My students and I use emerging technology, field research, morphology, modern genomics, and natural history collections to characterize marine mammal diversity and answer questions for conservation management decisions. Some of the questions we ask include: 1) How many species and populations of marine mammals are there? (delimitation), 2) How did species and population separate? (evolution), and 3) What threats are facing these species (conservation)? We also analyze science-policy interactions and public perspectives to improve our ability to conserve nature.
Our lab combines ocean-going research, natural history collections-based work, and cutting-edge technologies to advance our understanding of marine mammals. Specifically, our goal is to test hypotheses of the evolutionary relationships and population structure of marine mammals using morphological and genomic data. Morphological data are collected from museum specimens and remote drone photogrammetry of live animals, and genomic data are collected using field sampling and DNA sequencing. In addition, we use field studies to investigate the ecology and behavior of marine mammals.
We also actively examine the human dimensions of conservation to develop a truer understanding of how science impacts decision-making for biodiversity conservation (and vice versa). Specifically, research on human dimensions of conservation focuses on the science-policy nexus, international biodiversity diplomacy, human perspectives on biodiversity, structured decision-making, and climate adaption.
B.S. Zoology and Wildlife Management – Oklahoma State University
M.S. Biological Oceanography – Scripps Institutions of Oceanography (UC San Diego)
Ph.D. Marine Biology – Scripps Institutions of Oceanography (UC San Diego)
BIO-101 – Ecology and Evolution
BIO-455W – Conservation Biology
BIO-305 – Human Anatomy and Functional Morphology
Leslie MS, Kant L*, Perkins-Taylor C*, Van Bressem MF, Minton G, MacDonald D, Christiansen F, Willson MS, Collins T, Baldwin R, Al Harthi S. 2023. Remote and non‑invasive quantification of ‘Tattoo Skin Disease‑Like’ dermatopathy in endangered Arabian Sea humpback whales using drone photography. Mammalian Biology. https://rdcu.be/c3pb0
Xu, J.*, Liu Z.*, & Leslie, MS. A Comparative Analysis of US and Japanese News Reports on Whaling Suggests Strategies to Improve Bilateral Communication on Commercial Whaling in Japan. 2022. Journal of International Wildlife Law & Policy. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13880292.2022.2146847?src=
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. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr01066