Professor Douglas Siril Abeywickrama Wijesundara
Dr. Sudheera M. W. Ranwala
It is a great honour and privilege for me to present this citation to the distinguished membership of the Institute of Biology, Professor Douglas Siril Abeywickrama Wijesundara, an eminent scholar and leading scientist, for felicitation by the Institute of Biology Sri Lanka, in recognition of his invaluable services rendered to the field of biology.
Professor Siril Wijesundera, was born as the only child of late Mr. D.K.A. Wijesundara and Ms. Jane Dahanayake. He obtained primary and secondary education at Central College Thelijjawila, Matara and continued higher education at University of Sri Lanka, Peradeniya Campus from where he graduated in B.Sc. (Special Degree in Botany) in 1978. After serving as a Temporary Assistant Lecturer for an year, he joined the Hakgala Botanic Gardens as the Curator in 1981. He also held the post of Curator of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Peradeniya for the period 1989-1991 and Curator of National Herbarium from 1991 to 1993. His commitments to the Flora of Ceylon Project funded by the Smithsonian Institute during this time provided him great opportunity to develop research interests in Ecology and Plant taxonomy which he explored through postgraduate qualifications, an M.Phil degree from the University of Peradeniya on Phytosociology of Montane Forests in Sri Lanka in 1992, and Ph.D. from the City University of New York in 1998 for investigations on Phytosociology of Floyd Bennett Field in New York. Professor Siril Wijesundera was then appointed as Director of the National Botanic Gardens, Peradeniya. He has the singular honor of becoming the first Director General of the Department of National Botanic Gardens of Sri Lanka where he served nine consecutive years until the day of his retirement from government services. At present Professor Siril Wijesundera serves as a Research Professor at the National Institute of Fundamental Studies, Hanthana, Kandy while extending his services as an expert in flora locally and internationally through many national committees including the National Committee on Man and Biosphere and National Committee on Biodiversity and Environment of the National Science Foundation, National Invasive Species Specialists Group of Sri Lanka, National Species Conservation Advisory Committee and Biodiversity Experts Committee of the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment.
As an administrator, Professor Siril Wijesundera performed a key role in elevating the administrative structure of the Botanic Gardens which was then a Division of the Department of Agriculture to a new government department, the Department of National Botanic Gardens. He was also instrumental in developing research and infra structure facilities of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Peradeniya. He earns the credit of initiation, planning and establishment of Mirijjawela Dry zone Botanic Gardens in Hambanthota and Seethawaka Wet zone Botanic Gardens at Avissawella in which the semi-natural landscapes easily support education, research and training at school and university level, and enhance public awareness on nature tourism and biodiversity conservation. The establishment of the auditorium and research
laboratories at the Royal Botanic Gardens under his guidance led to organize many national workshops and training programmes on lichens, pollen and chromosomes, plant systematics and related fields for a wider audience. He also secured the establishment of the Plant Sales Outlet, Floriculture School at Royal Botanic Gardens, Peradeniya which conducts nationally accredited diploma courses, and the National Floriculture Development Program (Suwahas Mal Program) with a good intention of improving the livelihood and income of rural communities in Sri Lanka. Professor Wijesundera is among the very few recipients awarded with Athi Vishishta Poorna Sewa Prasadini Service Excellence Award organized by the Ministry of Wildlife and Sustainable Development in honor of the excellent services towards strengthening the field of conservation of wildlife in Sri Lanka.
Research has always been of great interest and importance to Professor Siril Wijesundera. His research work on flora of Sri Lanka with special reference to systematics, ecology and conservation aspects have been strongly contributing to conserve biodiversity of Sri Lanka. His contributions are evident through 85+ research publications in peer reviewed prestigious local and international journals, many of which are indexed in international data bases such as Science Citation Index and Current Contents. In addition, Professor Siril Wijesundera has many full papers and research abstracts published in local and international conference proceedings, articles in magazines and newspapers and has authored book chapters, monographs and books including the Field Guide to the Common Trees and Shrubs of Sri Lanka. In recognition of his research excellence Professor Siril Wijesundera was awarded the President’s Award for research in 2001- 2002, from 2007- to 2015. As an appreciation to his commitments and contribution to the field of biology in Sri Lanka a flowering plant (Henckelia wijesundarae), a shrub frog (Pseudophilautus sirilwijesundarai), and a lichen (Enterographa wijesundarae) were named after Professor Siril Wijesundera.
Professor Wijesundera’s academic excellence is reflected not only through research, but also through his engagement towards teaching, mentoring and research supervision. He had an opportunity to serve as an Honorary Professor at the Department of Ecology and Biodiversity, University of Hong Kong for the decade 2001-2010. He was also a Visiting Lecturer in Plant Ecology, Plant Taxonomy, and Floriculture subjects at the University of Peradeniya, University of Colombo, University of Sri Jayawardenapura and University of Ruhuna. He has served as a co supervisor for 06 PhD degrees, 10 MPhil degrees and many MSc research projects. He has also extended his services to the academic community by being an elect member for the Faculty Board of Science, and Board of Studies in Agriculture Biology at Postgraduate Institutes Science, and Agriculture of University of Peradeniya. He is also a Fellow member of the National Academy of Sciences in Sri Lanka.
Professor Siril Wijesundera is a good science communicator and has been a keynote speaker and resource person in many national and international conferences, training programmes, seminars and public events. His humble and friendly personality always extends a helping hand to his colleagues and many young scientists.
Professor Siril Wijesundera’s carrier portrays a true biologist in the country. His contribution to the field of biology is immense and exceptional, and therefore I am confident that all of you will applaud the decision of the Council of the Institute of Biology to felicitate Professor Siril
Wijesundera at its 37th Annual Sessions, today, the 29th of September 2017. On behalf of the Institute I wish you good health and fortune to continue your work for many more years to come for conservation of the biological wealth of mother Lanka.