Nishanta ‘Nishi’ Rajakaruna

Associate Professor Nishanta “Nishi” RajakarunaNishanta “Nishi” Rajakaruna, Ph.D.


33-367 office
33-355A lab


personal website


B.A. (Human Ecology, emphasis Botany), College of the Atlantic, ME
M.Sc. (Botany), University of British Columbia, Canada
Ph.D. (Botany), University of British Columbia, Canada
Postdoc (Plant Ecology), Stanford University, CA

Professional Appointments

Fulbright Alumni Ambassador (2024-2026)
Fulbright US Scholar- South Africa and Madagascar (2021-2022)
Fulbright US Scholar - Sri Lanka and India (2016-2017)   


Distinguished Teaching Award (2021-2022)
Distinguished Scholarship Award (2022-2023)
Outstanding Faculty Advisor Award (2019-2020)   


Research Interests

Plants growing on ‘extreme’ substrates (serpentinite, limestone, mine tailings, guano, etc.) are model organisms for the study of ecology and evolution. My primary research focuses on using such plants and their habitats to explore questions on the role ecology plays in the evolution of individual plant species and the assembly of plant communities.

I am also interested in the effects of heavy metal contamination on plants and other biota, specifically research relating to metal transfer from contaminated soil via plants to other biota. Related areas of research include 1) phytoremediation, the use of plants to clean up metal contaminated soil, and 2) the impacts of atmospheric deposition of metals and nutrients on native and invasive plant interactions. Additional interests include tropical plant ecology & conservation and ethnobotany.

Advising Interests

  • Geobotany
  • Plant evolutionary ecology
  • Plant conservation 
  • Phytoremediation
  • Ethnobotany


  • BIO 415 Biogeography
  • BIO 448 Geoecology
  • BIO 591 Trends in Biology
  • BOT 121 General Botany
  • BOT 311 Plants, People and Civilization
  • BOT 313 Plant Taxonomy


Offsite link to selected publications


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