Senior Research Scholar

Nishanta Rajakaruna

Field of Study
Home Institution in the U.S.
California Polytechnic State University, Obispo, CA
Host Institution in Sri Lanka
National Institute of Fundamental Studies, Colombo
Start Month/Year in Sri Lanka
September 2016
Duration of Grant
Nine months
Brief Bio:
Dr. Nishanta Rajakaruna fell in love with plants at a young age during a visit to Sinharaja Rainforest, Sri Lanka. He received a BA in human ecology from the College of the Atlantic, and an MS and PhD in botany from the University of British Columbia. He conducted post-doctoral research in plant ecology at Stanford University. His research examines how plant diversity and distributions are influenced by unusual soils, including those with heavy metals. He has taught many botany courses over the last 12 years and is currently an associate professor in plant biology at California Polytechnic State University.

Dr. Rajakaruna’s Fulbright project aims to investigate how unusual soils, including those with heavy metals and nutrient imbalances, influence the diversity and distributions of plants and lichens in Sri Lanka. In collaboration with local botanists and geologists, he is conducting detailed field surveys of rock outcrops to determine how geology and climate influence floristic diversity. In addition, he is conducting research with an environmental chemist on the remediation of contaminated soils, including on the use of plants to restore metal-contaminated soils. He is also presenting seminars on educational and research opportunities in the U.S. for those interested in the natural sciences.