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College of Science and Mathematics

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Biological Sciences Professor Receives Prestigious Honorary Appointment

Biological Sciences Professor NishantaNishiRajakaruna will travel to North-West University (NWU) in South Africa this spring as part of a prestigious honorary appointment by the university’s School of Biological Sciences. 

file photo of Nishanta ‘Nishi’ Rajakaruna
“I am looking forward to my upcoming visit
and to planning projects that will benefit
students at both NWU and Cal Poly.”

The appointment is afforded to leading international scholars who have advanced science in a specific research field in Africa. During his stay, Rajakaruna will teach Environmental Botany to undergraduate students and Resilience Thinking in Ecology to postgraduate students. Rajakaruna will design and plan greenhouse and field experiments and review current postgraduate and postdoctoral student projects in geoecology. Additionally, Rajakaruna will collaborate in the preparation of manuscripts, oral presentations, and posters for the 10th International Conference on Serpentine Ecology to be held in Russia in June 2020. 

“Prof. Rajakaruna has a strong history of collaboration with NWU dating back to 2010. His interest in South African Serpentine Ecology has considerably strengthened the research on this subject locally. As the international leader in the field, his research contributions, collaborative projects, and mentorship have benefitted the careers of a number of staff members and students at NWU,” said Prof. Sarinna Claassens, Director of the School of Biological Sciences at NWU. 

This honorary research appointment will enable Rajakaruna to continue his work in South Africa with funding from the South African government and NWU. This activity will provide opportunities for Cal Poly students to become involved in basic and applied research on plant-soil relations of serpentine outcrops and heavy metal-rich mine tailings found across South Africa. 

“I first visited South Africa in 1999 to attend the 3rd International Conference on Serpentine Ecology. This is where I first met Prof. Stefan Siebert, my current collaborator at NWU. We were both graduate students at the time and attending our first serpentine ecology conference,” said Rajakaruna. “It was a pleasure reconnecting with him a decade later and initiating collaborative research on the geoecology of South Africa that has benefited students and faculty from both South Africa and the US over the last 10 years.” 

This 2017 photo was taken during a National Geographic Society funded expedition to explore lichen species found on serpentine rocks in South Africa. Other collaborators are from Duke University, University of Texas, University of Pretoria, and Michigan State University.
This 2017 photo was taken during a National Geographic Society funded expedition to explore lichen species found on serpentine rocks in South Africa. Collaborators are from North-West University, Duke University, University of Texas, University of Pretoria, and Michigan State University.


 

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