Dave Zanatta
Department of Biology
Institute for Great Lakes Research
Conservation Biology, Molecular Ecology, Evolution, Aquatic Systems
Biosciences 2408

Dr. Zanatta is a professor of Biology at Central Michigan University


  • B.Sc., Laurentian University, 1998
  • M.Sc., University of Guelph, 2001
  • Ph.D., University of Toronto, 2008
  • Postdoc., Trent University, 2007-2008

Teaching Areas

  • Conservation Biology
  • Ecology
  • Evolution
  • Invertebrate Biology

Research Fields

Molecular Ecology and Conservation Biology in Aquatic Systems

Current Research Projects

My lab’s research focuses on evolutionary and ecological questions in aquatic systems. Unfortunately, many of our aquatic systems are degraded to the point that this research has major implications for conservation. We primarily study freshwater mollusks in the Great Lakes region. Freshwater mollusks are among the most imperiled groups of organisms on Earth. Our research involves going into the field, jumping into lakes and rivers and counting mollusks while taking tissue samples. We then bring the field-collected tissues back to the lab to do genetic analyses and ultimately statistical analyses to understand how populations and species relate to each other. This is especially important for conservation because if we don’t know and understand the species and populations that we’re working on, we can’t easily manage or protect them.

Ongoing (funded) projects in my lab include:
  • Genetic population structure of native freshwater mollusks in the Great Lakes region
  • Conservation of native freshwater mussels in nearshore and coastal zones of the Great Lakes
  • Host fish identification and propagation of at-risk freshwater mussels


  • Sun, T-T., X. Liu, C. Zhou, H. Ding, W. Yang, D.T. Zanatta, S. Ouyang, X-P. Wu. In press. Microsatellite analysis of genetic diversity and genetic structure of the Chinese freshwater mussel Solenaia carinata (Bivalvia: Unionidae). Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems
  • Mathias, P.T., J.R. Hoffman, C.C. Wilson, and D.T. Zanatta. In press. Signature of postglacial colonization on contemporary genetic structure and diversity of Quadrula quadrula (Bivalvia: Unionidae). Hydrobiologia - Online Early. 
  • Hewitt, T.L. J.L. Bergner, D.A. Woolnough, and D.T. Zanatta. In press. Phylogeography of the freshwater mussel species Lasmigona costata: Testing post-glacial colonization hypotheses. Hydrobiologia - Online Early.
  • Casenave, K.R. and D.T. Zanatta. 2016. Environmental drivers of shell shape in a freshwater gastropod from small and large lakes. Freshwater Science 35(3): 948–957. 
  • Caldwell, M.L., D.T. Zanatta, and D.A. Woolnough. 2016. A multi-basin approach determines variability in host fish suitability for unionids in tributaries of the Laurentian Great Lakes. Freshwater Biology 61: 1035–1048. 
  • Paterson, W.L., T.A. Griffith, L.E. Burlakova, R.W. Krebs, and D.T. Zanatta. 2015. An evaluation of the genetic structure of mapleleaf mussels (Quadrula quadrula) in the Lake Erie watershed. Journal of Great Lakes Research 41(4): 1123-1130.
  • Galbraith, H.S., D.T. Zanatta, and C.C. Wilson. 2015. Comparative analysis of riverscape genetic structure in rare, threatened and common freshwater mussels. Conservation Genetics 16: 845-857. 
  • Krebs, R.A., B.D. Allen, N.M. Evans, and D.T. ZanattaPyganodon grandis (Bivalvia: Unionidae) from the Lake Erie watershed and selected locations in its northern distribution.  American Malacological Bulletin 33(1): 34-42.
  • Zanatta, D.T., J. Bossenbroek, L. Burlakova, T. Crail, F. de Szalay, T.A. Griffith, D. Kapusinski, A Karateyev, R.A. Krebs, E.S. Meyer, W.L. Paterson, T.J. Prescott, M.T. Rowe, D. Schloesser, and M.C. Walsh. 2015. Distribution of native mussel (Unionidae) assemblages in coastal Lake Erie, Lake St. Clair, and connecting channels, twenty-five years after the dreissenid invasion. Northeastern Naturalist 22(1): 223-235.
  • Rowe, M.T. and D.T. Zanatta. 2015. Investigating the genetic variation and structure of a native unionid mussel in the Laurentian Great Lakes following an invasion of dreissenid mussels.  Biological Invasions 17: 351-364.
  • Burlakova, L.E., B.L. Tulumello, A.Y. Karatayev, R.A. Krebs, D.W. Schloesser, W.L. Paterson, T.A. Griffith, M.W. Scott, T.D. Crail, and D.T. Zanatta. 2014. Competitive replacement of invasive congeners may relax impact on native species: interactions among zebra, quagga, and native unionid mussels. PLoS ONE 9(12): e114926.
  • Scott, M.W., M.T. Begley, R.A. Krebs, and D.T. Zanatta. 2014. Mitochondrial DNA variation in the Eastern Pondmussel, Ligumia nasuta (Bivalvia: Unionoida), in the Great Lakes region. Walkerana 17(2): 60-67.
  • Lucy, F., L.E. Burlakova, A. Karatayev, S. Mastitsky, and D.T. Zanatta. 2014. Zebra mussel impacts on unionids: A synthesis of trends in North America and Europe. Pp. 623-646 in "Quagga and Zebra Mussels: Biology, Impact, and Control, 2nd Edition" Edited by T.F. Nalepa & D.W. Schloesser. CRC Press, Boca Raton FL.