Dr. Deborah Marie Leigh

Dr. Deborah Marie Leigh


Ricercatrice ospite


Biodiversità ed ecologia della conservazione

Genetica ecologica


Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL
Zürcherstrasse 111
8903 Birmensdorf


WSL Birmensdorf Bi MG C 34

Conservation Genomics & Macrogenetics

Professional interests 

I am a Scientist at WSL, specialising in conservation biology, population genetics / genomics, and bioinformatics. My interests focus on using genetic tools to support threatened species and support conservation management. Prior to working at WSL, I contributed to the IPBES's assessment of the status of biodiversity and assessed the proportion of genetic variation lost in the last century from wild species. I also have considerable interest in the budding field of macrogenetics. I also have extensive experience working on the genetics of reintroduced populations and captive breeding programs. I am a memeber of the IUCN SSC Conservation Genetics Specialist Group, GeoBON "Genetic composition working group, and the USGS Powell Centre Macrogenetics Working Group.

I am currently working on white oak species. This project is using genomic tools and experiments to study adaptation to drought across three species ( Quercus robur, Q. pubescens , and Q. petraea ) and is part of the ACORN collaboration with Christian Rellstab (https://www.acorn-biodiversa.net/) . 

I previously worked in WSL's Phytopathology group and used genomic tools to characterize the intra-host diversity of the CHV-1 virus. 

See my personal website for more information: www.deborahmleigh.weebly.com


Academic History

2022-ongoing Scientist "Oak drought adaptation", WSL, Switzerland 

2021-2022  Postdoctoral fellow "Oak drought adaptation", WSL, Switzerland 

2019-2021 Postdoctoral fellow "Intrahost diversity of CHV-1", WSL, Switzerland 

2017-2018 Postdoctoral fellow "Population Genomics of Arctic Seabirds", Queens University, Canada

2013-2012 PhD "Population Genomics of the Alpine ibex," University of Zurich, Switzerland 

2011-2012 MRes "Ecology, Evolution and Conservation," Imperial College London, UK

2008-2011 BSc "Biological Sciences Hon. Zoology," University of Edinburgh, UK


Selected Publications 

Jensen E, Leigh DM (2022) Using temporal samples to understand contemporary climate change responses in wildlife. Ecology and Evolution. In press. 

Leigh DM *, Van Rees CB *, Millette KL *, Breed MF, Schmidt C, Bertola LD, Hand BK, Hunter ME, Jensen EL, Kershaw F, Liggins L, Luikart G, Manel S, Mergeay J, Miller JM, Segelbacher G, Hoban S, Paz-Vinas I (2021) Opportunities and challenges of macrogenetic studies. Nature Reviews Genetics. doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41576-021-00394-0  * joint first

Leigh DM,  Lischer HEL, Guillaume F, Grossen C, Günther T. (2021) Detecting selection in a species with a history of strong genetic drift.   Molecular Ecology Resources . doi: 10.1101 / 2021.01.26.428274

Kersten O, Star B,  Leigh DM , Anker-Nilssen T, Strøm H, Kleven O, Irestedt M, Descamps S, Hansen ES, Fort J, Daunt F, Danielsen J, Erikstad KE, Jakobsen KS , Boessenkool S (2021 )  Whole genome analyzes reveal unexpected barriers and isolation by distance in the Atlantic puffin.  Communications Biology. Doi: 10.1101 / 2020.11.05.351874v2

Paz-Vinas I, Jensen EL, Bertola LD, Breed MF, Hand BK, Hunter ME, Kershaw F,  Leigh DM , Luikart G, Mergeay J, Miller JM, Van Rees CB, Segelbacher G, Hoban S (2021) Biased estimates of intraspecific genetic diversity are an unintended consequence of repurposing data in macro-genetic studies: a comment on Millette  et al . Ecology Letters. doi: 10.22541 / au.161401200.09787142 / v1

Leigh DM, Hendry A, Vazquez-Domínguez E, Friesen V (2019) Estimated six percent loss of genetic variation in wild populations since the industrial revolution.  Evolutionary Applications 12:1505-1512doi: 10.1111/eva.12810