Research Opportunities: academic year

Kanda: Research in Biology Spring

Leann Kanda   Section 08


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 am establishing 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.

Captive and wild behaviors in chipmunks  (summer and fall only) 

            Recent personality work in wild animals suggests that variation among individuals sometimes is consistent across contexts (say boldness in foraging vs boldness in novel areas) but sometimes is not.  If we use captive assays to evaluate individual behavior, does that assay reflect differences in animal everyday behavior?  We are capturing wild chipmunks, testing them in captive behavior assays, and then radio-tracking them to identify the activity budgets and space use of the animals in the wild.

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 past the road.  Last year we piloted marking spotted salamanders to begin a mark-recapture study that may permit us to see the survivorship as well as population size of this normally long-lived species.

South Hill animal census, including the new wetlands

            The new Raponi and Rich Rd wetlands and the new Chestnut Restoration areas provide long-term ecological experiments.  As these areas mature, we hope to document any changes in wildlife use of the area, including amphibians and small mammals.  Across South Hill, a gradient of human presence allows us to examine the local abundance (for smaller mammals) or local movement patterns (for larger mammals) at this human-wildlife interface.



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