CORVALLIS - An Oregon State University student has earned a $75,000 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship to study marine ecology.

Heather Leslie, an OSU doctoral candidate from Plymouth, Mass., will spend three years studying marine ecosystems. She came to OSU in September from Harvard-Radcliffe where she received a Benjamin A. Trustman Fellowship to support a year of postgraduate study in Mexico.

Leslie said National Science Foundation awards are largely based on creativity and scope of projects. The foundation granted 900 awards this year with only about one in 30 applicants receiving fellowships.

"Here at Oregon State, I'm doing marine ecology in the Department of Zoology," Leslie said. "The department has great resources and great people. One of the nice things about the National Science Foundation fellowship is that it will free up funds in the department for other research."

Leslie is working with Jane Lubchenco and Bruce Menge, both OSU Wayne and Gladys Valley Professors of Marine Biology.

"I'm interested in continuing to work in marine science conservation," said Leslie, who explained that she has been interested in the world's oceans since she was a child. "I've always lived by the ocean, coastal places, while growing up."

Leslie said she plans to spend the summer doing extensive research along the Oregon coast, adding that she is fascinated by the Pacific Ocean and the Oregon shoreline, which differs substantially from the East Coast.

"The storms here are so much more intense and there are more diverse habitats to work in," she pointed out, ranging from rocky coastal shorelines to sandy beaches and river bars.

Leslie says that thanks to her parents, science was always a focus in her household.

"Both my parents are physicians," she said, adding that she has an interest in staying in the university setting or doing research for government or non-profit organizations.

Leslie, 24, is the daughter of Sanford and Kathleen Leslie of Plymouth, Mass.

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Heather Leslie, 541-737-5359