Western University BiologyWestern Science

Liana Zanette, PhD

Wildlife Population, Conservation, and Behavioural Ecology

Liana Zanette Position:

Professor & Faculty Scholar
Collip 207
office: (519) 661-2111 x 88317
lab: (519) 661-2111 x 88316
519 661-3935

My lab’s research focuses on the many dimensions of predator-induced fear, from population- and ecosystem-level consequences, to impacts on health and development, in addition to behaviour, physiology, and gene expression in the brain. A "paradigm shift in ecology" is occurring concerning the preeminent role of predators in affecting everything from ecosystem dynamics to global biodiversity and possibly even human mental health. My lab is at the forefront of this paradigm shift.  We have demonstrated that fear itself is powerful enough to reduce the birth and survival rates of songbird prey (Science 2011 334:1398).  Focussing on raccoons, we have shown that the fear of large carnivores has reverberating effects down every tier of the food chain thereby affecting community structure and biodiversity (Nature Communications 2016 7:10698).  My students and I are now quantifying the total impact of fear on prey population dynamics, by testing if juveniles and adults may ‘die of fright’, using song sparrows as our model prey. In other studies, we are testing whether fear can affect populations of deermice, deer, cougars, and European badgers.  Fear favours escape vs. endurance and so may reduce migratory flight ability in birds, which may in turn have adverse “carry-over” effects on reproduction. We are uniquely able to test this thanks to the existence at Western of both a one-of-a-kind wind tunnel and native bird facility which consists of large outdoor aviaries that provide semi-natural conditions. Predator-induced fear has become one of the most common stressors used in lab animal studies of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), prompting some biomedical researchers to propose that PTSD evolved as a response to predators. To help validate this we are testing for the same lasting effects of fear on neural circuitry in wild birds and mammals, both in captivity and in the field.

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Recent Publications