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  • Writer's pictureVedant Parikh

Lab Notes on: Dr. Leann Kanda

Updated: Aug 11, 2023

Gabrielle Alli's notes on Dr. Leann Kanda, a biology professor at Ithaca College


Dr. Leann Kanda is an associate professor of biology at Ithaca College. Her interest in nature and science has been well-established since childhood and was further encouraged by her parents at a young age. Dr. Kanda attended taxidermy classes taught by a museum mammal curator at the Natural Museum of History as a child. In high school, she went on to assist this same curator in morphological research using museum collections. She attended Dartmouth College as an undergraduate and earned a dual BA in biology (ecology and evolution) and religion. She then earned both an MS and PhD in organismic and evolutionary biology at University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Since her expertise is in ecology, much of Dr. Kanda’s research requires observations of wild animals through field-based research. Advanced technology helps her team to accomplish this. For example, Dr. Kanda was able to record survival rates of salamanders during their spring migration through the use of microchips and a high-tech datalogger. Another study on the personalities of wild deer utilized video-enabled trail cameras. These recorded the reactions of deer in different regions when encountering unusual stimuli— a plastic flamingo. However, advanced technology is not effective without proper methodology. Dr. Kanda’s team must be careful about the timing and spacing of equipment in order to minimize errors in the experimental process. Additionally, equipment must be carefully monitored and moved to make sure a full range of subjects are represented in a study.

Dr. Kanda also runs laboratory-based research. She maintains a colony of Siberian dwarf hamsters in her lab and finds various standardized tests to perform with them. These are used to evaluate movements and behavior adjustments in response to environmental changes. One example is a tunnel maze, which is a long traversable zig-zag for hamsters, made of plastic boxes. Paired with video cameras, Dr. Kanda and her team can rewind footage to make in-depth observations about the hamsters involved in the study. Combined with plentiful resources now at the lab’s disposal, Dr. Kanda will finally be able to investigate one of her long-standing research questions: do animals that develop more active personalities as adults disperse from the nest differently from their less-active siblings?

Dr. Kanda strives to make significant findings on what impacts animal movement, and the human role in this. Although Dr. Kanda loves data analysis and hands-on experience in the research process, she does not believe they are the paramount components of what she does. Rather, Dr. Kanda values the ways in which she is able to inspire the scientific community. She has found that academia is the place for her and enjoys engaging her undergraduate students in her research, furthering their passion for the sciences. Her career has also taught her to value three simple things: persistence, curiosity, and love, since “everything else can be learned.”

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