a woman smiles at the camera

Leann Kanda

Associate Professor, Biology
Phone: 607-274-3986
Office: Center for Natural Sciences 159, Ithaca, NY 14850
Specialty: Animal Ecology

About Me


  • BA, Dartmouth College, Dual: Biology (Ecology and Evolution) and Religion
  • MS, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Organismic and Evolutionary Biology
  • PhD, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Organismic and Evolutionary Biology

Research Interests

I am a behavioural and population ecologist with a background in mammalian behaviour and population dynamics.  My driving interest is understanding the choices made at the individual animal level to explain where they are found on the landscape.

A fascinating component to this is the personality of the animal itself.  I look at mammalian temperament both in the lab and in the field.  In the lab, we can test animals over and over again, which helps us examine the development of behavioral tendencies, the plasticity of these behaviors, and how different temperaments may correlate with one another in the population (a phenomenon called a behavioral syndrome).  Using the Siberian dwarf hamster as a model, we ask questions like, "Are socially dominant animals also the ones more likely to explore a novel environment?" and "Does maternal stress during pregnancy change the personality of the offspring, and if so is it permanent?"  In the field, we have a project to see if wildlife, mostly deer, react differently to novel objects depending upon whether the animals live in small urban fragments or more remote forest habitat.  We capture the behavior with video trail-cameras.  Watch for random plastic flamingos (our novel object) in the woods!

I also examine fine-scale habitat use and population dynamics of wildlife in relation to human landscape features.  I have a long-term project monitoring Ambystoma salamanders at a major migration road crossing in the area.  Using RFID (microchipping) technology and automated readers in the field, we track the appearance of salamanders at the road each spring as they move to and from their breeding area.  The research aims to better understand the timing and success rate of individuals crossing the road; over the long term this will enable monitoring the salamander survival rate and evaluating whether the population is affected by road traffic. We hope it will inform developing approaches to help ensure wetlands near roads provide high quality habitat to the amphibians who use them.

With the pandemic, we have a natural experiment on wildlife use of human landscapes.  The developed infrastructure has not changed, but our campus has had much less human activity this fall than ever before.  We are using field cameras to document wildlife on and off the built campus.  We expect that wildlife may show increased activity within the campus grounds, particularly during daylight hours.

Student Research in my Lab

 If you interested in conducting research in my lab see details below: