** To do our part in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 and keeping our staff, supporters and community safe, MDI Biological Laboratory has cancelled all public events, courses and conferences through the summer of 2020. Our top priority is the safety of our employees, supporters and community. We will be hosting this Science Café online.**
The topic of the MDI Science Café for Monday, August 10, 2020 will be “A Glimpse into the Future of Global Water Struggles from a Rural Farming Community in Sri Lanka,” presented by Nishad Jayasundara, Ph.D., an assistant professor at University of Maine, Orono and Fulbright recipient Emily Craig.
Water was often the nexus that shaped agrarian civilizations and continues to be for many farming communities around the world. However, agricultural practices have changed dramatically over the last century, especially since the green revolution. Among other factors, ubiquitous use of agrochemicals have become a focal point in modern crop production. Similar to many rural agricultural communities, Sri Lanka, a small island nation in the Indian Ocean, adopted extensive use of agrochemicals. Today, some of these farming communities have been affected by a mysterious kidney disease. Notably, a similar disease has emerged around the world affecting farming communities in several countries including in India, Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and in the United States. In Sri Lanka, where our research is primarily focused on, we find that ~20% of the people, including children, in some communities suffer from kidney dysfunction. While the mystery around the precise causes of this disease remains unsolved, our studies point to a complex contaminant burden of the drinking water of the farmers, but mostly at levels considered safe for drinking. While our studies continue to explore the link between drinking water and this mysterious kidney disease, this highlights a series of global health concerns linked to regulations on environmental contaminants, changing climate, and economic disparity and provides a glimpse into the future struggles of water health around world.
Nishad Jayasundara is an assistant professor at University of Maine, Orono and his research is focused on environmental health and comparative physiology. Nishad’s research broadly examines how organisms modify a common set of biochemical processes to survive and adapt to their natural environment, and is aimed at understanding organismal responses to rapidly changing global chemical and physical environments. His interests in this research first started as an undergraduate trainee in late Dr. David Towle’s laboratory at The Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory. At the time Nishad was pursuing his BA at College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor as a Davis Scholar. After COA, Nishad pursued his doctoral degree at Stanford University, CA, and completed his postdoctoral training at Duke University, NC, before deciding to return to Maine.
Emily Craig graduated from the University of Maine’s Honors College in 2018 with a B.S. in Marine Science and a minor in Chemistry. Post-graduation she began working with Dr. Nishad Jayasundara researching complex chemical mixtures in drinking water and its impact on larval zebrafish behavior. While working with Dr. Jayasundara she received a Fulbright grant to continue this research in Sri Lanka working with Dr. Mangala De Silva. Emily was in Sri Lanka from November 2019 to March 2020 until the coronavirus pandemic prematurely ended her grant. During her residency in Sri Lanka, Emily worked with a team of scientists from the University of Ruhuna and conducted children’s urine screening in CKDu endemic locations, utilizing a zebrafish toxicology lab.
The MDI Science Café series is held on the second Monday of the month through May, when the bimonthly summer series will begin.
Our live online Zoom presentations will be recorded and uploaded for those who cannot make the live session. Please note, when Zoom records, it captures the audience as well as the presenter. If you do not wish to be recorded, please turn off your video camera. Audio will still be available.
MDI Science Cafés are offered in fulfillment of the MDI Biological Laboratory’s mission to promote scientific literacy and increase public engagement with science. The popular events offer a chance to hear directly from speakers about trends in science.
We ask attendees to please preregister online so that we can send you the link to the online presentation.