Key Info

  • Position Title
    Senior Fellow, Ichthyology
  • Section
    Ichthyology Collection
    Life and Geosciences
    Australian Museum Research Institute
  • ORCID iD

Email Jeff M Leis

Jeff began his ichthyological career in Mexico’s Gulf of California while a zoology undergraduate at the University of Arizona, and developed an interest in fish systematics as a curatorial assistant at the university fish collection. During postgraduate studies in biological oceanography at the University of Hawaii, Jeff became fascinated with the morphological development of larvae of coral-reef fishes and their ecology during their pelagic sojourn away from coral reefs. His PhD studies on the ecology of ichthyoplankton off the island of Oahu laid the groundwork for much future work on fish ontogeny, relationships and the dispersal of fish larvae. After working in California on the impact of a nuclear power plant, Jeff came to Australia as Queen’s Fellow in Marine Science in 1979, and worked at the Australian Museum, in Sydney, until retirement in 2014 as Senior Principal Research Scientist. Most of Jeff’s research on fish larvae has been in the tropical Pacific (the Great Barrier Reef and Polynesia). Early work was done from a ship’s deck with towed plankton nets, but a mid-career change in emphasis to study of behaviour of larvae and its implications for dispersal and population connectivity led to laboratory and in situ approaches. Jeff became associated with the University of Tasmania in 2008, and relocated to Hobart in retirement.


  • BSc with High Distinction in Zoology, University of Arizona, 1971.
  • PhD in Biological Oceanography, University of Hawaii, 1978.


  • Queen's Fellow in Marine Science, Ichthyology Department, Australian Museum, Sydney, 1979-1981
  • Research Associate and Co Principal Investigator, Grant-funded Research, based at Australian Museum. Distribution of fish larvae and current flow in the vicinity of a coral reef, Northern Great Barrier Reef, 1982-1983
  • Research Fellow and Principal Investigator, Grant-funded Research, based at Australian Museum. Larvae of coral reef fishes: taxonomy and distributional ecology in oceanic near reef waters. 1984-1985
  • Scientific Officer, Ichthyology, Australian Museum, Sydney 1985-1988.
  • Senior Principal Research Scientist, Ichthyology, Australian Museum, Sydney, 2008-2014 (previously Senior Research Scientist [1988], Principal Research Scientist [1993])
  • Visiting Professor, EPHE, Université de Perpignan, France, 1996, 2010.
  • Invited Visiting Scholar, Ishigaki Branch, Seiki National Fisheries Research Organization, Japan. 1997
  • Visiting Professor, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, 2004-2013
  • Honorary Teaching Associate, School of Biological Sciences, University of Sydney, 1994-2014
  • Adjunct Professor, Department of Environmental Studies, University of Technology, Sydney, 2009-2013
  • Adjunct Professor, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, 2014-present

Grants, awards and scholarships

K Radway Allen Medal, 2007. From the Australian Society for Fish Biology for “an outstanding contribution in fish or fisheries science”.

Australian Society for Fish Biology Hall of Fame, 2013. For “significant contributions to fish and fisheries research and management”.

Bleeker Award for Excellence in Research in Ecology of Indo-Pacific Fishes, 2013. Awarded quadrennially by the Indo-Pacific Fish Conference Scientific Committee for “an outstanding body of published work in Indo-Pacific ichthyology”.

Robert H Gibbs Memorial Award for Excellence in Systematic Ichthyology, 2015. From the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists for 'an outstanding body of published work in systematic ichthyology'.

Honorary Member of the Ichthyological Society of Japan (ISJ), 2020. Awarded ISJ membership, which is awarded to individuals for their significant contribution to the Ichthyological Society and/or ichthyology.


For a complete listing please see Jeff Leis' profile in Google Scholar :

Recent publications:

