UDITHA WIJETHUNGA

Uditha and toad


Email:
Phone: 02 9351 8679
Location: Office 447, Heydon-Laurence Building A08, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia


Research Interests

Before I came to Australia my research interests included fisheries, biology and aquaculture. I am now interested in ecology and evolutionary biology, with a special passion for invasion ecology.

Current Research

Invasive species are recognized as a serious threat to global biodiversity, being one of the leading causes of native species declines. Cane toads (Rhinella marina) were deliberately introduced to Australia in 1935 in an unsuccessful attempt to control cane beetles in the tropical north east. Since then, the toads have rapidly spread, threatening native biodiversity. To date they have successfully colonized large areas of the Australian tropics and sub-tropics spreading into north-western Australia and down the eastern coastline.

toad breeding habitat

Models incorporating climate change and the physiological attributes of toads suggest their invasion will continue further south. Hence, it is vital to predict their potential distribution. To do so, we need to understand their tolerance of abiotic and biotic conditions. My study aims to determine the impacts of pH, salinity and thermal conditions on the embryonic and larval life-history stages of Rhinella marina. I will test whether cane toads are capable of adapting to cooler thermal environments and also examine the ability of larval-stage toads to co-exist with mosquitofish Gambusia holbrooki, another invader which may aid or hinder further invasion by the toads down the east coast of Australia.

Uditha taking water measurements

I feel very fortunate to have Professor Rick Shine and Dr. Matthew Greenlees as my supervisors. This project has also given me the opportunity to spend time in the field and see more of Australia's unique wildlife, especially snakes, lizards, birds and other frogs.

Uditha and python

Past Research

Having grown up in Sri Lanka, a small island rich in biodiversity, I developed a great love of nature. After completing my Science degree at The University of Kelaniya, I embarked on an Honours year. My research for honors focused on food partitioning in an invasive fish called the tank cleaner (Pterygoplychthys multiradiatus), which is a widely-spread ornamental fish. I was interested in how these invasive fish interact for food and coexist with indigenous fish. I was also interested in aquatic bird fauna and the anthropogenic disturbances in seasonal reservoirs. My Masters research involved a comparative study on avifaunal diversity at two seasonal reservoirs related by an invasive floral community.

Tertiary Education

Year Qualification
2012- Post-graduate student, University of Sydney
2009-2011 Master of Biodiversity, Ecotourism and Environmental Management, The University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka
2006-2008 Second class upper honours in Zoology, The University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka
2004-2006 Bachelor of Science, The University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka

Publications

# Publication
1. Wijethunga, M. U. I. and U. P. K. Epa (2008) Food resource partitioning of accidentally introduced, Pterygoplychthys multiradiatus (Sucker mouth cat fish) with some of the alien and indigenous fish
species in Sri Lanka. Proceedings of National Symposium on Invasive Alien Species (IAS 2008), Sri Lanka Association of Advancement of Science, National Science Foundation, pp. 103-120.
Uditha with beardie

Presentations

Year Details
2013 Facing the acid test: pH influences the viability of eggs and larvae of the invasive cane toad (Rhinella marina). Oral presentation. EcoTas 13, 5th joint conference of New Zealand Ecological Society and Ecological Society of Australia (jointly with M. Greenlees & R. Shine)
2013 The impact of pond acidity on growth, development and phenotype of invasive cane toads (Rhinella marina) in their southern invasion. Oral presentation. Australian Society of Herpetologists (jointly with M. Greenlees & R. Shine)
2013 Facing the acid test: pH influences the viability of eggs and larvae of the invasive cane toad (Rhinella marina). Poster presentation. University of Sydney Post-Graduate Research Showcase, Sydney, NSW, Australia (jointly with M. Greenlees & R. Shine)
2011 A comparative study on avifaunal diversity at two selected seasonal reservoirs at Kurunegala district, Sri Lanka. Oral presentation. 17th annual session SLAFAR (jointly with S. Jayakody and  P.K. DeSilva)
2008 The status of food partitioning among accidentally introduced Pterygoplychthys multiradiatus (Sucker mouth cat fish) and co-existing fish species in Polgahawewa reservoir, Ragama, Sri Lanka. Oral presentation. 14th annual session, SLAFAR (jointly with U.P.K. Epa)
2008 Food resource partitioning of introduced alien Sucker Mouth catfish, Pterygoplychthys multiradaitus, with some of the alien and indigenous fish species in Sri Lanka. Poster presentation. IAS, National Symposium on Invasive Alien Species (jointly with U.P.K. Epa)

Scholarships and Awards

Year Award
2013 University of Sydney Postgraduate Research Support Scheme – Travel grant
2012-2015 University of Sydney International Postgraduate Research Scholarship
2012-2015 University of Sydney Australian Postgraduate Award
2004-2008 University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka – Student Bursary