Pioneer conservation researcher tapped to lead Darling Marine Center

Fri, 07/31/2015 - 10:00pm

    A leading conservation scientist has been hired to lead the University of Maine Darling Marine Center, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2015.

    Heather Leslie begins her tenure as director of UMaine’s coastal marine laboratory in Walpole on Aug. 1.

    Leslie comes to the center from Brown University, where she was the Peggy and Henry D. Sharpe Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies and Biology.  

    Leslie, originally from Plymouth, Massachusetts, will be the fourth director of the Darling Marine Center. Professor Mary Jane Perry has served as interim director since Kevin Eckelbarger stepped away in 2013 after 23 years at helm.

    “My goals as director are to make sure that the stories of our scientists’ and students’ amazing discoveries reach a broader audience, and to support and grow the excellent research and education activities underway at the center. I want every citizen in Maine to know about the great work of UMaine marine scientists, and the impacts our scientists and students are having on coastal economies and ecosystem health,” Leslie said.

    Leslie was hired to provide innovative leadership; develop new research, educational and outreach programs for the center; and to work collaboratively to further goals of UMaine.

    Leslie, who in 1998 was public relations and campus coordinator at the Darling Marine Center, has expertise in marine ecology, coupled human-natural systems, conservation planning and assessment, and translation of knowledge for policy and practice.

    From 200715, she was a faculty member at Brown. Research in her lab focuses on the connections among people and coastal marine ecosystems. As marine conservation scientists, she and her students use a range of approaches from the ecological and social sciences to investigate how diverse factors, including climate variability and changes in regulatory regimes, influence ecosystem dynamics, and in turn, social interactions. Her ultimate aim to provide scientific knowledge and tools that can help inform marine management that benefits both nature and people.

    Her current research is focused on Mexico’s Baja peninsula, where she is investigating how environmental and economic change shapes the resilience and outcomes of both the ecological and human dimensions of coastal marine fisheries.

    Before joining the Brown faculty, Leslie was a research fellow at Princeton University. Her work has appeared in leading scientific journals, including the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and has been reported on in The New York Times.

    She earned a bachelor’s degree in biology in 1996 from Harvard University and a Ph.D. in zoology in 2004 from Oregon State University.

    “Heather Leslie is a pioneering researcher in marine conservation and management, and is an excellent choice to direct the internationally recognized Darling Marine Center,” says UMaine President Susan J. Hunter.

    “She will provide exceptional leadership at the center where, for half a century, UMaine scientists and educators have developed solutions and advanced knowledge that benefits fisheries stakeholders, marine industries and coastal communities in the Gulf of Maine and beyond.”