Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta
Dr. Leys obtained her BSc from the University of British Columbia and PhD from the University of Victoria. After postdoctoral research in Barbados, Marseille France, and at the University of Queensland in Australia, she became a Canada Research Chair II in Evolutionary and Developmental Biology at the University of Alberta (2002). She is currently a Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Alberta where she and her students study the evolution of sensory and coordination systems. Their main study animal is sponges (Porifera). As one of the earliest groups of multicellular animals to have evolved, sponges lack conventional nerves and yet show a range of coordinated behaviours ranging from slowly propagated contractions to electrical signalling that arrests the feeding current. Leys and her group use a wide range of techniques from calcium imaging to molecular biology and electron microscopy, and experiments in the field by snorkeling and SCUBA. For the last 10 years they have also used a remote operated vehicle, ROPOS, for collections and in situ experiments. Field work is carried out at the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre, and they also carry out research cruises to study deep water glass sponge reefs in coastal British Columbia, and to study sponges in Norway and Panama as well as the Arctic.