the leslie lab
firstname.lastname@example.org | email@example.com | @okiewhaler
firstname.lastname@example.org | email@example.com | @okiewhaler
My students and I use emerging technology, natural history collections, field research, and genetics to describe patterns and processes in marine and terrestrial mammal diversity for conservation management decisions. I also strive to inspire others to fall in love with (and conserve) Earth's wildlife and wild places. I am currently a Visiting Assistant Professor at Swarthmore College, where I teach Conservation Biology, Evolution, and Mammalogy, and conduct local and international research. Learn more about my teaching here and see my research publications here. For my full CV click here. Thanks for visiting!
Swarthmore COllege Senior
Swarthmore COllege Senior
Swarthmore College students Sophie Nasrallah, Colin Perkins-Taylor, and Jihye Yoon attended the ASM meeting in DC. Sophie and Colin presented posters on their work on in my lab!!
Sophie presented our preliminary results examining the impacts of human land use on mammal fauna (both spatially and temporally) using camera trap data collected in the Crum Woods. Way to go Sophie!
Colin presented a poster at ASM on blue whale research he and I are currently writing up for submission. We used drones to measure Chilean blue whales and compare these measurements to whaling records to determine if the Chilean group is unique. Great Work Colin!!
This paper is the compliment to my 2016 paper using nuclear DNA SNPs to infer population structure of spinner and spotted dolphins in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean (ETP). We sequenced DNA from the entire length of the mitochondria genome to complete our understanding of the subspecific structure in these ETP dolphins. Sadly, these dolphins are still trying to claw their way back from massive reductions in abundance due to bycatch in the tuna fishery (i.e., they’re the reason we have “dolphin-safe” tuna). It’s really important to know how the dolphin populations are naturally structured genetically in order to protect them in the most effective and efficient way possible.
HERE IS THE LINK TO THE PAPER: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/mms.12545
And here is a great write-up from Smithsonian Insider: https://insider.si.edu/2018/05/some-dolphins-cross-the-pacific-more-easily-than-others-why-that-matters-for-protecting-them/
Heading out next week to join the first-ever study of Southern Right Whales on their feeding grounds near South Georgia Island. Learn more about our objectives and follow along with our BLOG here: https://best-whaleswim.eu/blog/ I'll be the Pilot in Command for the drone operations to collect aerial photographs for quantifying body condition and 'blow' samples for microbiome analysis. This study is lead by Dr. Jen Jackson at the British Antarctic Survey. Our home away from home is the Song of the Whale - a state of the art research sailboat! See photo below. Read more about the study here: https://www.bas.ac.uk/media-post/expedition-to-health-check-southern-right-whales/
September 2017: Earlier this month, I was awarded the Secretary's Distinguished Research Fellowship to continue my investigations of the balaenopterid family tree. I'm excited for the opportunity to uncover more secrets of whale evolution with this prestigious opportunity.
You can Learn more about the Fellowship here: https://www.smithsonianofi.com/fellowship-opportunities/secretarys-distinguished-research-fellowship/
PUBLISHED: Special Issue of Marine Mammal Science on delimiting subspecies of cetaceans using primarily genetic data
Table of Contents Here: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/mms.2017.33.issue-S1/issuetoc
"One of the hallmarks of the Smithsonian Institution’s James Smithson Postdoctoral Fellowship is the opportunity to gain an understanding of the interplay between scholarship and public policy. In May 2017, Dr. Matthew S. Leslie – the Secretary G. Wayne Clough Fellow (awarded through the James Smithson Fellowship Program) at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) & National Zoological Park (NZP) – was invited to do just that on an international scale."
Read more here:
Published in Frontiers of Marine Science: Leslie & Morin - Using Genome-Wide SNPS to Detect Structure in ETP Dolphins!!
Millions of dolphins were killed in the eastern Pacific tuna fishery. This is why we have "dolphin-safe" tuna now. Thankfully, now only a relatively small number of dolphins are killed. But despite this, the dolphin numbers remain low - they haven't shown signs of recovery. In this study, I used large scale DNA data to solve a sticky question of how many breeding groups (i.e., populations) of dolphins were/are affected by this fishery. This is important because even the lower kill rate could impact recovery if it was concentrated on a small local population. For one of the species I studied, my data showed four populations: three that were known and one that was suspected. This means we were managing three of the four populations correctly. The one we weren't getting right is a small local population that needs special protection.
Knowing how many populations live in this area had been a tough problem to answer. Its been fun to apply new techniques to old specimens to answer it.
Smithsonian's 2016 Smithson postdocs attend Student Conference on Conservation Science - October 20th-22nd 2016 - American Museum of Natural History. THis meeting is organized by the AMNH Center for biodiversity conservation to provide "opportunities for emerging scientists to professionally network, gain experience, and present and get feedback on their work. Interactions with peers as well as leaders in science, policy and management will encourage collaborations, inspire further research, and create lasting professional connections."
