NOVA Science Seminar: SI’s Leslie on Rorqual Whales via drones, DNA, & fossils

All Faculty, Staff, and Students are cordially invited to a Science Seminar

Friday, September 29, 2017
CE Building, Forum
12:00 noon to 1:00 p.m.

Matthew S. Leslie
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, National Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian Institution)


“Integrating DNA, Drones, and Fossils to Clarify Relationships Among Rorqual Whales”

Abstract: The systematic relationships among the lunge-feeding whales (rorquals; family Balaenopteridae) have been difficult to resolve, resulting in a history of taxonomic confusion. I am approaching this problematic group using a combination of traditional taxonomy and cutting-edge research techniques. I am integrating DNA sequencing of Ultra-Conserved Elements for molecular systematics, morphological examination and re-description of a Miocene rorqual for anchoring early divergence dates, and pioneering the use of drones to test subspecific relationships within blue whales. This presentation will provide highlights and updates on these ongoing initiatives aimed at the resolution of evolutionary relationships among rorqual whales.

Bio: Dr. Leslie uses emerging technology, natural history collections, field research, and genetics to describe marine mammal diversity for conservation management decisions. Currently he focuses on elucidating the evolutionary relationships of balaenopterid whales using skulls, DNA, and drones. In addition to research, Dr. Leslie strives to inspire others to fall in love with Earth’s wildlife and wild places through teaching and public education.
Education: Ph.D. Scripps Institution of Oceanography, 2016; M.S. Scripps Institution of Oceanography, 2011

For upcoming seminars and further information on the NOVA Seminar Series visit

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s