Shashi Goonetilleke

Dr Shashi Goonetilleke

Postdoctoral Researcher

School of Agriculture, Food and Wine

Faculty of Sciences, Engineering and Technology

Eligible to supervise Masters and PhD - email supervisor to discuss availability.

I am a dynamic and dedicated early career researcher at the University of Adelaide’s Almond Breeding program, and my primary interest lies in the field of plant productivity improvement through incorporating genetic information into plant breeding. I mainly conduct research to provide practical and sustainable outcomes to the almond industry. I am also a collaborator of National Tree Genomics Platform - Phenotype Prediction program.

Before obtaining a PhD at the University of Adelaide and receiving Dean's Commendation for Doctoral Research Excellence, I mainly worked on wheat and barley, plant resistance against nematodes, yield related traits, developing low to medium throughput molecular markers and genetic mapping. After finishing a PhD under the guidance of Prof Diane Mather and Dr Michelle Wirthensohn on developing molecular tools to improve selection efficiency of almond reproductive and nut traits, almond became my primary research interest.

Self-incompatibility in plants is also my research interest and I am keen in exploring the self-incompatibility as a tool that can be exploited to increase genetic diversity and productivity in self-incompatible perennials, and in-depth understanding of the function and regulation of the self-incompatibility. Further, I am interested in improving the health benefits of nuts by increasing the essential amino acids, vitamin E levels and other beneficial chemical compounds in nuts through breeding.

I am also interest in exploring methods to produce value added products from almond by-products (hulls and shells). Currently, I have started looking into additional utilisation of these by-products, which leads the way to create sustainability through whole orchard recycling and optimum usage of those products to raise the value.  

In addition, I have worked on several crop species: both annuals and perennials such as rice, chilli plant, tea tree, rubber tree, faba bean, chickpea, and grape vine.

I worked as a mentor/casual lecturer in the Wirltu Yarlu Aboriginal Education program, at the University of Adelaide and I am also interested in exploring the personalised learning and teaching platforms using bite-sized training and structured learning paths to improve both learners’ experience and teachers’ performance.  

My research areas of interest include:

  • Developing molecular markers and tools to identify the genetic regions that affect bacterial spot resistance in almond
  • Developing efficient assays for bacterial spot detection in almond
  • Quantifying protein component in almond kernels of the parental varieties in the Australian almond breeding program
  •  Exploring novel methods for targeting and eliminating the bitterness in almond kernels
  • Water use efficiency of almond
  • Tree architectural studies for almond cultivar characterisation
  • Value added products and extracting beneficial chemicals from almond by-products
  • Phenology traits and climatic effects on flowering in Prunus species
  • Appointments

    Date Position Institution name
    2021 - ongoing Postdoctoral Researcher University of Adelaide
    2017 - 2021 Research Officer University of Adelaide, Adelaide
    2017 - 2017 Research Assistant Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation- Australia (Waite Campus)
    2009 - 2013 Technical Officer University of Adelaide, Adelaide
    2003 - 2009 Research Assistant Tea Research Institute of Sri Lanka
    2003 - 2003 Teaching Assistant University of Peradeniya, Kandy
    2000 - 2001 Teaching Assistant University of Peradeniya, Kandy
  • Awards and Achievements

    Date Type Title Institution Name Country Amount
    2017 Award Dean’s Commendation for Doctoral Thesis Excellence University of Adelaide Australia -
    2016 Award Runner-up oral presentation, Workshop on Floral structure and Self-incompatibility International Society for Horticultural Science Spain -
    2015 Award Best presentation, 3-Minute Thesis competition School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, The University of Adelaide, Australia Australia -
    2013 Scholarship Australian Postgraduate Award University of Adelaide Australia -
    2007 Award Merit award for the Translation Centre for Policy Alternatives- Colombo, Sri Lanka Sri Lanka -
    2006 Award Gold medal for the best presentation Tenth Anniversary International Symposium, University of Sabaragamuwa, Sri Lanka Sri Lanka -
    2001 Scholarship Asian Development Bank Scholarship for Postgraduate Studies Asian Development Bank Sri Lanka -
  • Language Competencies

    Language Competency
    English Can read, write, speak, understand spoken and peer review
    Sinhala; Sinhalese Can read, write, speak, understand spoken and peer review
    Tamil Can read, write, speak and understand spoken
  • Education

    Date Institution name Country Title
    2013 - 2017 University of Adelaide Australia PhD
  • Research Interests