A large group of researchers from the National Museum of Natural History attended the Senate Briefing on Marine Mammal Bycatch on September 14th, 2016. Pictured here is much of the group with several members of the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission and Dr. Andy Read (Duke University) an honorary panelist. From left to right: Dr. Matt Leslie, Dr. Chris Marshall, Dr. Aly Fleming, Dr. Daryl Boness, Dr. Frances Gulland, Dr. Peter Thomas, Dr. Andrew Read, Dr. Nick Pyenson and Charley Potter
September 7th 2016 was a good day. I couldn't be more excited to work for such an amazing institution!
1. LESLIE MS, Peredo CM, Pyenson ND. SUBMITTED. XXXX XXXXX, a redescription and new generic name of a basal balaeanopteroid whale (Mammalia, Cetacea). PeerJ
23. M. S. Leslie, F. I. Archer, P. A. Morin. 2018. Mitogenomic differentiation in spinner (Stenella longirostris) and pantropical spotted dolphins (S. attenuata) from the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. Marine Mammal Science. DOI: 10.1111/mms.12545 https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/mms.12545
22. M. S. Leslie, P. A. Morin. 2018. Phylogeography of two circumtropical delphinids, spinner (Stenella longirostris) and pantropical spotted (Stenella attenuata) dolphins, based on nuclear SNPs. Royal Society Open Science 2018 5 171615; DOI: 10.1098/rsos.171615. http://rsos.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/5/4/171615
21. H. C. ROSENBAUM, F. Kershaw, M. Mendez, C. Pomilla, M.S. Leslie, K. findlay, p. best, t. collins et al. 2017. First circumglobal assessment of southern hemisphere humpback whale mitochondrial genetic variation at multiple scales and implications for management. Endangered species research - DIO: 10.3354/ESR00822 http://www.int-res.com/prepress/n00822.html
20. P.E. Rosel, B. L. Hancock-Hanser, F. I. Archer, K. K. Martien, K. M. Robertson, M. S. LESLIE et al. 2017. Examining metrics and magnitudes of molecular genetic differentiation used to delimit cetacean subspecies based on mitochondrial DNA control region sequences. Marine Mammal Science 33(S1):76-100. DOI: 10.1111/mms.12410. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/mms.12410/full
19. P.E. ROSEL, B. L. TAYLOR, B. L. HANCOCK-HANSER, P. A. MORIN, F. I. ARCHER, A. KONOPACKI, A. R. LANG, S. L. MESNICK, V. L. PEASE, W. F. PERRIN, K. M. ROBERTSON, M. S. LESLIE et al. 2017. A review of molecular genetic markers and analytical approaches that have been used for delimiting marine mammal subspecies and species. Marine Mammal Science 33(S1):56-75. DOI: 10.1111/mms.12410 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/mms.12412/full
18. K. K. MARTIEN, M. S. LESLIE, P. A. MORIN, F. I. ARCHER, B. L. HANCOCK-HANSER, ROSEL P.E. et al. 2017. Analytical approaches to subspecies delimitation with genetic data. Marine Mammal Science 33(S1):27-55 DOI: 10.1111/mms.12409 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/mms.12409/full
17. B. L. TAYLOR, B. L. HANCOCK-HANSER, K. K. MARTIEN, P. A. MORIN, F. I. ARCHER, A. R. LANG, M. S. LESLIE, S. L. MESNICK, V. L. PEASE, W. F. PERRIN, and K. M. ROBERTSON et al. 2017. Guidelines and quantitative standards to improve consistency in cetacean subspecies and species delimitation relying on molecular data. Marine Mammal Science 33(S1):132-155. DOI: 10.1111/mms.12411 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/mms.12411/full
16. M. S. Leslie & P. A. Morin. 2016. Using genome-wide SNPs to detect structure in high-diversity and low-divergence populations of severely impacted eastern tropical Pacific spinner (Stenella longirostris) and pantropical spotted dolphins (S. attenuata). Frontiers in Marine Science http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fmars.2016.00253/full
15. C. Pomilla, A R. AMARAL, T. COLLINS, G. MINTON, K. FINDLAY, M. S. LESLIE, L. PONNAMPALAM, R. BALDWIN, H. C. ROSENBAUM. 2014. The world’s most isolated and distinct whale population: Humpback whales of the Arabian Sea. PloS ONE. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0114162 http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0114162
14. M. S. Leslie. 2014. The impact of phylogenetic nomenclature on the efficacy of the Endangered Species Act. Conservation Biology. 00:1-9. DOI: 10.1111/cobi.12375 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cobi.12375/full
13. J. D. Jackson, J. STEELE, P. Beerli, B. C. Congdon, C. Olavarria, M. S. Leslie, C. Pomilla, H. C. Rosenbaum, C. S. BAKER, 2014. Global diversity and oceanic divergence of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae). Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B. 281:1786. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2013.3222 http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/281/1786/20133222.short
