Rajakaruna will address “Serpentine Soils: A Model Habitat for Ecological and Evolutionary Studies,” “Phytoremediation and Phytomining: Emerging Green Technologies,” and “Plant Ecology and Evolution in Harsh Soil Environments.”

He will also give a lecture on his current College of the Atlantic botany course “Edible Botany” as the Russian college considers incorporating it into their curriculum. Additional research collaborations between the colleges on serpentine ecology and evolution may be forged during the visit, Rajakaruna said.

Rajakaruna has indeed enjoyed a busy year. This fall, he was named editor in chief of Rhodora, the peer-reviewed journal of The New England Botanical Club. The journal, 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.

He’s also published a new manuscript — “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. And he 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.

The trip to Russia is one of two international academic trips this fall; he also will conduct geo-ecological research at the School of Biological Sciences at the North-West University — one of the largest universities in South Africa.

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.

UPDATE: Professor Rajakaruna sent us an email from Russia describing his experience there:

“The (Edible Botany) lecture/lab was a hit. I really enjoyed it. The students have gone to the dean to get permission for attending my other two lectures (speciation and phytoremediation) on Thu, Fri, respectively. They have classes during this time but the dean has said ok you can attend the lectures instead.

“Now to prep. 12-14 hr days so far. Exhausting but fun. I met with all the directors of the school and they are all eager to establish collaborations, including looking for funds for me to return. Amazing country. Kids are the same everywhere.

“Lot of tradition here still despite all the regular western influences. Wish I had been able to explore the Urals but with all this snow it is not going to be possible this time.”