  • Journals

    Year Citation
    2023 Sideli, G. M., Mather, D., Wirthensohn, M., Dicenta, F., Goonetilleke, S. N., Martínez-García, P. J., & Gradziel, T. M. (2023). Genome-wide association analysis and validation with KASP markers for nut and shell traits in almond (Prunus dulcis [Mill.] D.A.Webb). Tree Genetics and Genomes, 19(2), 11 pages.
    2022 Roy, C. B., Goonetilleke, S. N., Joseph, L., Krishnan, A., Saha, T., Kilian, A., & Mather, D. E. (2022). Analysis of Genetic Diversity and Resistance to Foliar Pathogens Based on Genotyping-by-Sequencing of a Para Rubber Diversity Panel and Progeny of an Interspecific Cross. Plants, 11(24), 17 pages.
    DOI Scopus1
    2022 Blake, S. N., Lee, R. C., Russ, M. H., Farquharson, E. A., Rose, J. A., Herdina., . . . Davidson, J. A. (2022). Phenotypic and Genotypic Diversity of Ascochyta fabae Populations in Southern Australia. Frontiers in Plant Science, 13, 1-17.
    2021 Mares, D. J., Cheong, J., Goonetilleke, W., & Mather, D. E. (2021). Lipoxygenase in wheat: Genetic control and impact on stability of lutein and lutein esters. Foods, 10(5), 1149-1-1149-12.
    DOI Scopus6 WoS5 Europe PMC3
    2021 Schultz, C. J., Goonetilleke, S. N., Liang, J., Lahnstein, J., Levin, K. A., Bianco-Miotto, T., . . . Chalmers, K. J. (2021). Analysis of Genetic Diversity in the Traditional Chinese Medicine Plant ‘Kushen’ (Sophora flavescens Ait.). Frontiers in Plant Science, 12, 1-15.
    DOI Scopus2 WoS2
    2020 Goonetilleke, S. N., Croxford, A. E., March, T. J., Wirthensohn, M. G., Hrmova, M., & Mather, D. E. (2020). Variation among S-locus haplotypes and among stylar RNases in almond. Scientific Reports, 10(1), 583-1-583-15.
    DOI Scopus8 WoS6 Europe PMC2
    2018 Goonetilleke, S. N., March, T. J., Wirthensohn, M. G., Walker, A. R., & Mather, D. M. (2018). Genotyping-by-sequencing in almond: SNP discovery, linkage mapping and marker design.. G3 : Genes, Genomes, Genetics, 8(1), 161-172.
    DOI Scopus21 WoS20 Europe PMC9
    2009 Goonetilleke, W. A. S. N., Priyantha, P. G. C., Mewan, K. M., & Gunasekare, M. T. K. (2009). Assessment of genetic diversity of tea (Camellia sinensis L.O. Kuntze) as revealed by RAPD - PGR markers. Journal of the National Science Foundation of Sri Lanka, 37(2), 147-150.
    DOI Scopus6
    2008 Goonetilleke, W. N., Priynatha, P. G., & Mewan, K. M. (2008). An assessment of genetic relationships in VP teas and old seedling teas in Sri Lanka using RAPD Markers. Journal of Tea Science, 73(1), 39-48.
  • Book Chapters

    Year Citation
    2023 Goonetilleke, W. A. S., & Fernández, I. M. Á. (2023). Discovery of Quantitative Trait Loci for Nut and Quality Traits in Almond. In R. Sánchez-Pérez, Á. Fernández i Martí, & P. Martínez-Gómez (Eds.), The Almond Tree Genome (pp. 147-158). Cham, Switzerland: Springer.
    2023 Goonetilleke, W. A. S., Wirthensohn, M., Dodd, R., & Fernández, I. M. Á. (2023). Recent Advances on Self-incompatibility in Almond: A Glance at Genomic and Transcriptomic Levels. In R. Sánchez-Pérez, I. M. A. Fernandez, & P. Martinez-Gomez (Eds.), The Almond Tree Genome (pp. 87-109). Cham, Switzerland: Springer.
  • Conference Papers

