Prof. Savitri Gunatilleke to deliver WNPS monthly lecture on Thursday
Saturday, 14 June 2014 00:00
The Wildlife and Nature Protection Society of Sri Lanka will hold the Thilo Hoffman Memorial Lecture sponsored by A. Baur and Company and organised by the society titled ‘Understanding Sri Lanka’s Natural Forest Services and Their linkages to Human Wellbeing,’ by Emeritus Prof. Savitri Gunatilleke.
Gunatilleke served the Department of Botany, University of Peradeniya for 40 years, where she pioneered teaching and research in forest ecology, Through multi-day field programs, her students were introduced to the rich heritage of the island’s forests, considered among the best outdoor laboratories in the world. Dr. Gunatilleke’s Ph.D. thesis was on ‘The Ecology of the Endemic Tree Species of Sri Lanka in Relation to Their Conservation’.
In this landmark quantitative study she explored the tree species in six natural forests (where woman in the early 1970s feared to tread!) in three climatic zones. Subsequently, her attention was drawn to Sinharaja , when it was still being logged. There, she worked for over three decades, in collaboration with others, on four major research themes: (i) distribution of the endemic tree species in logged and unlogged parts of the forest, (ii) the flowering, fruiting and seedling ecology of selected canopy and non timber forest species of value to villagers (Beraliya, Hal, Weniwel, Kitul, Enasal), (iii) conversion monoculture pine stands to mixed species stands using selected natural forest species, and (iv) establishment of a 25 ha permanent research plot for long-term monitoring of growth, mortality and demography of its plant species, and their response to climate change. She has also researched on the tree flora of a number of other forests of biological value.
For her outstanding contributions to science, Prof. Gunatilleke has received many awards, among them the Charles Bullard Fellowship of Harvard University, USA (1982-1983); the prestigious UNESCO Sultan Qaboos Prize for Environmental Preservation (as a co-recipient) in 1997; and the General Research Committee Award of the Sri Lanka Association for the Advancement of Science (SLAAS), given once in one’s lifetime in 2011. The inspiration and direction received through long-term research collaborations from colleagues in overseas universities (Harvard, Yale, Oxford and Aberdeen, among others) and her local mentors during her professional career are much appreciated by Prof. Gunatilleke. The lecture will be held on Thursday 19 June at 6:15 p.m. at the Department of Meteorology, 383, Bauddhaloka Mawatha, Colombo 7 (opposite BMICH). All are welcome and entrance is free.