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Mary Beth Leigh

Tundra plants
Credit: 
Marie Thoms
Research Interests: 

Molecular microbial ecology, contaminant biodegradation, decomposition, phytoremediation, bioremediation, rhizoremediation, methane oxidation, stable isotope probing

Mary Beth Leigh photo
Credit: 
Todd Paris
Mary Beth Leigh
Associate Professor of Microbiology
Office: 
228 West Ridge Research Building
907-474-6656
Postal Address: 
Institute of Arctic Biology
PO Box 757000
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Fairbanks, AK 99775-7000

Education

  • Ph.D. Microbiology (2003)  University of Oklahoma, Co-advisors: John S. Fletcher and David P. Nagle           
  • M.S. Botany (1997)  University of Oklahoma, Advisor: John S. Fletcher
  • B.F.A. Modern Dance, Minor in Botany (1994)  University of Oklahoma                                                                       

Additional Training

  • Postdoctoral Research Associate, Center for Microbial Ecology, Michigan State University, Mentor: James M. Tiedje (2005-2006)
  • NSF Postdoctoral Fellow, NERC Center for Ecology and Hydrology, Oxford, U.K., Mentor: Mark J. Bailey (2004)
  • NSF Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for Microbial Ecology, Michigan State University, Mentor: James M. Tiedje (2003-2005)
  • E.U – U.S. Short Course in Molecular Biology for the Environment, Madrid, Spain (2003)
  • David L. Boren Graduate International Fellow (1999-2001 Prague, Czech Republic)
  • NASA Space Life Sciences Training Program (1994, Kennedy Space Center)

 

Experience in Research and Teaching

  • Associate Professor of Microbiology, Institute of Arctic Biology, Department of Biology and Wildlife, University of Alaska Fairbanks (2011-present)
  • Assistant Professor of Microbiology, Institute of Arctic Biology, Department of Biology and Wildlife, University of Alaska Fairbanks (2006 – 2011)
    • Courses regularly taught at UAF:BIOL 457/657 Environmental Microbiology (3 credit undergrad/graduate course, Writing Intensive), BIOL 342 Microbiology (4 credit undergrad course, with lab)
  • Fulbright Scholar in Teaching and Research, Hat Yai, Thailand (2013)
  • American Society for Microbiology International Professorship to Latin America. Taught “Stable Isotope Probing: A Short Course” to students and faculty from across Brazil at the University of Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil. (August 2008)
  • Molecular Biological Methods Consultant, U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, Environmental Research Lab, Corvallis, OR (2004)
  • Plant Physiologist and Biochemist, U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, Environmental Research Lab, Corvallis, OR (1997)
  • NNEMS Research Fellow, U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, Environmental Research Lab, Corvallis, OR (1995, 1995)
  • Student research assistant, NASA Environmental Analytical Chemistry lab, Kennedy Space Center (1994)

2013

Montazeri, N. et al., 2013. Chemical characterization of commercial liquid smoke products. Food Science & Nutrition, 1, pp.102–115.

2012

He, R. et al., 2012. Shifts in Identity and Activity of Methanotrophs in Arctic Lake Sediments in Response to Temperature Changes. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 78, pp.4715–4723.

2010

Leigh, M.B., Taylor, L. & Neufeld, J.D., 2010. Handbook of Hydrocarbon and Lipid Microbiology.
D. Taylor, L. et al., 2010. Structure and resilience of fungal communities in Alaskan boreal forest soils. Canadian Journal of Forest Research, 40, pp.1288–1301.

2009

Green, S.J., Leigh, M.B. & Neufeld, J.D., 2009. Microbioloty of Hydrocarbons, Oils, Lipids, and Derived Compounds. In pp. 4137–4158.
Uhlik, O. et al., 2009. DNA-based stable isotope probing: A link between community structure and function. Science of the Total Environment, 407, pp.3611–3619.

2008

Saleem, M. et al., 2008. Perspective on microbial cell surface display in bioremediation. Biotechnology Advances, 26, pp.151–161.

