Sarah Donelan

Postdoctoral Researcher

My current focus lies at the intersection of evolutionary biology and ecology. I am interested in how a well-studied phenomenon–predation risk– operates through time to impact multiple generations of prey.

Research done by our lab has greatly contributed to our understanding of how predators influence prey. Predators not only consume, but also scare their prey, and this can have widespread impacts on prey behavior and fitness, community composition, and ecosystem function. My thesis examined how parental experience with predation risk can impact the response of offspring to risk. Parental effects have been shown to buffer offspring from various environmental stressors in many natural systems. It may be adaptive for parents of prey to prepare their offspring for risk exposure if risk cues are predictable. I use a well-studied tritrophic food chain with the invasive green crab, Carcinus maenas, as the predator, the snail Nucella lapillus as prey, and mussels and barnacles as a basal resource for Nucella to examine these questions.

I am also interested in how refuge quality impacts the response of prey to predation risk. The foraging/predation-risk tradeoff predicts that prey will retreat to the safety of refuges when confronted with risk. Because of this, competition for resources in refuges can be steep, and refuge availability can actually increase the strength of nonconsumptive effects in natural systems. We are examining how resource availability in refuges might alter the strength of nonconsumptive effects.


Donelan, S.C., J.H. Grabowski, and G.C. Trussell. 2017. Refuge quality impacts the strength of nonconsumptive effects on prey. Ecology 98:403-411.

Matassa, C.M., S.C. Donelan, B. Luttbeg, and G.C. Trussell. 2016. Resource levels and prey state influence antipredator behavior and the strength of nonconsumptive predator effects. Oikos 125: 1478-1488.

Donelan, S.C., and G.C. Trussell. 2015. Parental effects enhance risk tolerance and performance in offspring. Ecology 96:2049-2055.

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Nucella parents mating and laying egg capsules in the lab

Nucella parents mating and laying egg capsules in the lab