Leigh is a biologist based in Hampshire in the south of the UK. Originally from Sussex, he graduated with a BSc in Zoology from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland and has an MRes in Environmental Biology from the University of St Andrews, Scotland.
After studying bottlenose dolphins in Scotland’s Murray Firth at the beginning of his career in 1998, he went on to research incorporating the use of animal-borne tags to investigate the behavioural and foraging ecology of whales. This led to his PhD research at the University of St Andrews related to the behavioural effects man-made noise has on marine mammals.
Leigh’s PhD research was based on Abaco and Andros Islands in the Bahamas, where he has been studying marine mammals for the past 25 years. From blue whales in Patagonia, sperm whales in New Zealand, Omura’s whales in Madagascar, killer whales in the Aleutian Islands, bottlenose whales in the Arctic and humpback whales in Antarctica, Leigh’s work has literally taken him to every watery part of our planet. His Antarctic research is centred around large-scale ecosystem dynamics – using fin whales and Antarctica’s apex predators, killer whales, as indicators to assess climate change effects on Southern Ocean habitats.
Leigh has been a scientific advisor for series including the BBC’s Frozen Planet II and Blue Planet III; National Geographic for Disney+’s Animals Up Close and Epic Adventures with Bertie Gregory; and Netflix Our Oceans. His on-screen appearances include showcasing his Antarctic killer whale research in Frozen Planet II, Ep. 4 Frozen South, BTS Out In The Cold and National Geographic for Disney+’s Animals Up Close episode Antarctic Killer Waves. His research on Antarctic fin whale migration was featured in National Geographic for Disney+’s Epic Adventures with Bertie Gregory and most recently he has recorded content for the forthcoming Netflix Our Oceans series.
Leigh has co-authored and contributed to scientific research papers on an array of cetacean species and topics. He has acted as the scientific expert and provided quotes for publications and digital media, including for National Geographic magazine, The Times newspaper and BBC Earth.
A cornerstone of Leigh’s academic research is the use of photo-identification to identify individual animals for population studies and more recently photogrammetry, to assess the health status of wild animals. Leigh is a skilled photographer, with images featuring in National Geographic magazine, Disney+ digital content and a variety of research articles. Latterly, his images were chosen to feature as part of the British Antarctic Territories 2023 stamp collection.
Leigh is a keen birder and water enthusiast with a passion for sailing, paddle boarding, wild swimming and free diving. As an outdoor enthusiast and naturalist, he enjoys everything from bugs in the back garden to snorkelling in Skye. He supports and has been an active participant in fund raising for charities in the UK and abroad, including the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust, South Georgia Heritage Trust, Skye & Lochalsh Environment Forum, Friends of the Environment and Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organisation.
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