12. I. Carvalho, J. Ay Ling Loo, T. Collins, J. Barendse, C. Pomilla, M. S. Leslie, P. Best, H. Rosenbaum. 2014. Does temporal and spatial segregation explain the complex population structure of humpback whales on the coast of West Africa? Journal of Marine Biology. DOI:10.1007/s00227-013-2379-1 http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00227-013-2379-1
11. F. Kershaw, M.S. Leslie, T. Collins, R. Mansur, M. Rubaiyat, B.D. Smith, G. Minton, R. Baldwin, ET AL. 2013. Population differentiation of 2 forms of Bryde’s whales in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Journal of Heredity. doi:10.1093/jhered/est057 https://academic.oup.com/jhered/article/104/6/755/798338/Population-Differentiation-of-2-Forms-of-Bryde-s
10. F. I. Archer, P. A. Morin, B. L. Hancock-Hanser, K. M. Robertson, M. S. Leslie, M. Berube, S. Panigada, B. L. Taylor. 2013. Mitogenomic phylogenetics of fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus spp.): genetic evidence for revision of subspecies. PLoS ONE 8(5): e63396. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0063396 http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0063396
9. B. Hancock-Hanser, A. Frey, M.S. Leslie, P. Dutton, F. Archer, P. Morin. 2013. Targeted multiplex next-generation sequencing: Advances in techniques of mitochondrial and nuclear sequencing for population genomics. Molecular Ecology Resources. 13(2):254-68. doi10.1111/1755-0998.12059 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/wol1/doi/10.1111/1755-0998.12059/full
8. P. J. Ersts, C. Pomilla, J. Kiszka, S. Cerchio, H.C. Rosenbaum, M. Vely, Y. Razafindrakoto, J.A. Loo, M.S. Leslie, M. Avolio. 2011 Observations of individual humpback whales utilizing multiple migratory destinations in the south-western Indian Ocean. African Journal of Marine Science. 33(2): 333-338. doi: 10.2989/1814232X.2011.600436 http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.2989/1814232X.2011.600436
7. G. Minton, S. Cerchio, T. Collins, P. Ersts, K.P. Findlay, C. Pomilla, D. Bennet, M.A. Meyer, Y. Razafindrakoto, P.G.H. Kotze, W.H. Oosthuizen, M.S. Leslie, N. Andrianarivelo, R. Baldwin, L. Ponnampalam, and H.C. Rosenbaum. 2010. A note on the comparison of humpback whale tail fluke catalogues from the Sultanate of Oman with Madagascar and the East African mainland. Journal of Cetacean Research and Management 11(1):65-68. https://arabianseawhalenetworkdotorg.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/minton-et-al-2010_jcrm111-pp065-068.pdf
6. H. C. Rosenbaum, C. Pomilla, M. Mendez, M.S. Leslie, P.B. Best, et al. 2009. Population structure of humpback whales from their breeding grounds in the south Atlantic and Indian Oceans. PLoS ONE 4(10): e7318. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0007318 http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0007318
5. M. J. EATON, G. L. MEYERS, S. O. KOLOKOTRONIS, M. S. LESLIE, A. P. MARTIN, G. AMATO. 2009. Barcoding bushmeat: molecular forensic identification of Central African and South American harvested vertebrates. Conservation Genetics. DOI 10.1007/s10592-009-9967-0. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10592-009-9967-0
4. M. MENDEZ, M. S. LESLIE. 2009. Cetacean mitogenomics. MitoCommunications; Mitochondrial DNA; DOI: 10.1080/19401730902852976. http://www.martinmendez.org/Mendez%20et%20al%202009_Mitocom_mtDNA.pdf
3. M. H. Engel, N. J.R. Fagundes, H. C. Rosenbaum, M. S. Leslie, P. H. Ott, R. Schmitt, E. Secchi, L. Dalla Rosa, S. L. Bonatto. 2008. Mitochondrial DNA diversity and assessment of the likely feeding ground of the Southwestern Atlantic humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) breeding area. Conservation Genetics: 9(5):1253-1262. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10592-007-9453-5
2. M. KRETZMAN, L. MENTZER, R. DiGIOVANNI, M. S. LESLIE, G. AMATO. 2006. Microsatellite diversity and fitness in stranded harp seals (Phoca groenlandica). Journal of Heredity 97(6):555–560. https://doi.org/10.1093/jhered/esl043
1. M. S. LESLIE, A. BATIBASAGA, D. S. WEBER, D. OLSEN, AND H. C. ROSENBAUM. 2005. First record of Blainville's beaked whale Mesoplodon densirostris in Fiji. Pacific Conservation Biology 11(4):28-30. http://www.publish.csiro.au/PC/PC050302
I. Carvalho, J. C. Loo, T. Collins, C. Pomilla, J. Barendse, P. Best, R. Hersch, M. S. Leslie, M. Thornton, H. C. Rosenbaum. 2010. Temprotal Patterns of Popilation Structure of Humpback Whales on the West Coast of Africa (B Stock). SC/62/SH8. Report to the International Whaling Commission.
