Nishanta "Nishi" Rajakaruna

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Bio 415 – Biogeography – Every Fall

Course Description

What we currently see in nature is only a snapshot of a constantly varying assortment of plants and animals that are and have been responding to an endless sequence of biotic and abiotic change. Biogeography is the study of plants and animals in space and time and is concerned with the analysis and explanation of patterns of distribution, both local and global, that have taken place in the past and are taking place today. Biogeography is also a predictive science enabling us to predict how biota might behave in the future under a given set of circumstances. As students of biogeography we will attempt to tackle questions such as: Why are there so many different species of animals and plants? Why are some species so common, others so rare? Why do some species show extremely local distributions while others are cosmopolitan? Why are some parts of the world more diverse than others? How have these unique patterns of distribution come about? What are the factors involved in the evolution as well as the extinction of species? & How will climate change influence the future patterns of biodiversity? Evaluations are based on two homework assignments, mid-term and final exams, five short quizzes, a final project presentation, and class participation.  It is expected that students will be actively engaged learners beyond their attendance in regularly scheduled lectures and discussions.  This commitment includes attendance, class participation, individual meetings with the instructor, video viewings, library research, completion of reading assignments, study time, and the synthesis of this work through assignment completion, including a final project and its presentation. Prerequisites BIO 263 or graduate standing in Biological Sciences.

I teach this course every Fall.

Bot 121 –  General Botany – Every Quarter

Students who complete Botany 121 with a passing grade are expected to have a better understanding of the following:
1. The basics of plant cell and tissue structure and function
2. The correct use of plant names and a basic understanding of botanical nomenclature
3. The anatomically important features of stems, flowers, wood, leaves, roots, and fruits
4. The basic physiology and anatomy of photosynthesis and respiration
5. The importance of plants in human affairs
6. Basic skills of plant identification, plant collection, documentation and herbarium use
7. The basics of plant ecology
8. General experimental and observation skills in botany
9. An appreciation of the natural world and the importance of plants in providing habitat and nourishment
for animals

Fulfills GE B2 & B4

I teach this course 1-2 quarters every year.

Bot 311 – Plants, People, and Civilization – Every Fall

Course Description

From the dawn of human history, plants have played an integral role in human societies across the world.  The course is aimed at generating an appreciation for the myriad uses of plants by human societies, both past and present, locally and globally.  We will explore the use of plants as food and beverages, raw materials, fuel, medicine and psychoactive drugs, spices and perfumes, genetic resources, and for religious and spiritual needs.  The future ecological, economic, and social implications of our dependency on plants will also be discussed in light of current threats to plants and their native habitats, including threats to plant-human relations in traditional societies from around the world.  The important roles played by human societies in maintaining floristic and associated cultural diversity will be a focus of readings, DVD screenings, and discussions.  You will be introduced to the taxonomy of major edible plant families of the world, including Solanaceae (potato family), Poaceae (rice family), Fabaceae (bean family), Brassicaceae (cabbage family), Asteraceae (sunflower family), Lamiaceae (mint family), Apiaceae (carrot family) and Rosaceae (apple family), among others. Evaluations will be based on a mid-term and a final exam, a grocery store scavenger hunt quiz, a mystery plant presentation, a final project involving an oral presentation and short summary paper, lab assignments, and participation in class activities/discussion. Prerequisite: One course from GE Area B2.

I teach this course every other year, starting Fall 2019.

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For courses taught in the past see here.

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