The public is welcome to a session by two scientists who have studied the impact of plastic upon Asian elephants.

Rasika Mudalige-Jayawickrama and Lalith Jayawickrama , professors at the University of Dubuque, spent the summer of 2022 in Sri Lanka, where they are from. They will present “The Effect of Dietary Plastics on Gut Microbiome of Asian Elephants” at 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 14, in the Koning Center at Ridgecrest Village, 4130 Northwest Blvd., Davenport.

Rasika Mudalige-Jayawickrama, left, and Lalith Jayawickrama (contributed photo)

The presentation, which also will be available for remote viewing using Zoom, is hosted by the
Davenport-Bettendorf branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW.) There is a snow alternative of 1 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 15.

The two presenters took pictures of elephants foraging for food in garbage dumps. They studied fecal samples for macroplastics and microplastics in the gut microbiome. Comparison of gut microflora showed that the plastic eating elephants have a completely different microbial profile in their gut compared to that of normal wild elephants.

Working from a remote research station in the jungle this summer, the professors saw firsthand how much plastic the unfortunate elephants were eating, a news release says. It was a mix of biological and environmental studies, and they have many pictures and clear data to share.

Asian elephants foraging (contributed photo)

Rasika G. Mudalige-Jayawickrama is a professor of plant biology, genetics and molecular biology at the University of Dubuque. Lalith Jayawickrama is an assistant professor of environmental science at the University of Dubuque, teaching environmental science, animal nutrition and human nutrition classes. His research is focused on human and animal nutrition and environmental impacts of plastic pollution.

For more information, contact Davenport-Bettendorf AAUW Branch President Elaine Kresse,