C. POMILLA, T. COLLINS, G. MINTON, K. P. FINDLAY, M. S. LESLIE, L. PONNAMPALAM, RBALDWIN, H. C. ROSENBAUM. 2010. Genetic Distinctiveness and Decline of a Small Population of Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaengliae) in the Arabia Sea (Region X). SC/62/SH6. Report to the International Whaling Commission.
S. Cerchio, P. J. Ersts, C Pomilla, J Loo, Y Razafindrakoto, M S. Leslie, N. Andrianrivelo, G Mindon, J Dushane, A Murray, T Collins, H Rosenbaum. 2009. Updated estimates of abundance for humpback whale breeding stock C3 off Madagascar, 2000–2006 SC/61/SH7. Report to the International Whaling Commission.
J. C. Loo, C. Pomilla, M. Mendez, M. S. Leslie, H. C. Rosenbaum. 2006. Assessment of genetic connectivity between breeding regions B and C and feeding areas I, II and III. SC/A06/HW. Report to the International Whaling Commission.
H. C. Rosenbaum, C. Pomilla, C. Olavarria, C. s. Baker, M. S. Leslie, et al. 2006. A first and preliminary analysis of mtDNA sequences from humpback whales from breeding stocks A-G and X. SC/A06/HW. SC/58/HW. Report to the International Whaling Commission.
H. C. ROSENBAUM, C. POMILLA, M. S. LESLIE, M. MENDEZ, P. B. BEST, T. COLLINS, M. H. ENGEL, P. J. ERSTS, K. P. FINDLAY, P. J. H. KOTZE, M. MEYER, G. MINTON, J. BARENDSE, K. VAN WAEREBEEK AND Y. RAZAFINDRAKOTO. 2006. Mitochondrial DNA Diversity and Population Structure of Humpback Whales from the Wintering Areas in the Indian and South Atlantic Oceans (Regions A, B, C and X). SC/58/SH13. Report to the International Whaling Commission.
My goals as an instructor are to: 1) maintain a constructive, inclusive, and dynamic learning environment for students, 2) improve students’ critical thinking, problem solving, and communications skills, and 3) promote lifelong learning. I have implemented innovative teaching techniques, including the use of peer instruction, active learning exercises, group problem-solving exercises, dynamic interactive quizzes and polls, and other techniques for building students’ metacognitive skills and establishing a growth-oriented mindset. One of the most valuable things I can do for the field of conservation biology is to mentor young scientists. It is also one of the most personally rewarding aspects of my job; I greatly value these experiences for a number of reasons – mostly because I enjoy helping people and usually learn a lot for these relationships.
This course provides an overview of the foundational concepts and future horizons of biodiversity conservation. To tackle the challenge of the current human-driven extinction crises, we integrate real-world case studies and primary literature with adventures outside, and exposure to the minimum quantitative toolkit of conservation biologists. In keeping with the 'real-world' ethos of the course, student develop a case study on a specific conservation solution as a final course project, and peer-teach it to the remainder of the class. Through this course students develop: (i) an understanding of the scope and drivers of the current extinction crisis, (ii) familiarity with the current breadth of conservation 'solutions', and (iii) competency in a suite of tools necessary to be an effective conservation biologist.
In addition to the classroom course I taught at UCSD-Scripps Institution of Oceanography, I developed an all new lab component to compliment this course. Activities including modules on comparative anatomy of mammals and R statistics for mark-recapture population abundance estimation and population genetic structure analyses (important tools for a modern marine mammal conservation biologists), as well as field trips to the Smithsonian and to sea to see whale bones and whales in the flesh!!
Swarthmore students and I worked together to learn 3D scanning and printing using the teaching collection. In doing so, we learned cranial anatomy, phylogenetics, and valuable skills for modern comparative biology.
We also went to sea to experience the challenges and excitement of studying marine mammals in their environment.
We were also welcomed to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History to tour their marine mammal collection - the largest natural history collection of these animals in the world!
UC-San Diego & Scripps INstitution of Oceanography
I designed and implemented all aspects of this class including the basic structure of the course, assignments, grades, course website, etc. Gave traditional lectures and student-guided discussion periods, I also lead field trips to the San Diego Natural History Museum (left), the NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center (below) to reinforce material and spark curiosity.
These short videos illustrate some of what I do. Enjoy!