Project Leader

Samantha Leigh

Samantha Leigh

Who I am

I decided I wanted to be a marine scientist in the third grade, when I was assigned a diorama project on the ocean. I got to interview a real marine scientist and I was hooked! I grew up in Bel Air, a town just north of Baltimore, Maryland. As a high school student, I volunteered at the National Aquarium in Baltimore and then went on to earn my BSc degree in marine science with an environmental science minor from Coastal Carolina University. I later earned my MSc and PhD from the University of California, Irvine, in ecology and evolutionary biology, studying the digestive physiology of the omnivorous bonnethead shark. My interest in microplastic pollution started during my time as a postdoctoral researcher at California State University Fullerton. Now my research programme takes a multi-faceted approach to answering questions relating to how marine organisms acquire energy from their environment and how this impacts their ecology. This includes studying the entire digestive process, from ingestion (even ingestion of synthetic material like microplastics) to excretion, how microbes impact the processes in between, and how these processes are driven by an organism’s environment and genetics. I am also passionate about teaching, science communication and outreach.

Where I work

I am an assistant professor in the Biology Department at California State University Dominguez Hills, located in Carson, CA.

What I do

I teach classes in human physiology, animal physiology and the biodiversity of organisms. I also have a research laboratory where I work with Master’s and undergraduate research students. Some days I am out in the field collecting water and fish samples from a boat in the Southern California Bight; other days I am travelling to field sites such as Friday Harbor Labs on the San Juan Islands in Washington or the Keys Marine Lab in Florida, or travelling for talks and conferences around the country. And sometimes I am on campus working in the lab, teaching in the classroom, or doing data analysis or writing grants and publications in my office.

My project

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