Jr. Faculty Focus: Leann Kanda

Assistant professor Leann Kanda has been in the Department of Biology at IC since fall 2007. She received her doctorate from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Her research focus is on the movement ecology of mammals.

What do you enjoy most about Ithaca College students?
Engagement—particularly in the upperclassmen I have worked with who really care both about what they are doing in the classroom and how that relates to and can have an impact on the world.

Tell us about your experience at IC so far.
On the whole, I’ve had a very good IC experience. My department is filled with wonderful people who care so much about teaching, are amazing researchers, and are so supportive! (When I came to interview, I left wondering, “Is interviewing supposed to be this fun?”) The strong community extends to our relations with our students. Particularly with research and upper-level classes, I am really getting to know my students individually. The personal connection makes teaching both more effective and more rewarding. Just a few minutes ago, I had one of my students come seek me out just to say goodbye for the summer!

What is your teaching philosophy and how do you bring it into the classroom?
I see the world as a vast intertwined network—if you tug a little on one strand, you’ll find it causes vibrations throughout the rest. I love to show students how humans, our society, and our history fit into the larger natural world. I try to work through concrete examples—how a parasitic fungus led to witch trials or why dams on rivers cause so much disruption to salmon populations. Especially in field classes, I try to couple the joy of discovery with a disciplined scientific framework.

Tell us about a research project you are working on or have worked on in the past with students.
In the summer, we track muskrat in the field to see if the way juveniles explore their environment correlates to how they disperse to their own breeding ranges. This year we are also going to try to track the muskrat’s predator, the mink, to look at the influence each has on the behavior of the other. I also have a captive dwarf hamster colony in which we are examining individual personalities and their heritability. I’m really a field person, but the hamsters are taking over my life.

Leann Kanda