Leslie J. Curren: Career Bio
In the summer of 2003, I gained my first research experience through the Five College Coastal and Marine Sciences Program. I interned for the National Marine Fisheries Service (a subsidiary of NOAA) at their regional lab in Beaufort, NC. Working under Dr. Aleta Hohn and Dr. Robin Baird, I spent the first half of the summer assisting the stranding coordinator with rehabilitating live strandings and necropsying dead ones. In the second half of the summer, I worked on a large project assessing the abundance and distribution of local estuarine bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus).
In 2004, I spent a semester abroad in Baja, México, with the School for Field Studies, which is a great alternative to traditional study abroad programs. Supervised by Dr. Francisco Ollervides, my directed research project focused on space use patterns of gray whale (Eschrictius robustus) mother-calf aggregations.
After graduating from Amherst in 2005, I moved to Sarasota, FL, to work as an intern for the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program at Mote Marine Laboratory, which is run by Dr. Randy Wells. I was a research assistant for Katie McHugh, a Ph.D. student studying juvenile association patterns in bottlenose dolphins. I stayed at Mote after my internship was complete, moving to the Manatee Research Program, directed by Dr. John Reynolds. Working as a staff technician, which involved both data collection and analysis, I helped assemble a statewide database of demographic data on the West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus).
As is evident, my research background prior to joining the Holekamp lab at Michigan State was predominantly in marine mammalogy. Spotted hyenas actually have a surprising amount in common with some marine mammals, particularly bottlenose dolphins—both species are highly gregarious, socially complex, and top carnivores in their ecosystems. Many of the questions that intrigued me most about cetaceans can also be asked about spotted hyenas, so the transition to terrestrial mammals was an easy one.
To learn more about any of the programs, internships, or schools I’ve mentioned, click on the links below:
I grew up in Arlington, MA, and went to Amherst College (Amherst, MA) for my undergraduate degree. At Amherst I worked with Dr. Ethan Clotfelter on my biology thesis, which explored aggression, sexual selection, and honest signaling in fighting fish (Betta splendens).
Amherst in the fall
Amherst College
fighting fish
Mexican sunset
gray whale calf
School for Field Studies
southeast NOAA/NMFS lab
rehabbing a stranded dolphin
bottlenose dolphins
manatee mother and calf
looking at slides of manatees
bottlenose dolphins