Awards

  • Fulbright Award to Thailand (2013)
  • Outstanding Biology Teaching Award, University of Alaska Fairbanks Department of Biology and Wildlife (2011-12)
  • American Society for Microbiology International Professorship to Latin America (2008)

Professional Society Memberships

  • International Society for Microbial Ecology
  • American Society for Microbiology
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • International Phytotechnologies Society 

Current Grants

  • Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. Natural Attenuation of a Sulfolane Plume in Discontinuous Permafrost. PI: D. Barnes, Co-PI Leigh (2012-13)
  • U.S Geological Survey NIWR. Toxicity of Sulfolane Breakdown Products in Contaminated Groundwater. PI: Leigh. (2013)
  • Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. Assessing phytoremediation potential of local willows for soil contaminated with diesel and 1-chloro-octa-decane in Kaltag, Alaska. PI: Leigh, Co-PI Schnabel (2012-13)
  • U.S Geological Survey NIWR. Evaluating the treatability of soil contaminated with diesel and 1-chloro-octadecane via phytoremediation and bioremediation. PI: Schiewer, Co-PI Leigh. (2012-13)     
  • NSF Long Term Ecological Research Program (LTER). Cross-site analysis and synthesis of arts and humanities engagements within LTER. PI: Nelson, Co-PI: Leigh. (2013)
  • Joint Industry Partnership (Shell, ConocoPhillips, Statoil, Alaska Clean Seas). Assessing Biodegradation of Dispersed Oil in Arctic Ocean Lease Areas. PI Leigh. (2013-14)
  • Alaska INBRE. Assessing toxicity of sulfolane degradation products in groundwater.PI Leigh (2013-14)

 

Past Research Awards, Fellowships and Grants

  • Fulbright Award to Thailand (2013)
  • American Society for Microbiology International Professorship to Latin America (2008)
  • U.S. Department of the Interior, Joint Fire Sciences Program. In a Time of Change: The Art of Fire. Art-science workshops and exhibit. PI Trainor, Co-PI Leigh (2011-13)
  • Joint Industries Program (JIP) Phase III: Gene-targeted detection of petroleum degrading microorganisms in the Arctic Ocean. Co-PI Robert Perkins, Co-PI Leigh (2012)
  • Joint Industries Program (JIP). Effects of dispersants on toxicity and biodegradation of oil in the Arctic Ocean. Co-PI Robert Perkins, Co-PI Leigh (2010-11)
  • Alaska INBRE. Microbial detoxification of petroleum in Alaskan terrestrial and marine environments. PI: Leigh (2012-13)
  • AMVIS Czech-U.S. Cooperation, Czech Ministry of Education. Cellulose degradation in forest soils. Co-PI Petr Baldrian Co-PI Leigh (2009-11)
  • Alaska INBRE. Microbial detoxification of petroleum contaminated soils. PI Leigh (2011-12).
  • Pacific Ring Incorporated. Albizzia falcataria sawdust toxicity testing and reporting. Co-PI Leigh, Co-PI Andrew Soria (2010)
  • New York City International Fringe Festival. Deliquescent Designs: Perspectives. Production support of full evening dance concert in NYC CoPIs Dixon, Voyles, Petitt, Leigh (2010)
  • Alaska INBRE. Microbial detoxification of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in soil. PI Leigh (2010-11)
  • U.S. Department of Energy National Energy Technology Laboratory (DOE-NETL), Fossil Energy Research and Development. Source characterization and temporal variation of methane seepage from thermokarst lakes on theAlaska North Slope in response to arctic climate change. PI Matthew Wooler (UAF), Co-PI Leigh, Co-PI Katey Walter (UAF), Co-PI Carolyn Ruppel (USGS), Co-PI John Pohlman (USGS). (2008-11).
  • NSF, Supplement to Bonanza Creek LTER. Engagement of Arts and Humanities with the LTER Program: Initiating Network Activities. PI Terry Chapin, Co-PI Leigh. $33,000 (2009)
  • Alaska EPSCoR Early Career Award. Correlating soil microbial community function with Alaskan vegetation type. PI Leigh (2009)
  • Alaska EPSCoR Engaging Alaska Natives in Research Grant. Exploring Climate Change through Dance. PI Leigh (2009)
  • AMVIS Czech-U.S. Cooperation, Czech Ministry of Education. Enhanced PCB bioremediation. Co-PI Leigh with Co-PI Martina Mackova, Institute of Chemical Technology, Prague, Czech Republic. (2009-10)
  • U.S. Department of Energy National Energy Technology Laboratory Research Grant Chemical and microbial characterization of North slope viscous oils to assess viscosity reduction and enhanced recovery. PI Patil, UAF Arctic Energy Technology Development Laboratory (AETDL), Institute of Northern Engineering (2007-2008)
  • National Science Foundation, Division of Environmental Biology, NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship New Faculty Grant. Microbial Degradation of Lignin, Plant Aromatics and Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) in Boreal Forest Soil. PI Leigh (2006-08).
  • Pfizer, Inc. Research Grant. Anaerobic microbial metabolism and soil sorption of halogenated pharmaceuticals. PI Tiedje, Co-PI Leigh(2006, Michigan State Univ.)
  • NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship in Microbial Biology. PI Leigh (2003-2005)
  • E.U.-U.S. Short Course in Molecular Biology for the Environment (2003, Madrid)
  • David L. Boren NSEP Graduate International Fellowships. (1998-99, 2000-01)
  • U.S. EPA NNEMS Fellowships (1995, 1996, U.S. EPA, Corvallis, OR)
  • NASA Space Life Sciences Training Program (1994, Kennedy Space Center).

