My research interests expand to quite a wide range – Ecology, Physiology, Immunology, Conservation and Wildlife Management to name a few. I’m particularly interested to see how climate change may affect biological systems and their adaptations to overcome challenges brought about by it. My research work has thus far mainly been on bats (megachiropterans), however I am open to (and interested in) many other animal taxa as well.
As of 1 March 2021, I am a senior lecturer in the Department of Zoology and Environment Sciences, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka. I am excited to start this new tenured position, and support young, brilliant minds to reach their full academic potential.
I pursued my PhD in the Climatic and Metabolic Energy Lab (CAMEL) based in the School of BioSciences at the University of Melbourne. I looked at how climate affects the heat budgets of the Australian flying-foxes (Pteropus spp.) and the roles of their behaviour, physiology and morphology towards this, under the supervision of A/Prof Michael Kearney, Dr Justin Welbergen, Dr Christopher Turbill and A/Prof Rodney van der Ree. With heatwaves becoming hotter, longer, and more frequent, it’s no surprise that these bats who hang exposed to sunlight on trees become heat stressed and die in large numbers (thousands!) in the summer. I created a mechanistic model, using the first principles of thermodynamics, to predict how, why, and when flying-foxes will start to get heat stressed. This model was also validated using laboratory experiments and field observations.
An outcome from my first thesis chapter already has a real world application! The flying-fox heat stress forecaster!! Using the ACCESS-R forecast air temperature data from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and colony data from the national flying-fox monitoring program, we developed a user-friendly website that predicted potential flying-fox colonies that would undergo heat stress events. We could provide a 72-hour advance warning via email to those that signed up for updates as well. We gave output in graphs and tables, including a priority list that listed prioritised colonies according temperature intensity and time. We launched this in summer of 2017 and it is being used by several stakeholders of the flying-fox camps (e.g. wildlife and park managers, wildlife carers, researchers) since then.
As a postdoctoral project in collaboration with the University of Melbourne, CSIRO, and the Queensland government, I extended my heat stress predicting model to two different species of bats found in the Queensland region.
I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka. In my final year I carried out a research project under the theme of ‘Eco-immunology’, where I studied the impact of parasite load on selected parameters of health status, using the Fulvous fruit bat (Rousettus leschenaulti) as a model species, under the supervision of Prof Preethi Udagama, Prof Devaka Weerakoon and Prof Wipula Yapa.
Besides good scientific research I love trying out new places to eat (lucky to be in Melbourne and Colombo!) and most genres of theatre, film and music – but especially acapella!