aqua journal

Orbituary – Fang Fang Kullander


Fang Fang Kullander, 1962 – 2010

I will never forget this amazing active woman sitting on the table next to me, and her husband Sven O. Kullander, asking me endless questions about my discoveries, collecting and specially the Danio species. She wanted them all. We talked and the time flew by, as she was so interested in Laos where I had just come from, Thailand and specially Myanmar. Fang had just published a re-description of Danio kakhienensis, a poorly known cyprinid fish from the Irrawaddy basin and had described a new species, Danio maetaengensis, from northern Thailand. She was also working on her preferred species, the beautiful Danio kyathit, a new species from northern Myanmar, which was published the following year. From this day on, when I met Fang Fang for the first time at the Ichthyological Congress in Trieste on 29 August 1997 we had immediately a mutual understanding and I realized that I had a very an intelligent ichthyologist in front of me and I thought “Sven you are a very lucky man …” I seems like this was yesterday. Many encounters during congresses, lectures and an invitation to their lovely house in Segeltorp followed. Fang was always very hospitable. I still remember our last meeting in Fremantle, Australia, less than a year ago, when she gave some excellent oral presentations during the 8th Indo-Pacific Fish Conference in 2009, where we had several meetings and lunch together. And I also recall the moment when I had asked Sven if he wanted to come with me on a field trip to South western Australia, and Fang said immediately “yes sure Sven, go ahead with Heiko I stay with the boys…”. Fang and Sven had married in 1995 and they had a boy in 1999. Fang Fang was born on November 14, 1962, in Beijing, China, as the second daughter of state geologists Fang Zongxian and Han Mingzhen. Fang entered Zhanjiang Fisheries College, Guangdong, in 1980, majoring in freshwater fish and she graduated in 1984. Her Bachelor thesis – Studies on the anatomy of Clarias lazera – was awarded the second prize of the Scientific and Technological Advancement by the Chinese Agriculture ministry in 1986. Fang received her MSc in 1987 from the Department of Biology at the Hebei University. Her Masters thesis was a study of the early development of Brachymystax lenok. At Hebei University Fang worked as graduate assistant and associate lecturer in vertebrate zoology. Already in China, Fang had made extensive ichthyological field work and Fang came to Sweden for the first time in October 1992, as a visiting scientist to the Swedish Museum of Natural History. During the three-month stay she mainly dedicated herself to sorting and identifying a large collection of Sri Lankan freshwater fishes, actually belonging to the Museum of Zoology, Lund University. This project lead to a proposal to do a PhD at Stockholm University, submitted early 1993. A project plan to revise the cyprinid fish genus Danio was accepted by the Department of Zoology in 1993. In February 1995 Fang married Sven O. Kullander and took his last name, keeping her maiden name as middle name. In November 1996 she obtained a full time PhD position. While working on her PhD she travelled to Myanmar twice, to French Guiana, Brazil, Paraguay, and India. She also made a collecting trip back in Yunnan in 1995. The dissertation Phylogeny and species diversity of the South and Southeast Asian cyprinid genus Danio Hamilton (Teleostei, Cyprinidae) was defended in the museum auditorium on 5 June 2001, with Dr Richard P. Vari, Smithsonian Institution, as opponent. The dissertation is dedicated “to my two lovely sons Tiantian and Didi” (Fang had a son, Tiantian Cheng, from her first marriage and her second son, Johan Bernard Didi, was born in Stockholm in April 1999). With her PhD in hand Fang worked first for an EU project — ECOCARP — with the objective of finding new species for aquaculture in China. ECOCARP lasted for three years (2001-2003), with several field trips to China and intensive interaction with colleagues in China and Europe. After ECOCARP, Fang was employed as curator in the Swedish FishBase team, which started in 2003. In FishBase, she was a driving force in the organisation of the annual FishBase Symposia, and also the tri-annual Artedi Symposia. Fang was a member of the Japanese Ichthyological Society, the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, the Swedish Sveriges Fiskforskares Förening, the Chinese Society of Ichthyologists, and the Chinese Society of Zoologists. She was the secretary of the European Ichthyological Society from 2004 till 2009 when she resigned on account of her illness. In early 2009, Fang had stomach problems, diagnosed and medicated with no effect. While on a visit to China in June (after the conferences in Perth), her sister Ming took her to an ultrasound examination, revealing liver tumors, eventually identified as metastases of gall duct cancer. That was the beginning of a long, persistent fight against the disease. In Fremantle I saw her last, but in late 2009, still being a driving force of the Swedish Fishbase and despite of her illness she insisted for me to come for lectures at the last Shark Symposia in Stockholm on October 19th, 2009. While at the Symposia realizing that she was unable to attend, I understood how severe it must have been already and I really regret not having been able to see her once more. Only now on June 10th, when she was buried south of Stockholm, in a peaceful setting overlooking a bay of Lake Mälaren, while I was crying, for the first time in decades …, the complete list of her work can be seen at:

I would like to cite Sven’s last words here: “Fang travelled a long way, in culture, in love, and around the world. She visited almost all continents, she met so many interesting people, and she was at home with both the Chinese and the westerners, in food, in music, in laughter, and in friendship. She had a lot more to give and experience, and she was disappointed. She wanted to live more. But she also said that she had had a good life, regretting nothing, being satisfied with everything she had experienced, accomplished, and loved. She is now on her last journey, not coming back.” And anyone who cares to know a little more about this extraordinary and gentile person should read about her doings and see some of her photos of field trips and other happenings under:

There was this beautiful poem from Mary & Frye on the goodbye card at the Ceremony:

Do not stand at my grave and weep,

I am not there, I do not sleep.

I am in a thousand winds that blow,

I am the softly falling snow.

I am the gentle showers of rain,

I am the fields of ripening grain.

I am in the morning hush,

I am in the graceful rush

Of beautiful birds in circling flight,

I am the star shine of the night.

I am in the flowers that bloom,

I am in a quiet room.

I am in the birds that sing,

I am in each lovely thing.

Do not stand at my grave and cry,

I am not there. I do not die.

She is definitely missed by her family, Sven, Tiantian, and Johan, her parents, her sisters Ming and Hong and their families, her father-in-law, and an immense number of friends and colleagues worldwide which includes me – missed very, very much and irreplaceable …

Goodbye Fang Fang

Heiko Bleher, June, 2010

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