BAR HARBOR, MAINE – The topic of the online 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 vital to 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, including Sri Lanka, India, Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and in the United States. Jayasundara’s research in this area focuses mainly on Sri Lanka, where he found that in some communities ~20% of the people, including children, suffer from kidney dysfunction. While the mystery around the precise causes of this disease remains unsolved, Jayasundara’s studies point to a complex contaminant burden of the drinking water of the farmers, but mostly at levels considered safe for drinking. Whilst he continues to explore the link between the farmers’ drinking water and this mysterious kidney disease, this issue 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.
Jayasundara’s research focuses on environmental health and comparative physiology; broadly examining how organisms modify a common set of biochemical processes to survive and adapt to their natural environment, and working to understand organismal responses to rapidly changing global chemical and physical environments. His interest in this area of research first started as an undergraduate trainee in late Dr. David Towle’s laboratory at the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory, while he was concurrently pursuing his BA in Human Ecology at College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor as a Davis World College 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 Jayasundara. She received a Fulbright grant to continue on this research path in Sri Lanka, where she was resident from November 2019 to March 2020 until the coronavirus pandemic prematurely ended her grant.
The free, online Science Café will be held at 5 p.m. and participant registration is necessary to gain the access link for the presentation. You can register for the event at mdibl.org/events.