  1. Leis, J.M., C.B. Paris, J.-O. Irisson, M.N. Yerman and U.E. Siebeck. 2014. Orientation of fish larvae in situ is consistent among locations, years and methods, but varies with time of day. Marine Ecology Progress Series 505: 193-208. doi: 10.3354/meps10792
  2. Leis, J.M. 2014. Taxonomy and systematics of larval Indo-Pacific fishes: a review of progress since 1981. Ichthyological Research. 62: 9-28. DOI 10.1007/s10228-014-0426-7
  3. Siebeck, U .E., J. O'Connor, C. Braun and J.M. Leis 2015. Do human activities influence survival and orientation abilities of larval fishes in the ocean? Journal of Integrative Zoology 9:65-82. doi: 10.1111/1749-4877.12096
  4. Leis, J.M. 2015 Is dispersal of larval reef fishes passive? Chapter 23, P 223-226 In: C. Mora (ed) Ecology and Conservation of Fishes on Coral Reefs. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. 374 pp. ISBN 978-1-107-08918-1
  5. Leis. J.M., O. Myer, A.C. Hay and M.R. Gaither. 2015. A coral-reef fish with large, fast, conspicuous larvae, and small, cryptic adults (Teleostei: Apogonidae). Copeia 103(1): 79-86. DOI: 10.1643/CG-14-119
  6. Leis, J.M., U.E. Siebeck, A.C. Hay, C.B. Paris, O. Chateau and L. Wantiez. 2015. In situ orientation of fish larvae can vary among regions. Marine Ecology Progress Series. 537: 191-203 + supplement DOI: 10.3354/meps11446
  7. Leis, J.M. 2015. Family Diodontidae. Pp 1741-1745. In: Roberts C.D., Stewart A.L. and Struthers C.D. (eds). The Fishes of New Zealand. Te Papa Press, Wellington. Vols. 1–4. 2008 pp. ISBN 978-0-9941041-6-8.
  8. Irisson, J.-O., C.B. Paris, J.M. Leis and M.N. Yerman. 2015. With a little help from my friends: Group orientation by larvae of a coral-reef fish. PLoS One. 10(12): e0144060. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0144060. 1-14 pp
  9. Leis, J.M. 2016. Family Diodontidae. in: K.E. Carpenter and N. De Angelis (eds) The living marine resources of the Eastern Central Atlantic, vol 4. pp 3074-3079. FAO, Rome
  10. O’Connor, J., D.J. Booth, S. Swearer, S. Fielder, and J.M. Leis. 2017. Ontogenetic milestones of chemotactic behaviour reflect innate species-specific response to habitat cues in larval fish. Animal Behaviour 132: 61-71. doi/10.1016/j.anbehav.2017.07.026
  11. Leis, J.M. 2018. Paradigm lost: Ocean acidification will overturn the concept of larval-fish biophysical dispersal. Frontiers in Marine Science. 5 (47):1-9. DOI: 10.3389/fmars.2018.00047
  12. Smith, J.A., Miskiewicz, A. G., Beckley, L.E., Everett, J.D., Garcia, V., Gray, C.A., Holliday, D., Jordan, A. R., Keane, J., Lara-Lopez, A., Leis, J.M., Matis, P.A., Muhling, B. A., Neira, F.J., Richardson, A. J., Smith, K.A., Swadling, K. M., Syahailatua, A., Taylor, M. D., van Ruth, P. D., Ward, T.M. and Suthers, I.M. 2018. A database of marine larval fish assemblages in Australian temperate and subtropical waters. Scientific Data. 5: 180207. DOI: 10.1038/sdata.2018.207.
  13. Donelson , J.M., Sunday , J.M., Figueira, W.F., Gaitán-Espitia , J.D., Hobday , A.J., Johnson , C.R., Leis , J.M., Ling , S.D., Marshall , D., Pandolfi , J.M., Pecl , G., Rodgers , G.G., Booth, D.J., Munday, P.L.. 2019. Understanding interactions between plasticity, adaptation and range shifts in response to marine environmental change. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 374, 20180186. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2018.0186.
  14. Bode M, Leis JM, Mason LB, Williamson DH, Harrison HB, Choukroun S, Jones JP.2019 Successful validation of a larval dispersal model using genetic parentage data. PLoS Biology 17(7):e3000380. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.3000380.
  15. Gill, A.C. and Leis, J.M. 2019. Phylogenetic position of the fish genera Lobotes, Datnioides and Hapalogenys,with a reappraisal of acanthuriform composition and relationships based on adult and larval morphology. Zootaxa. 4680 (1): 1–81.
  16. Riginos, C. and J.M. Leis 2019. Do tiny fishes rule the reefs? Science 364: 1128-1130. Doi10.1126/science.aax8961
  17. Leis, J.M. 2020. Measurement of swimming ability in larval marine fishes: comparison of critical speed with in situ speed. Marine Ecology Progress Series: LFCav4. doi: 10.3354/meps13233
  18. Leis, J.M. 2020. Perspectives on larval behaviour in biophysical modelling of larval dispersal in marine, demersal fishes. Oceans 2: 1-25, doi:10.3390/oceans2010001.