Leigh G. Torres


Assistant Professor, Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, College of Agricultural Sciences; Oregon Sea Grant Extension agent


Phone: (541) 867-0895
Geospatial Ecology of Marine Megafauna Laboratory

Other Affiliations:

Oregon Sea Grant
College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, OSU (CEOAS; Adjunct Professor)
School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland
National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, Ltd (NIWA; New Zealand)

Educational Background:

Ph.D., Marine Ecology and Environment, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, 2007
Masters of Coastal Environmental Management, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, 2001
Bachelor of Arts, cum laude, American University, Washington D.C., 1997

Research Interests/Area of Expertise:

Leigh is a marine ecologist interested in understanding how marine animals, including marine mammals, seabirds and sharks, use their environment in the context of behavior, space and time. Leigh’s research explores how marine predators find prey within highly patchy, variable marine ecosystems. Much of this work is directed toward improving conservation management of protected or threatened species. Leigh’s work spans multiple spatial and temporal scales and occurs in many ecosystems including estuaries of Florida, near and offshore waters of the US and Latin America, pelagic regions of the Southern Ocean, and sub-Antarctic islands and coastal waters of New Zealand.

Leigh’s work often integrates various types of species distribution datasets (i.e., sightings, telemetry, survey, historical, and acoustic datasets) with layers of environmental, prey and anthropogenic variables to develop dynamic habitat use models that incorporate the functional ecology of predator and prey species. These methods can reveal how distribution and behavioral patterns alter within a heterogeneous marine environment and lead to the development of predictive habitat use models. By identifying areas with increased presence of threatened species, management efforts can be more directed and effective. This is the goal of much of Leigh’s work — to separate, in time and space, threats and marine animals.

Current Research Topics:

  • Documentation and description of a blue whale foraging ground in the South Taranaki Bight, New Zealand
  • Use of albatross telemetry data to generate species distribution models and assess overlap with fisheries
  • Distribution and habitat use patterns of Bryde’s whales in the Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand, relative to vessel traffic
  • Transferability of species distribution models in marine ecosystems across large scales
  • Fine-scale habitat use analyses of the critically endangered Maui’s dolphin
  • Citing and efficacy of humpback whale breeding grounds throughout the Pacific islands in the Oceania region based on habitat use patterns
  • Foraging and distribution patterns of Type C killer whales in the Ross Sea
  • Use of olfaction by baleen whales to aid foraging efficiency at multiple-scales
  • Habitat use patterns of pinnipeds (New Zealand sea lions and Southern elephant seals) breeding on Campbell Island
  • Historical and modern foraging and distribution patterns of southern rights whales in Australasian waters

See also www.leightorres.com.

If you are a a prospective graduate student interested in working with Dr. Torres, please review her Letter to Prospective Graduate Students prior to contacting her.