Graduate Research Assistant
University of Georgia
Leslie Townsell’s interest in Marine Science dates back to her childhood when her mother would take her to the maritime center in Connecticut and other aquariums during their travels. Her father, an avid swimmer, took it upon himself to instill his love of swimming in her. Her parents encouraged her love of water and her curiosity of marine life. She was afforded the opportunity of a lifetime when her family took her to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. While snorkeling, she observed the complex and often mutualistic interactions of marine life. Upon learning that coral reef systems around the world were dying, her interest in marine conservation grew. When she was in high school, she had the opportunity to work with corals hands on.
During a semester-long project at Lovett, she researched the propagation of yellow polyp corals in an elective marine biology course. Her interest in pursuing a career in marine science was re-ignited. During this class, she also took a field trip where she observed marine research in action at Skidaway Island. Upon graduation she enrolled at Spelman College.
Leslie received her B.S. in Biology from Spelman College. During her final years at Spelman she completed an independent research project, and also volunteered at the Georgia Aquarium. She later completed her thesis research at The Georgia Institute of Technology and obtained her M.S. in Biology from Clark Atlanta University. After working for a few years, Leslie enrolled at the University of Georgia (UGA).
Currently, Leslie’s research in the department of Marine Science at UGA explores the impacts of climate change on oyster aquaculture along the Georgia coast focusing on coastal acidification. Leslie's goal is to increase the sustainability in Georgia’s coastal fisheries and aquaculture and promote healthy coastal ecosystems. She enjoys marine science because she loves being on the water and investigating what’s underneath it. While at UGA Leslie noticed the lack of Black scientists and wanted to do something about it.
Leslie is passionate about increasing diversity in marine science which she does through her leadership role in Black In Marine Science, a non-profit which promotes and amplifies the voices of Black Marine Scientist and shines a light on the lack of diversity in the field. She is also an active participant of the UGA, Department of Marine Science, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) committee.
Growing up around strong women of color has empowered her to become a role model for other young women, especially those who might be apprehensive on entering the STEM field. She intends to break down barriers in her field and pave a way to make it a little easier for those black girls following in her footsteps. In her spare time, she enjoys swimming, SCUBA, (really anything involving water), traveling, and trying new foods!