Principle Investigator

Prof. Sampath Seneviratne

I am a birder and a naturalist. Also I am an evolutionary ecologist, geneticist and an ornithologist by training. My research interests are rooted in the studies of evolution, island biogeography, causes of endemicity and the evolution of novel traits. My approach uses both field- and laboratory-based research grounded in a strong conceptual framework to address processes underlying species boundaries.

CV and More Details

Contact: | +94 710 821177

AviEN Lab Members

Sanjaya Weerakkody (PhD Student)

Sanjaya Weerakkody is broadly interested in evolutionary ecology and bioacoustics.

He received his bachelor’s degree in 2017 from the University of Colombo and joined our lab in May 2017 for his PhD. He is studying the Gene flow, vocal plasticity, and their role in maintaining species limits in a vocally complex songbird: Dicrurus Drongo species complex for his PhD under the supervision of Prof. Sampath Seneviratne and Prof. Eben Goodale (Guangxi University, PR China). Profile

Contact: | | +94 715 777610

Gayomini Panagoda (PhD Student)

Gayomini Panagoda is a birder.

She studies ecology, evolution and connectivity patterns of waterfowl migration in Sri Lanka, with a special interest on shorebirds. Her research is supervised by Dr. Sampath Seneviratne, Prof. Sarath Kotagama , Dr. Taej Mundkur (Wetlands International) & Dr. S. Balachandran (Bombay Natural History Society). Her fieldwork is focused on Mannar Island – a bird migratory hotspot in Sri Lanka, from where she is engaged in bird banding & satellite-tagging activities. She also coordinates the National Bird Ringing Program – Mannar, along with the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka (Sri Lankan affiliate of Birdlife International).

Contact: | +94 716 251169

Dineth Danushka (MSc Student)

Ecological and phylogenetic affinities of tree snakes in Sri Lanka

Contact: | +94 713 707779

Chandika Jayaratne (MPhil Student)

Having completed 4 year of medical school Chandika completed his LLB (Hons) Degree from the University of Staffordshire in the UK, he pursued a career within the sectors of hospitality and environmental stewardship in the specialized niche of wildlife tourism. He also has a research background where he studied captive rusty spotted cats which was featured in the documentary “Story of Cats”. Chandika is working on the ecology and evolution of the Indian Dwarf Wolf – that is our humble ‘Hiwala‘ or the ‘Indian Jackal’ 


Jude Janitha Niroshan

Research: The role of genome and phenome in an incipient speciation event of the Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus) in Sri Lanka

Contact: | +94 76 735 7216 | Profile

Luying Qin

A 4th year student from Guangxi University, majoring in ecology. Doing graduate project in Sri Lanka about vocal behavior of dicrurus drongos in Sri Lanka. Profile


Iroshmal Peiris

Research: Vocal divergence in a group of divergent forest birds: Babblers of Sri Lanka. His current research focuses on the effect of genes, environment and morphology on the vocalization thereby leading to endemicity.

Academic interests: Bio-acoustics, Ecology, Migration, evolution, genetics and related molecular biology aspects.

Contact: | +94 771 786114 | Profile

Vimukthi Gunasekara

Research: Characterization of the symbiotic relationship of the Crematogaster ants and the Rufous Woodpecker (Micropternus brachyurus) in Sri Lanka.

Contact: | +94 770 705032

Dileka Kariyawasam

Research: Evolutionary  and ecological affinities of the Laughingthrush  of Sri Lanka.

Contact: | +94 768 527226

Uthpala Jayaweera

Research: Dentition and foraging ecology of the Sri Lankan Jackal ( Canis aureus nariya ).

Contact: | +94 711 175124

Gihan Jayasinghe

Research: Genetic signature of habituation to humans behaviour in House Swallows. His research focuses on how neurotransmitter receptor gene polymorphisms relate to personality and adaptation to an urbanised environment in House swallow species complex Hirundo javanica. (Co-supervise by Prof. Liz Scordato from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.)

