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Dr. Deborah Marie Leigh



collaboratrice scientifica


Istituto federale di Ricerca per la Foresta, la neve e il Paesaggio (WSL)
Zürcherstrasse 111
8903 Birmensdorf


Birmensdorf Bi MG C 34


Conservation genomics

I am currently working on white oak species with Christian Rellstab. 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 ( . 

I previously worked in WSL's Phytopathology group and used genomic tools to characterize the intra-host diversity of the CHV-1 virus. CHV-1 is used as a natural biocontrol for chestnut blight. 

Professional interests 

I am a conservation biologist, population geneticist / genomicist, and bioinformatician. My interests focus on using genetic tools to support threatened species and support conservation management. I have extensive experience working on the genetics of reintroduced populations and captive breeding programs. 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. 

Academic History

2021-ongoing 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


Recent publications 

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:​​​​​​​  * joint first

Kessler C, Brambilla A., Waldvogel D, Camenisch G, Biebach I,  Leigh DM , Keller LF, Grossen C, Croll D, (2021 A robust sequencing assay for the immunogenetics monitoring of Alpine ibex populations. Molecular Ecology Resources . doi:

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 alEcology Letters. doi: 10.22541 / au.161401200.09787142 / v1

Leigh DM, Schefer C, Cornejo C (2020) Determining The Suitability Of Minion's Direct Rna And Dna Amplicon Sequencing For Viral Subtype Identification. Virus. 12: 801 Doi: 10.3390 / V12080801

See my personal website for more information: