergy Award recognises positive efforts within the Faculty of Science’s community outreach. The award is in the form of a grant of SEK 250,000 for the recipient’s work and is in recognition of appreciated and successful community outreach efforts. The award can be given to an individual or a group who are teachers or researchers at the Faculty of Science.

Congratulations for the recognition. How does it feel to receive the 2020 Synergy Award?

“It is very nice, particularly since it is the first time the award is being given. I think it is an important award, and I hope to inspire others to also become involved more in community outreach,” says Kerstin Johannesson.

How do you view your achievements in community outreach?

“That’s really something others will have to judge. But I’ve never felt it has competed with my research or teaching. Quite the opposite, you learn a lot and get so much back that also benefits these other activities. It’s also lots of fun. At the moment, I’m doing field work and collecting common eelgrass from Skåne to Strömstad. When we slide into the water with our diving equipment in the middle of Malmö, people naturally ask what we are doing. We always have pleasant and interesting discussions about how the sea is doing and what we are doing.”

Have you given any thought to what you will do with the prize money?

“For a while, I’ve been playing with the idea of writing a popular science book on evolution. It would be called something like Evolution for everyone. Biological evolution is still closely linked with Darwin, which feels a bit out of date. Today, we have so much new and exciting research within the field that affects us all. I'd like to help people understand this more. Like a famous researcher in evolution once said: “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution”. Since so much is biology, including pandemics, antibiotic resistant bacteria, and humans, evolution plays a role in everything.”

Award explanation

Kerstin Johannesson has led and developed multiple educational projects about the ocean and evolutionary biology for schools. Havsforskarna [marine scientists] is a 10-episode children’s TV programme where she works with preschool children to conduct marine biology studies. To illustrate her research on ongoing evolution and species development, Kerstin has developed an evolution experiment with seashells. The half-day experiment is conducted regularly with upper-secondary school classes on field trips to Tjärnö Laboratory and has also been used at the Science Festival. Kerstin has also worked actively with in-service training of teachers, including with the very popular course “The Ocean in the Classroom”.

As station chief for Tjärnö Marine Laboratory, Kerstin also works to informing the public and professional groups who work at sea, such as marine police, the coast guard, ship captains in training, and tourist companies. She was closely involved in the establishment of the Kosterhavet National Park, where she designed and led four-day courses in marine biology for 70 Swedish and Norwegian professional fishers.

Research led by Kerstin on the Baltic Sea’s genetic diversity has resulted in new findings of great importance for marine management. Kerstin was a member of the 2002 Marine Environment Commission appointed by the government, which studied the threat to Swedish marine environments and proposed several important measures, many of which were implemented. Kerstin has also participated as an expert in two environmental ministers’ environmental advisory councils and contributed with her expertise in several other political forums.