Leslie Contributes to the Health of Maine’s Coastal Communities

“I can’t imagine a better place to be than the Darling Marine Center, as a scientist and as someone who’s passionate about doing what I can to make science more relevant and useful to people’s daily lives,” Heather Leslie told Aliya Uteuova ’18 in an interview last fall.

Founded in 1965, the Darling Marine Center’s mission is to connect people to the ocean. The Center’s researchers, staff, and students work alongside fishermen, aquaculture entrepreneurs, marine industry professionals, and other members of the community in Maine and around the world.

As director of the Darling Marine Center (DMC), the University of Maine’s marine laboratory in Walpole, Leslie oversees research, education, and public engagement.

Her responsibilities also include stewardship of the 182-acre campus, and developing new programs for the more than 3,000 participants who come to the DMC each year. These programs include the School of Marine Sciences’ Semester by the Sea, which enables UMaine undergraduates to immerse themselves in marine science in Walpole for the semester.

Above all, she’s an enthusiastic ambassador for DMC. “I’m always happy to share the latest news from the Darling Center,” Lesie observed, “whether I’m at the grocery store, a selectmen’s meeting, or welcoming visitors to the lab.”

Leslie also is a Libra Associate Professor in UMaine’s School of Marine Sciences. Together with her three graduate students, she studies the ecology and management of coastal marine ecosystems, with a particular focus on coastal fisheries.

All students “are particularly inspiring to me—from the third graders who grow oysters with us every year to the international exchange students who first experience American university life through Semester by the Sea at the Darling Center,” she observes.

Together with colleagues at UMaine and University of Maine at Machias, Leslie initiated the SEA (Science for Economic Impact and Application) Fellows Program, which enables undergraduates to gain hands-on experiences in applied marine research and to connect their work with community and industry concerns.

Leslie advises UMaine students to give projects their best effort.“Effort does not go unnoticed and often is critical to developing the skills and gaining the experience you’ll need to succeed.”  

Sponsored by the UMaine Alumni Association and University Credit Union, the Faculty Excellence Award is given monthly to a faculty member whose work contributes to UMaine’s national reputation for excellence. Selections are made in consultation with the university’s academic deans.