Peter Zani, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Biology
Curator of Amphibians and Reptiles, UWSP Museum of Natural History

Office: TNR 444
Phone: (715) 346-2237
Fax: (715) 346-3624


Ph.D. Biology, Comparative Functional Morphology of Lizard Claws. University of Oregon. (1999)
M.S. Zoology, Comparative Functional Morphology of Lizard Locomotion. University of Oklahoma. (1995)
B.A. Zoology, Turtle Overwintering Physiology. Miami University (1991)



Bio 160 - Introduction to Animal Biology
Bio 311/511 - Principles of Evolution
Bio 376/576 - Herpetology
Bio 490 - Seminar:Climate Change Biology


Professional Affiliations



  • Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB). Life Member
  • Society for the Study of Evolution (SSE).
  • Ecological Society of America (ESA).
  • Sigma Xi
  • Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles (SSAR).
  • American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists (ASIH).
  • Herpetologists' League (HL).


I grew up in eastern Ohio catching frogs, toads, salamanders, and turtles.  I used to keep turtles during the summer as pets and was fascinated with herptiles of all kinds.  I went to college knowing I wanted to do research on reptiles and have essentially done that for the past 25 years of my life. In grad school I spent time as a research assistant for a pair of professors who were inventorying the reptiles and amphibians of the Amazon and so traveled with them to Brazil, Ecuador, and Nicaragua. Since them I've become more interested in the temperate zone and understanding how animals cope with extremely seasonal environments, especially winter.  My research tends to focus on the implications of climate limitations and how a changing climate might alter those limitations for individuals, populations, and species. My approach combines field work, mostly on side-blotched lizards in the high desert of eastern Oregon, semi-controlled outdoor mesocosm experiments of enclosed cohorts of lizards, and controlled-environment laboratory experiments here at UWSP. Thus, I am attempting to integrate what happens mechanistically at the physiological level to what happens in nature. As such students in my lab come at problems from the point of view of organismal physiology, ecology, evolution, and behavior.

Publications from Ongoing Research  (* = undergraduate author)

Smith, G., Zani, P.A. and S.S. French. 2019. Life-history differences across latitude in common side-blotched lizards (Uta stansburiana). Ecology and Evolution 9:5743-5751.

Zani, P.A. and S.J. Stein*. 2018. Field and laboratory responses to drought by common side-blotched lizards (Uta stansburiana). Journal of Arid Environments 154:15-23.

Wagner, E.A.* and P.A. Zani. 2017. Escape behavior of side-blotched lizards in response to model predators. Canadian Journal of Zoology 95:965-973.

Michels-Boyce, M.*, and P. A. Zani. 2015. Lack of supercooling evolution related to winter severity in a lizard. Journal of Thermal Biology 53: 72-79.

Bula, P.A.*, L.K. Wright*, and P. A. Zani. 2014. Geographic variation in hind-limb morphology in relation to predation: no evidence for an evolutionary basis. Evolutionary Ecology Research 16: 663-687.

Zani, P.A., J.L. Tillman*, and K.M. Scoular*. 2013. Geographic variation of movement and display behavior of side-blotched lizards (Uta stansburiana) related to predation environment. Journal of Herpetology 47: 85-92.

Zani, P.A., J. Irwin, M.E. Rollyson*, J.L. Counihan*, S. Healas*, E. Lloyd*, L. Kojanis*, B. Fried, & J. Sherma. 2012. Experimental investigation into the causes of overwintering mortality in ectotherms with discussion of implications for changing climates. Journal of Experimental Biology 215: 3126-3134.

Clarke, D.N.* & P.A. Zani. 2012. The effects of nighttime temperature on ovarian cycle and egg incubation of side-blotched lizards, Uta stansburiana: implications for changing climates. Journal of Experimental Biology 215: 1117-1127.

Scoular, K.M.*, W. Caffry*, J.L. Tillman*, E.S. Finan*, S.K. Schwartz*, B. Sinervo, & P.A. Zani. 2011. Multi-year home-range ecology of common side-blotched lizards in eastern Oregon with additional analysis of geographic variation in home-range size. Herpetological Monographs 25: 52-75.

Zani, P.A. & M.E. Rollyson*. 2011. The effects of climate modes on growing-season length and timing of reproduction in the Pacific Northwest as revealed by biophysical modeling of lizards. American Midland Naturalist 165:372-388.

Zani, P.A., T.D. Jones*, R.A. Neuhaus*, & J.E. Milgrom*. 2009. Effects of refuge distance on escape behavior of side-blotched lizards (Uta stansburiana). Canadian Journal of Zoology 87:407-414.

Zani, P.A. 2008. Climate-change trade-offs in the side-blotched lizard (Uta stansburiana): effects of growing-season length and mild temperature on winter survival. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 81:797-809.

Zani, P.A., R.A. Neuhaus*, T.D. Jones*, & J.E. Milgrom*. 2008. Effects of reproductive burden on endurance performance in side-blotched lizards (Uta stansburiana). Journal of Herpetology 42:76-81. Featured in “Outside JEB”, Journal of Experimental Biology 211:iv.

Zani, P.A. 2005. Life-history strategies near the limits of persistence: winter survivorship and spring reproduction in the side-blotched lizard, Uta stansburiana, in eastern Oregon. Journal of Herpetology 39:166-169.



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