Contact: |

Ayeshma Adikari

Research: Responses of avian communities to cloud line along an elevation gradient

Contact:  | +754097475

Nimasha Samarasinghe

Research: Morphological, plumage, vocal, and genetic characterization of Motacilla flava – tschutschensis allospecies complex in Sri Lanka.

Contact: | +94768316997

Sewwandi Madumali

Research: Effect of genetic introgression on phenotype of Dicrurus drongos across a climatic gradient. 

Contact: | +94768304576

Janani Karunarathne

Research: Parasite levels and host response in avian communities along an altitudinal gradient  

Contact: | +94 757285400

Janani Chathurya

Research: Breeding ecology of recently described Red-backed woodpecker (Dinopium psarodes)

Contact: | +94767610595

AviEN Lab Alumni 

Dr. Saminda Fernando (PhD)

First PhD of the lab. Currently a Senior Lecturer at the Open University of Sri Lanka (OUSL)

PhD Thesis Title: Barriers to gene flow and the resulting endemicity in Dinopium flamebacks of Sri Lanka

Contact: | +94 718 441883

Dr. Nelum Wickramasinghe (PhD)

Patterns of speciation in a rapidly diverging clade of passerines: Zosterops white-eyes of South Asia

Contact: |+91 776 0544865

Dr. Madushika Silva

BSc. Thesis: Characterization of neutralizing ability of a herbal preparation used in indigenous medicine for snake envenamation in the wet zone of Sri Lanka (Co-supervised with Prof. Charitha Goonasekara).

She completed her PhD on muscle protein structure at Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s, Canada (more info).

Dr. Dilini Abeyrama

BSc. Thesis: Using Molecular and Phylogenetic Diversity to Set Priorities in Biodiversity Conservation for Sri Lanka.

She completed her PhD at Lethbridge University, Alberta, Canada on conservation genetics of the effects of commercial fishery on seabirds in the Indian and Atlantic Oceans. Profile

Anoli Karunathilake

Research: Conservation of in-silico predicted epitopes of SARS-CoV-2 and other native Corona viruses from different geographic regions.

Academic interests: Virus ecology and evolution, zoonotic viruses


Toshima Alexander

Research: Deep history of a Gondwanan refugee revealed through Scolopendrid phylogeny (co-supervise with Dr. Jahnavi Joshi from Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, India).

Academic interests : Phylogenetics,  Evolutionary deep-history, Scolopendrid centipedes, Biogeography and Ecology. 

Contact: | +94 775 363408

Chamalka de Silva

Research: The role of polymorphism in MHC class I gene on speciation in higher altitude fauna

Contact: | +94 76 6647979

Tharindu Krishan  

BSc. Thesis: Phylogenetic and ecological affinities of Ceylon Bush Warbler.

He is currently doing a PhD in Bird Ecology and Bioacoustics in the Department of Biological Sciences, at the University of Alberta, Canada. His current research aims to use acoustic recordings to monitor boreal bird populations and understand the impacts of energy sector disturbances on the wildlife populations in boreal forest in Canada.

Contact: | (403) 620-3392

Thilini Thakshila

BSc. Thesis: Phylogenetic affinity and environmental signature in a selected region of the genome of a near-endemic montane insectivore. This was co-supervised by Prof. Liz Scordato from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. Profile

She is currently doing a MSc. at Lethbridge University, Alberta, Canada on population genetics of Swallows. Profile

Contact: | +94715647277

Kavindya Pathirana

BSc. Thesis: Evolutionary affinities within genus Raufa revealed through genetics and morphometric markers.

She is currently doing her PhD. at the University of Minnesota, USA.

Contact: | +94 718324903

Janaka Perera (Graduate researcher)

Ranging ecology and vocalization of Ashy-headed Laughingthrush in mixed-species feeding flocks in Sri Lanka

Contact: | +94 775 126021

Naveendra Malalgoda (BSc Environment Science Major)

BSc. thesis : The shifts in guild structure and composition in response to habitat variability (co supervise with Prof. Mayuri Wijesinghe).

Contact: | +94 772 336982

Tharindu Premachandra (Graduate Researcher)

The use of genetic, phylogenetic and simulation based models to measure the health of fragmented rain forest patches near the Colombo City.

