Dr. Deborah Leigh

PostDoctoral Fellow

Curriculum vitae

Deborah Leigh, Ph.D.

dml8 [at] queensu [dot] ca

(613) 533-6000 ext. 77593


PhD, Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, University of Zürich, Switzerland

MRes, Ecology Evolution and Conservation, Imperial College London, UK

BSc Biological Sciences Hons. Zoology, University or Edinburgh, UK

Research interests and current work

Within my Postdoctoral fellowship I am exploring the genome wide patterns of variation across populations arctic populations of the Black-legged Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla).  The Black legged-Kittiwake is the most populous gull in Canada, and the Canadian arctic holds some of the last non-declining populations of the species. I am using whole genome sequencing to gain insight into the population structure, presence of local adaptation and demographic history of the species.

Outside of my Kittiwake project, I also have an interest in the limitations and biases of genomic analytical tools. I am interested in the impacts that bioinformatic processing choices can have on the biological trends observed. I am also interested in the effects of atypical demographic histories or population relatedness structures on downstream analysis, for example on selection detection methods.

Previous work

Within my PhD I used RADseq to examine the presence of local adaptation in populations of Alpine ibex (Capra ibex), a successfully reintroduced species that underwent a severe bottleneck but has a current population size of over 40,000 due to reintroduction efforts. I explored how signals of selection and genome-wide diversity vary between these populations. Using a combination of simulations and selection detection methods, I explored if reliable signals of selection could be identified.

Within my MRes at Imperial and my BSc at the University of Edinburgh, I also dabbled in Ecology, examining parent-offspring conflict and the effect of diet on male phenotypes.


Leigh DM, Lischer HEL, Günther T, Grossen C, Wagner A, and Keller LF. (In prep) Detecting selection in a species with strong genetic drift

Leigh DM, Lischer HEL, Grossen C, and Keller LF. (2018) Batch effects in a multi-year sequencing study: False biological trends due to changes in read lengths. Molecular Ecology Resources

Biebach I, Leigh DM, Sluzek K, and Keller LF. (2016) Genetic Issues in Reintroduction. In: Reintroduction of Fish and Wildlife populations. USA: UC Press

Leigh DM, and Smallegange I. (2014)  Effects of variation in nutrition on male morph development in the bulb mite Rhizoglyphus robini. Experimental and Applied Acarology. 64(2):159-170

Maenpaa M, Andrews C, Collette D, Leigh DM, and Smiseth P. (2014) Burying Beetle Larvae Discriminate Between Individual Parents and Between Some Classes of Adults. Ethology. DOI: 10.1111/eth.12348

Leigh DM, and Smiseth PT. (2012) Parent–Offspring Conflict over the Transition to Independence in Nicrophorus vespilloides: Parental Chemical Cues and Offspring Begging. Ethology. 118(5):460-465

I've spent more time than many will believe [making microscopic observations], but I've done them with joy, and I've taken no notice those who have said why take so much trouble and what good is it?

Antonie van Leeuwenhoek

It's a parts list... If I gave you the parts list for the Boeing 777 and it had 100,000 parts, I don't think you could screw it together and you certainly wouldn't understand why it flew

Eric Lander

What is true for E. coli is also true for the elephant

Jacques Monod

The world becomes full of organisms that have what it takes to become ancestors. That, in a sentence, is Darwinism

Richard Dawkins

Shall we conjecture that one and the same kind of living filaments is and has been the cause of all organic life?

Erasmus Darwin

Nature proceeds little by little from things lifeless to animal life in such a way that it's impossible to determine the line of demarcation


Cells let us walk, talk, think, make love, and realize the bath water is cold

Lorraine Lee Cudmore

In the distant future I see open fields for far more important researches. Psychology will be based on a new foundation, that of the necessary acquirement of each mental power and capacity by gradation. Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history

Charles Darwin

It is my belief that the basic knowledge that we're providing to the world will have a profound impact on the human condition and the treatments for disease and our view of our place on the biological continuum

J. Craig Venter

Imagine a house coming together spontaneously from all the information contained in the bricks: that is how animal bodies are made

Neil Shubin

A grain in the balance will determine which individual shall live and which shall die - which variety or species shall increase in number, and which shall decrease, or finally become extinct

Charles Darwin

The stuff of life turned out to be not a quivering, glowing, wondrous gel but a contraption of tiny jigs, springs, hinges, rods, sheets, magnets, zippers, and trapdoors, assembled by a data tape whose information is copied, downloaded and scanned

Steven Pinker

We wish to discuss a structure for the salt of deoxyribose nucleic acid. (D.N.A.). This structure has novel features which are of considerable biologic interest

Rosalind Franklin

We are biology. We are reminded of this at the beginning and the end, at birth and at death. In between we do what we can to forget

Mary Roach

The systems approach to biology will be the dominant theme in medicine

Leroy Hood

I've always been interested in animal behavior, and I keep reading about it because it's so surprising all the time - so many things are happening around us that we neglect to look at. Part of the passion I have for biology is based on this wonderment"

Isabella Rossellini

Because all of biology is connected, one can often make a breakthrough with an organism that exaggerates a particular phenomenon, and later explore the generality

Thomas Cech

Nothing in Biology makes sense except in the light of evolution

Theodosius Dobzhansky

Biology is now bigger than physics, as measured by the size of budgets, by the size of the workforce, or by the output of major discoveries; and biology is likely to remain the biggest part of science through the twenty-first century

- Freeman Dyson

Nothing can be more incorrect than the assumption one sometimes meets with, that physics has one method, chemistry another, and biology a third

- Thomas Huxley