Environmental Studies

  • Matthew Leslie

Matthew S. Leslie

““I am drawn to the wild not because it is wild, but because it is sensible, logical, ordered, stable, resilient. Wild nature is everything we’re struggling to regain.” Carl Safina

Dr. Matthew S. Leslie Ph.D., is an Adjunct Professor in the Environmental Studies Department at Ursinus College. He is also a Science and Technology Policy Fellow with the American Association for the Advancement of Science where he serves as an International Climate and Biodiversity Policy Fellow with the National Climate Adaptation Science Center within the U.S. Geological Survey. Leslie’s scientific research includes conservation-driven studies of marine mammals. Specifically, Matt employs a unique combination of fieldwork, genomics, natural history specimen-based inquiry, and aerial photography via unoccupied aerial systems (AKA drones) to uncover natural patterns and processes of evolution, ecology, and population biology. The ultimate goal of his work is to provide information for targeted actions that conserve and recover marine mammals.

Prior to joining the faculty at Ursinus, Leslie was Visiting Professor of Conservation Biology at Swarthmore College for three years. Before that, he spent two years at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History and National Zoological Park as a Secretary’s Distinguished Postdoctoral Research Fellow and a Secretary G. Wayne Clough Postdoctoral Fellow.

He received a Ph.D. in Marine Biology from Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) in affiliation with the Marine Mammal and Turtle Division at NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center. Matt also earned a M.S. in Biological Oceanography from SIO. Prior to graduate school at SIO, Matt was the Manager of the Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, and managed the Conservation Genetics program for the Wildlife Conservation Society. He received a B.S. degree in Zoology and Wildlife Ecology and Management from Oklahoma State University.

Leslie has conducted field expeditions in Madagascar, Cambodia, the Western Hawaiian Islands, Chilean Patagonia, the Bahamas, the Gulf of Mexico, Australia, and South Georgia Island. Matt has also served as an invited participant and rapporteur to the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission. He has received research funding from the Sussman Foundation, UC-Mexus, the American Museum of Natural History, National Science Foundation IGERT, National Science Foundation GRF, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center, and the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission, among others.

Matt also greatly enjoys teaching and informal public science communication. He is originally from Oklahoma, and he now lives in Pennsylvania.


Environmental Studies


Ph.D. Scripps Institution of Oceanography

M.S. Scripps Institution of Oceanography

B.S. Oklahoma State University


  • ENV 272, Marine Mammal Conservation and Management
  • ENV 360 Conserving Biological Diversity

Recent Work

Cove MV, … LESLIE MS, Nasrallah SL*, et al. 2021. SNAPSHOT USA 2019: the first
coordinated national camera trap survey of the United States. Ecology.

Andrews KR, Epstein B, LESLIE MS, Fiedler P, Morin PA, Hoelzel AR. 2021. Genomic signatures of divergent selection are associated with social behavior for spinner dolphin ecotypes. Molecular Ecology. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdfdirect/10.1111/mec.15865

LESLIE MS, Perkins-Taylor CM*, Durban JW, Moore MJ, Brahamonde P, Chiang G,
Chanarat P*, Miller CA, Apprill A. 2020. Body size data collected non-invasively from drone images indicate morphologically distinct Chilean blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus Linnaeus 1758). Endangered Species Research. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr01066

Jackson JA, Kennedy A, Moore M, Andriolo A, Bamford C, Calderan S, Cheeseman T, Gittins G, Groch K, Kelly N, Leaper R, LESLIE MS et al. 2020. Whales return to the epicentre of whaling? Status of the southern right whale (Eubalaena australis) at South Georgia. Endangered Species Research. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr01072.

Appril A, Miller C, Van Cise AM, J Uren, LESLIE MS, Weber L, Baird R, Robins J, Landry S, Waring G. 2020. Marine mammal skin microbiomes are influenced by host phylogeny. Royal Society Open Science. https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/pdf/10.1098/rsos.192046

Carroll EL, Ott PH, McMillan LF, Vernazzani BG, Neveceralova P, Vermeulen E, Gaggiotti OE, Andriolo A, Baker CS, Bamford C, Best P, Cabrera E, Calderan S, Chirife A, Fewster RM, Flores PAC, Frasier T, Freitas TRO, Groch K, Hulva P, Kennedy A, Leaper R, LESLIE MS, Moore M, Oliveira L, Seger J, Stepien EN, Valenzuela LO, White B, Zerbini A, Jackson JA. 2020 [COVER]. Genetic diversity and connectivity of southern right whales (Eubalaena australis) found in the Chile-Peru wintering ground and South Georgia/Islas Georgias del Sur
feeding ground. Journal of Heredity. https://doi.org/10.1093/jhered/esaa010