#womeninscienceday 2019

For #womeninscienceday we want to highlight the women behind our project. They come from a range of different backgrounds and one is even from a different continent, but they all have two things in common. A passion for science and the drive to reach new levels in their respective fields.

Anya Ratnayaka

Founded the Urban Fishing Cat Conservation Project in 2013 after coming into contact with her first fishing cat, the orphan Maalu. She is fascinated by how the species is coping with Colombo’s rapid development and is keen to use the species as a flagship for urban wetland conservation. Anya is also working on getting her PhD. When she isn’t chasing fishing cats, she can be found hanging out with her fur babies, Sirius and Vega.

Dr Laurel Serieys

Founded of the Urban Caracal Project. Since meeting Anya in 2016, she has not only been a mentor, but also a role model. Her skills in trapping wild cats and tracking were passed down to us when she visited in 2018 to teach us the skills required for studying cats in urban areas. She’s a foster mother to domestic cats in her home in South Africa and has a new found love of ribbon cake.

Thejani Tennakoon

Thejani has been volunteering for us since 2018. She’s working her way up to a PhD and wants to study the effects that pesticides and chemicals have on wildlife and the environment. She was also the one who found Wani in our trap cage!

Ashani Hangawatta

Ashani started volunteering for the project in 2016 after meeting Anya at the Rufford in-country conference. She wants to get a PhD and focus on using forensics and genetics as a conservation tool. She also wants to become a Vet’s Assistant to help care for injured wildlife. The crocodile in Ashani’s hand is named Mike.

Yasara De Mel

Yasara began volunteering in 2018. Her two favorite things are conservation genetics and wildlife ecology. She’s also working her way up to a PhD. Her picture shows the exact moment when she heard the owner of the giant dung pile she’s rummaging through, return. The toothpick in her mouth was not used to sift through the dung… we hope.

Nuwanthika Dharmaratne

Nuwanthika met Anya by accident while rummaging through the Diyasaru Park looking for otter scat! She started volunteering for the project in 2019, and her immediate goals in life are to get a PhD and set up a conservation education initiative in Sri Lanka with a special focus on rural communities. Her long term vision is to ensure that this plays a key role in community conservation efforts throughout the country.

She’s also a co-founder of 22UponTwo.

Gayathree Nayanajeehwi

Gayathree started volunteering for us in 2018. She doesn’t have much field experience, but she helps out in many other ways! Her life’s mission is to work on neurodegenerative disorders such as Multiple Sclerosis. She is also badass at Taekwondo.


Vega has been the project’s scat hound since 2016. She is incredibly good at finding fishing cat presence in the field, but had to stop her poop duties in 2017 when the saltwater crocodiles at our study site doubled in size (Anya is a paranoid parent). She now helps Anya determine what the cats have eaten by lending moral support and just being the fluffy stress reliever that she is. 

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