Dr. Leigh Torres

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. She is also the Director of the Geospatial Ecology of Marine Megafauna Lab at Hatfield Marine Science Center.

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.

Why is the HALO project important to you? Anything you’re most excited to learn about?

HALO is in my backyard, and I am eager to learn more about what marine life exists out there and what they are doing. With this better knowledge, we can inform management decisions to improve their lives and population status.

Why is support from the public so essential to the
HALO project?

Oregon citizens bought the Gray Whale License Plate because they care about whales, dolphins, and porpoises in Oregon waters. And with this project — done with their financial support — we will learn, make discoveries, and work together toward protecting Oregon cetacean populations and their habitats.