    Year Citation
    2023 Goonetilleke, W. A. S., Bell, T., & Wirthensohn, M. (2023). High throughput DNA markers to detect bacterial spot tolerance in almond. In Acta Horticulturae. Davis, California: International Society for Horticultural Science.
    2021 Roy, B., Goonetilleke, W. A. S., & Limiya, J. (2021). Phylogenetic relationships and population structure in a diverse panel of Hevea germplasm using genome-wide markers. In Plantation Crop Symposium. Kochi, India.
    2019 Roy, B., Goonetilleke, W. A. S., Saha, T., Madhavan, J., & Mather, D. (2019). Development of high-throughput markers linked to the loci involved in disease resistance against major fungal pathogens causing leaf diseases of rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis). In National Symposium on Breeding for Biotic Stress Resistance in Potential Crops. Wellington, India.
    2019 Roy, B., Goonetilleke, W. A. S., Saha, T., Madhavan, J., & Mather, D. (2019). Accelerating MAS for disease resistance using SNP enabled Kompetitive Allele Specific PCR (KASP) markers in rubber. In Plantation Crops Symposium PLACROSYM XXIII. Karnataka, India.
    2019 Goonetilleke, W. A. S., & Wirthensohn, M. (2019). Genetics of almond. In TROPAG-International Tropical Agriculture Conference. Brisbane, Australia.
    2019 Goonetilleke, S. N., Croxford, A. E., Wirthensohn, M. G., March, T. J., & Mather, D. E. (2019). Molecular markers for high-throughput detection of a self-fertility (Sf) allele in almond. In E. Ortega Pastor, J. Halasz, & P. De Franceschi (Eds.), Acta Horticulturae. PROCEEDINGS OF THE II International Workshop on Floral Biology and S-Incompatibility in Fruit Species Vol. 1231 (pp. 143-150). Gent, Belgium: International Society for Horticultural Science.
    2017 Mather, D., Mares, D., Watkins, J., McQuinn, R., Binney, A., Goonetilleke, W. A. S., . . . Sharp, P. (2017). Colour and colour stability of wheat: a breeders’ toolkit of genes, germplasm and markers. In Australian Wheat Breeders Assembly. Sydney, Australia.
    2009 Ariyaratne, P. N., Mewan, K. M., Goonetilleke, W. N., & Priyantha, P. G. (2009). Study of genetic relationships of tea (Camellia sinensis (L.) O. Kuntze) using SSR markers and pedigree analysis. In Proceedings of 9th Agricultural Symposium, Wyamba University of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka.
    2006 Goonetilleke, W. N., Priyantha, P. G., Mewan, K. M., & Gunasekare, M. T. (2006). Assessment of genetic diversity in Sri Lankan tea (Camellia sinensis (L.) O. Kuntze) as revealed by RAPD-PCR markers. In enth Anniversary International Symposium, University of Sabaragamuwa. Sabaragamuwa, Sri Lanka.
  • Conference Items

    Year Citation
    2023 Goonetilleke, W. A. S., & Roy, B. (2023). Analysis of genetic diversity and identification of genome-wide markers associated with foliar disease resistance in Para rubber (Hevea brasiliensis). Poster session presented at the meeting of Genomics India Conference. Bangalore, India.
    2017 Goonetilleke, W. A. S., Croxford, A., March, T., Wirthensohn, M., & Mather, D. (2017). Next -generation sequencing reveals new sequence variation in the almond S -locus. Poster session presented at the meeting of VII International Symposium on Almond and Pistachio. Adelaide, Australia.
  • 2014: Shashi Goonetilleke and Diane Mather: Resequencing the self-incompatibility locus (S locus) of almond, MiSeq Pilot the Possibilities Program, IIlumina, Australia: (AUD 35,000)

  • 2020/2021: Shashi Goonetilleke and Michelle Wirthensohn: Investigating protein content in Australian almonds, Waite Research Institute, (AUD 4,206)

  • 2022/2023: Michelle Wirthensohn and Shashi Goonetilleke: Investigating protein content in the almond germplasm collection at Waite campus, Charlick Endowment Fund, The University of Adelaide, (AUD 46,000)

  • 2023: Mortlock AFW Honours Scholarship for EMCR Led Honours Research Projects (AUD 8,000) 

  • 2023: France and Europe Mobility Grant: Australian Academy of Science (AUD 7,000)

I started my teaching career at the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, where I coordinated and taught Genetics and Plant breeding, Entomology and Plant Pathology courses for undergraduate students as a teaching assistant. After moving to Australia, I joined as a demonstrator in Plant breeding practical course. During 2013/2017, I worked as a teaching assistant in GetintoGene program. I assist in conducting almond breeding practical sessions for undergraduate Plant breeding students.

Teaching Assistant (2023) Horticultural Production and Quality III

Casual Mentor and Lecturer: University Culture, Genetics IIA, Histology

  • Current Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2023 Principal Supervisor Breeder-ready genetic tools for improved almond with bacterial spot resistance Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mrs Virajinee Nayanathara Don Bulathsinhalage
  • Other Supervision Activities

    Date Role Research Topic Location Program Supervision Type Student Load Student Name
    2022 - ongoing Principal Supervisor Bacterial spot in almond The University of Adelaide Plant Science Honours Full Time Talisha Bell
    2021 - 2022 Other Improved laboratory examination tools to determine true causal agents for accurate diagnosis of bacterial spot in almond The University of Adelaide Undergraduate Plant breeding Other - Ethan Dight
    2017 - 2018 Other Genetic map construction in Hevea brasiliensis The University of Adelaide - Other - Bindu Roy
    2016 - 2016 Other Almond nut characterisation: chemical profiling The University of Adelaide University of Castilla-La Mancha, Spain- Research intern Other - Adrian Rabadan Guerra
  • Memberships

    Date Role Membership Country
    2014 - 2016 Board Member Postgraduate Association for Waite Students, School of Agriculture, Food & Wine, Waite Campus, University of Adelaide Australia
    2014 - ongoing Member International Society for Horticultural Science -
  • Position: Postdoctoral Researcher
  • Phone: 83135647
  • Email:
  • Campus: Waite
  • Building: Plant Research Centre, floor 1
  • Org Unit: School of Agriculture, Food and Wine

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