Nishi reading about plants.

Rhodora, devoted to the botany of North America, began publication in 1899. It accepts scientific papers related to the systematics, floristics, ecology, evolution, biogeography, population genetics, paleobotany or conservation biology. It’s issued four times a year.

As editor, Rajakaruna will lead the selection of articles to be published and oversee all aspects of publication and journal promotion. His responsibilities include publishing peer reviewed articles on a diverse range of scientific topics; establishing policies for and overseeing submission of manuscripts and criteria for authorship; proposing and finalizing the journal’s annual budget; and actively promoting Rhodora at conferences, lectures and online.

According to Dr. Elizabeth Farnsworth, outgoing editor-in-chief, Rajakaruna “brings a wealth of experience and energy to the position, including many publications in Rhodora, several edited books, a history of encouraging botanical research and publication among his students, and myriad academic and non-academic connections that will help in promoting the journal.”  

“Nishi is very well-positioned to guide Rhodora through the changing waters of scientific publishing in the 21st century.” - Dr. Elizabeth Farnsworth

According to a job description for the post, skills required for the position include writing, editing, critical assessment, negotiation, and diplomacy; organizational skills; and knowledge of new technologies for publishing and promoting academic journals.

“Professor Rajakaruna’s selection as editor of a top peer-reviewed journal in his field underlines the expertise and international credentials of all our faculty,” college President Darron Collins ’92 said. “He’s one of the reasons COA was ranked as one of the top five schools in the country by The Princeton Review in 2015 for faculty expertise.”

Rajakaruna has indeed enjoyed a busy year. 

He will have a new manuscript published in the fall — “Plant Ecology and Evolution in Harsh Environments” — by Nova Science Publishers, an academic publisher of books, encyclopedias, handbooks, e-books and journals based in Hauppauge, N.Y. Rajakaruna also recently had an article — “Geoecology,” approved by Oxford University Press for publication in its upcoming “Oxford Bibliographies in Ecology.” 

In June, Rajakaruna gave the keynote address during the 8th International Conference on Serpentine Ecology in Sabah, Malaysia. He will serve as editor of those proceedings, to be published by the Australian Journal of Botany.

He also is preparing for two international academic trips: Rajakaruna will conduct geo-ecological research at the School of Biological Sciences at the North-West University — one of the largest universities in South Africa — and present two talks on serpentine ecology. He also has been invited to teach seminars at the Institute of Natural Sciences of the Ural Federal University, Yekaterinburg, Russia, Oct. 16-25.

Rajakaruna ’94, a native of Sri Lanka, studied botany in the Sinharaja Rainforest while at COA and also did work for the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute as a field coordinator. In 1995, he joined the Department of Botany at the University of British Columbia and received a M.Sc (1998) and a Ph.D. (2002).

Rajakaruna has become recognized as an expert in serpentine soils, which are derived from rocks formed by the hydration and metamorphic transformation of rock from the Earth’s mantle. Soils derived from such rock give rise to unusual and sparse associations of plants that are tolerant of extreme soil conditions. Such plants have attracted interest for their potential to help ameliorate polluted environments.

College of the Atlantic was founded in 1969 on the premise that education should go beyond understanding the world as it is, to enabling students to actively shape its future. A leader in experiential education and environmental stewardship, COA has pioneered a distinctive interdisciplinary approach to learning—human ecology—that develops the kinds of creative thinkers and doers needed by all sectors of society in addressing the compelling and growing needs of our world.