 

  • Microbiology (BIOL 342)
  • Environmental Microbiology (BIOL 497/697)
Current Graduate Students (More info)
  • Robert Burgess
  • Sara Janda
  • Kelly McFarlin
  • Heather Slater
Current Post-Doctoral Fellows (More info)
  • Ruo He
Past Graduate Students
    • Krista Katalenich, M.A. Northern Studies (2008-2010).
    • Heather Slater, M.S. Environmental Chemistry (2008-2010). 
    • Kelsie Stone, M.S. Biological Sciences (2007-2009).
Past Post-Doctoral Fellows
  • Dr. Ruo He
  • Dr. Emilio Ungerfeld
News Releases
In the News

Service

  • Editorial board, International Journal of Phytoremediation
  • Secretary, International Phytotechnologies Society
  • Editorial board of Applied and Environmental Microbiology (previous)
  • President, American Society for Microbiology Alaska Branch (2009-10)
  • External reviewer for U.K. Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
  • Review panelist for proposals for U. S. Department of State Science Center Programs
  • Review panelist for David L. Boren National Security Education Program (NSEP) Fellowships
  • Ad hoc reviewer for NSF Ecosystems panel
  • Ad hoc reviewer for journals including Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Environmental Science and Technology, Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Microbial Ecology, The ISME Journal, Biodegradation, Cold Regions Science and Technology, Food Technology and Biotechnology Journal, Environmental Pollution

 Outreach

  • Producer and Director of In a Time of Change program, series of artist-scientist workshops on climate change ecology, and resultant performances and art exhibits. Also choreographed and danced in performances (2008-present).
  • Produced, choreographed, performed and lead post-show discussion for “Perspectives”, a modern dance concert by Deliquescent Designs Dance based in part on Alaskan climate change science. New York City International Fringe Festival (2010).
  • Organized and co-taught early college course for middle school children in “Climate Change and Creative Expression” through Effie Kokrine Charter School and UAF College of Rural and Community Development. Included climate change science, creative writing and dance, and culminated in free public performance and book of student poetry (Spring 2009).
  • Mentored/sponsored Rural Alaska Honors Institute 2 (RAHI-2) high school students in research projects (1 student in 2013, 1 student in 2011, 2 students in Summer 2009, 1 student in Summer 2008)
  • Mentored 3 Alaska State High School Science Symposium and REAP students (2007-2011, two placed in the top 3 statewide).