by Naya on June 14th, 2012


Madhava has been fascinated by frogs, fish and forests since a boy. He has captive bred many hard to breed fish and frogs, photographing and publishing these in hobbyist magazines (such as Tropical Fish Hobbyist and Amphibian and Reptile Hobbyist), while still at school. Before undergraduate studies at University of Peradeniya, he worked in Sinharaja forest reserve (now declared a World Heritage Site), with a team of Botanists (led by Profs. Nimal and Savitri Gunatilleke).

After his undergraduate degree in Zoology, together with the Wildlife Heritage Trust’s discovery of Sri Lanka’s unprecedented amphibian diversity, he moved on to study frogs deeply (with Rohan Pethiyagoda, Kelum Manamendra-Arachchi and Mohomed Bahir). He earned his PhD from Boston University, USA, (with Prof. Christopher J. Schneider), on Sri Lankan shrub frogs (Pseudophilautus) and later was a Ziff Environmental Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard University Center for the Environment (HUCE) and Museum of Comparative Zoology (MCZ), where he worked for two years on frog systematics and extinctions (with Prof. James Hanken).

Currently he works on systematics, evolutionary ecology, paleobiology, and biogeography of fish and frogs (mostly). He is  a co-chairman of the Amphibian Specialist Group Sri Lanka (IUCN/SSC) and a member of the IUCN’s Frog Redlisting Authority. He has received many awards including, the Belamarich Award for the outstanding PhD thesis (2007) from Boston University,  seven Presidential Awards for research, and the “Top Ten New Species” Award from the University of Arizona. He has described about 30 new species of Sri Lankan frogs, fish and a small mammal and has highlighted a genus of Endemic Sri Lankan Tree-frogs (Taruga) and three new genera of fish (Dawkinsia, Pethia and Haludaria) from within what was previously called Puntius. He has also published on biogeography, breeding biology, ecosystem functions, amphibian diseases and conservation biology of various taxa. He has about 40 original scientific journal papers, including two papers in Science (as first author and shared first author).

Working from a strong systematic foundation, one of his research goals is to study adaptive radiations in shallow time (sensu Schluter) and in deep time (sensu Simpson), using molecular, ecological and paleonotological methods, knowledge which also help understand and conserve biological diversity scientifically. He works to understand the patterns and processes of generation, maintenance and extinction of biological diversity, especially in biodiversity hotspots (areas having exceptional endemic diversity together with unprecedented threat).

He currently mentors three PhD students, several masters students and many undergraduate students; he teaches: Molecular Systematics & Evolution, Ecology, Herpetology, Taxonomy & Biostatistics and Biodiversity Conservation.

H-index = 12 (i10-index = 16); Cumulative Impact Factor: 130+


Academic Qualifications

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Trinity College Kandy, Sri Lanka. Primary and Secondary Education (1976-1989)

University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka. B.S. in Zoology, 1997.

Boston University, Boston, MA, USA. Ph.D. in Biology, 2007 (Molecular Systematics, Evolution, and Ecology of Sri Lankan shrub-frogs (Rhacophorinae: Pseudophilautus).


Professional Experience

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University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka 1997-1998: Demonstrator in Zoology, Department of Zoology, University of Peradeniya.

Wildlife Heritage Trust, Sri Lanka 1999-2006: Research Biologist, Wildlife Heritage Trust of Sri Lanka.

Boston University, Boston, MA, USA 2000-2005:  Teaching Fellow (Vertebrate Zoology, Animal Behavior, Introductory Biology).

Harvard University Center for the Environment Ziff Environmental Postdoctoral Fellow (Sept. 2007 –Sept. 2009)

IUCN/SSC Amphibian Specialist Group (ASG), Sri Lanka, Co-chair (Aug. 2007 -to date)

IUCN/SSC/ASG Red List Authority Member (Oct. 2009 -to date)

Department of Zoology (University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka) Senior Lecturer (2010 -to date)

Faculty of Science, University of Peradeniya (2010/11) Treasurer, Science Teachers Association (STA)

University of Peradeniya, Science Alumni Association (2010/11) Alumni Relations Officer

Faculty of Science, University of Peradeniya (2011/12) President, Science Teachers Association (STA)

University of Peradeniya (2011/12) Secretary, Federation of Peradeniya University Teachers Association (FPUTA)



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“Top ten new species award –2008” for the discovery of a remarkable new species, Philautus maia (The International Institute for Species Exploration, Arizona State University.)

Belamarich Award for outstanding Ph.D. thesis, 2007 (Department of Biology, Boston University).

Harvard University Center for the Environment Ziff Environmental Postdoctoral Fellowship –2007

Presidential Awardw for Scientific Excellence (Sri Lanka) –2002, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008

Society of Systematic Biologists (award for graduate student research) –2003

Sigma Xi –Grants in aid of research -2003



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