Lahiru Wijedasa, a senior research fellow at National University of Singapore’s (NUS) tropical peatland research programme, has been appointed by conservation group BirdLife International as Asia forest coordinator.
The move marks Wijedasa’s first foray into civic society after a career in scientific research, specialising in botany and ecology.
His new role will involve working with partners on forest conservation projects across Asia. One of his first projects is in ecosystem restoration, working with Burung Indonesia, an Indonesian bird conservation group, and British charity Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, to conserve the lowland forests of Sumatra, Indonesia.
At NUS, Wijedasa worked in forest restoration research, with a focus on peatland swamps. In January, he co-published a paper on a new species of flowering tree found in a peat swamp in Sumatra.
He wrote on LinkedIn: “Last year, we found this single tree flowering in a peat swamp forest in Sumatra. It was published as a new species today. This is the sum total of everything we know about this species. Tropical species are rare and they go extinct whenever we lose forest.”
Over his career, he has also worked as lead field ecologist for Indonesian copper and mining company PT Amman Mineral Nusa Tenggara, and lead botanist for Singapore’s national water agency PUB, Mandai Wildlife Group, and Housing Development Board. He was also senior arborist for the Singapore Botanic Gardens.
In 2015, Wijedasa set up permaculture non-profit Conservation Links, and acquired two former tea estates in Sri Lanka. The farm was converted into an organic farm, which is used a test bed for environmentally-friendly agriculture methods.
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