He is currently doing his PhD research study at McMaster University, Ontario, Canada. His current research work is based on confirming sex determining mechanisms of Xenopus tropicalis using genomic editing. Profile

Contact: | +94 779 162485

Shyanika Lasanthi (Graduate Researcher)

BSc. Thesis: Level of genomic differentiation in an avian hybrid zone determined using markers generated through Illumina RAD-NGS tools.

She is currently doing an MSc research on evolution and biochemical pathways of nonphotosynthetic algae at the Western University, London, Ontario. Profile

Contact: | +94 711 653139

Pavithra Panduwawala (Graduate Researcher)

Structure and Diversity of Vocalization of an Endemic Bird: Brown Capped Babbler (Pellorneum fuscocapillus)

She is now employed as a research associate at Pelagikos.

Contact: | +94 719 461708

Amaya Wijesinghe

BSc. Thesis: Assessing the areas of priority for conservation in rainforest patches in Colombo

She completed her MSc at Oxford University, UK in Conservation and Management at the School of Geography and the Environment.(more info )

She is currently employed as a communications and data officer with the United Nations Environment Programme. Profile

Jayani Gamage

BSc. Thesis: Genetic connectivity of a sessile forest babbler in the forest patches of Colombo.

Currently doing a PhD at University of Colombo and Uppsala University, Sweden. She is currently working on her PhD research project titled “Integrative taxonomy of Sri Lankan shallow water demosponges and characterization of bioactive compounds from Rhabdastrella species”. Profile

Chirathi Wijekulathilake

BSc. Thesis: Phenotypic and Genetic Affinities of a Sessile South Asian Endemic: Rophocichla attriceps

Currently doing a MSc. at Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s, Canada. She is currently investigating ecological, morphological, and behavioural predictors of fitness in dark-eyed juncos in Newfoundland. Profile

Rashika Ranasinghe

BSc. Thesis: Biochemical basis of color expression in flamback woodpeckers in Sri Lanka (Co-supervised with Dr K. M. Kaumal and Dr. Hiran Jayaweera).

She is currently doing a PhD on the genomic differentiation and the genetic basis of carotenoid color expression in Flamebacks of Sri lanka with Prof. Darren Irwin at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. Profile

Lakindu Samaranayake

Former lab manager. Did her BSc. thesis on ‘Structure based drug design towards Xanthomonas Oryzae Pv. Oryzae Topoisomerease I inhibitors’. (thesis supervisor – Dr Inoka Perera). Studied the molecular phylogeny of woodpeckers and the dietary ecology of Sri Lanka Leopard at the AviEN lab.

She is currently doing her PhD at North-eastern University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Profile

Zohara Rafi

BSc. Thesis: Genetic and phenotypic divergence in Zosterops white-eyes along a climatic gradient in Sri Lanka (Co-supervised with Dr Enoka Kudawidanage).

She worked as graduate research assistant at the National University of Singapore. Currently she is doing her PhD in University of Auckland, New Zealand on eco-acoustic indices. Profile.

She is also working at for Quiet Parks International as an advisor for Bioacoustic. Profile

Shashiprabha Jayasinghe

BSc Thesis : Mechanisms of temperature homeostasis in eggs of ground nesting Charadriids with special reference to the Red Wattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus) (Co-supervised with Dr Hiran Jayaweera)

Kajanka Mathiaparanam

BSc. Thesis: Influence of Anthropogenic Perturbation on Energy Trade-offs of the Rock Pigeon (Columba livia): Relationships among Parasite Load, Immune Response and Physical Fitness in Wild, Urban and Captive Populations (Co-supervised with Prof. Preethi Udagama)

He is currently doing a PhD at the University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia. His research focuses on the effects of anthropogenic disturbance on the behaviour of birds. Profile

Kalpani de Silva

BSc. Thesis: Resolving phylogenetic relationships of Flameback woodpeckers in south Asia using GBS/RAD data generated with NGS.

She is currently doing a PhD at School of Medicine, University of Louisville, USA

Poornima Dodangoda

BSc. Thesis: The level of gene flow in Dinopium benghalense allospecies cluster