Ashani Arulananthan says she can recall childhood visits to the beach in her home village in Sri Lanka’s northern district of Jaffna. She would collect washed-up pieces of coral, and her father would share his own memories of the dazzling beauty of coral reefs emerging during low tide.
This sparked her interest in corals and set her off on the path toward science. Today, Arulananthan is a researcher at the University of Peradeniya, and lead author of a 2021 study cataloging the rich coral diversity of her native Jaffa Peninsula.
For decades, research in Jaffna, and indeed much of northern Sri Lanka, was virtually impossible because of security reasons: The region was under the control of the Tamil Tigers, or LTTE, the rebel group waging a civil war against the Sri Lankan government. With the defeat of the LTTE in 2009, the northern region slowly began to open up. Arulananthan and her colleagues carried out their coral survey from March 2017 to August 2018.
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