Research Opportunities: academic year

Kanda: Research in Biology

Leann Kanda 


My work is in mammalian behavioral ecology and population dynamics.  My main fieldwork is on spatial ecology, that is, how and why animals use their space and move from one space to another.  While my experience is in mammals, I am also interested in movement ecology of other organisms, particularly dispersal at the edge of species’ ranges and migratory movements, and how these movements influence the population dynamics and distributions of the species.  Student interests will help drive what research facets I emphasize.  Please note that in many cases, fieldwork on mammals in Ithaca cannot begin each year until late spring (April or May), so it may not be appropriate for spring-term 302 research. 


Personality in dwarf hamsters

            As a complement to examining space use in wild animals, I keep a captive group of dwarf hamsters for behavioral tests in the laboratory.  One theory linking social and movement behaviors is referred to as the “proactive” or “boldness” syndrome.  It suggests that individuals who tend to be socially dominant are also more “bold” in the face of predation risk and more willing to explore novel areas.  We will be testing to see if these three behaviors do correlate across individuals.  We will test individuals at different times in their lives to see if they are consistent (is a bold animal at weaning still bold when it is an adult?).  By breeding individuals based upon their exploratory behavior, we will be looking for heritability in the behaviors.  Opportunities on this project will include scoring and analyzing variability among individual’s behaviors, testing individual repeatability of behaviors, and designing and implementing a test for dispersal behavior.

Effects of recreation trails on wildlife movement

            One major influence on the movement of wildlife is the presence of humans and human features on the landscape.  At large scales, roads have been documented to have a significant impact on the movement of animals: some species will use the roads as movement corridors, while others find it a barrier.  I am examining this at a smaller scale, to see if even human recreation trails without vehicle traffic influence wildlife movement.  We have been comparing different trail substrates (gravel, dirt) at the same path width, and I intend to expand to consider effect of other substrates and other path widths.  Large animal activity is monitored using remote cameras, and we have used mark-recapture to look at the effects on wild mice.

Amphibian migration: conservation and population monitoring

            Every spring, many amphibian species migrate from their wintering habitat in the forest downhill to wetlands for breeding.  Local roads now cross paths with the amphibians' journey, and many animals get hit on the road.  In a long-term conservation and population monitoring effort, we census the population while helping the animals across the road.  We tag and remotely monitor for spotted salamanders in a mark-recapture study that may permit us to see the survivorship as well as population size of this normally long-lived species.

ICNL deer density and impacts

            The ecological impact of deer in the Northeast is of serious management concern.  In order to understand where, when, and how deer are impacting the vegetation on Ithaca College Natural Lands, we are combining a experimental exposure of oak seedlings with remote camera data.  We are trying to index where the deer are most densely located at different times of year, and link that to the extent of browse in experimental plots.  This can also be linked to a broader examination of vegetation structure and herbivory damage in these areas.


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