Dr Raymond Leakey

        Dr Leakey aboard a research vessel as principal scientific officer

Honorary Research Fellow

I am a marine microbiologist and biological oceanographer with interests the ecology and biogeochemical role of planktonic microorganisms in polar, temperate and tropical waters.

I am currently lead scientist for the design and construction of the UK's new polar research vessel, RRS Sir David Attenborough


Contact details:
  • rjl@sams.ac.uk

My research has focused predominantly on the ecology of marine micro-organisms in polar, temperate and tropical waters, and their role in carbon and energy flow. This has included fundamental studies of the diversity, structure and function of protozoan communities, and their micro-algal and bacterial prey, in plankton environments and sea-ice.

I have also undertaken applied studies of the impact of aquaculture activities on planktonic ecosystems, microbial-fish larvae interactions in aquaculture hatchery environments, and the production of biofuels from micro-algae.

I have conducted field studies in the Atlantic, Indian and Southern Oceans, and in UK, Norwegian, Pakistani, Arctic and Antarctic coastal waters. In summers 2008, 2010 and 2012 I led the NERC-funded ICECHASER 1, ICECHASER 2 and UK Ocean Acidification Arctic research cruises to the Greenland, Norwegian and Barents Seas. 


Research activities

I am currently lead scientist on a major government 5-year capital procurement project: the design and construction of the UK’s New Polar Research Vessel (NPRV), the RRS Sir David Attenborough.


Past research project highlights

Biomara; Icechaser; Northern Seas; Arctic ocean acidification; Diapause

Peer-reviewed publications

Tyrrell, T., Tarling, G.A., Leakey, R.J.G.,  Cripps G., Thorpe, S., Richier, S., Moore, C.M. (2016). Preface to Special Issue (Impacts of surface ocean acidification in polar seas and globally: A field-based approach). Deep Seas Research II: Topical Studies in Oceanography, 127, 1-6.

Hartmann, M., Hill, P.G., Tynan, E, Achterberg, E.P., Leakey, R.J.G., Zubkov, M.V. (2016). Resilience of SAR11 bacteria to rapid acidification in the high latitude open ocean. FEMS Microbiology Ecology, 92: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/femsec/fiv161

García-Martín E.E., McNeill S., Serret P., Leakey R.J.G. (2014b). Primary production, community respiration and bacterial metabolism in Arctic sea ice leads during summer 2010. Deep Sea Research I. 92:152-161.

García-Martín E.E., McNeill S., Serret P., Leakey R.J.G. (2014a). Plankton metabolism and bacterial growth efficiency in offshore waters along a latitudinal transect between the UK and Svalbard. Deep Sea Research I. 92:141-151.

Glud, R.N., Rysgaard, S., Turner, G., McGinnis, D.F., Leakey, R.J.G. (2014). Biological- and physical-induced oxygen dynamics in melting sea ice of the Fram Strait. Limnology and Oceanography.59,1097-1111.

Roleda, M.Y., Slocombe, S.P., Leakey, R.J.G., Day, J.G., Bell, E,M,. Stanley, M.S. (2013). Effects of temperature and nutrient regimes on biomass and lipid production by six oleaginous microalgae in batch culture employing a two-phase cultivation strategy. Bioresource Technology 129: 439-449.

Rysgaard, S. Glud, R.N., Lennert, K., Cooper, M., Halden, N., Leakey, R.J.G., Barber D. (2012). Ikaite crystals in melting sea ice – implications for pCO2 levels and pH in Arctic surface waters. The Cryosphere. 6: 901-908.

Day, J.G., Thomas, Achilles-Day, Leakey, R.J.G. (2012). Early detection of protozoan grazers in algal biofuel cultures. Bioresource Technology 114:715-719.

Zubkov, M.V., Leakey, R.J.G. (2009). Evaluation of the efficiency of metabolism of dinoflagellate phosphorus and carbon by a planktonic ciliate. European Journal of Protistology 45:166-173.

Navarro, N., Leakey, R.J.G., Black, K.D. (2008). Effect of salmon cage aquaculture on the pelagic environment of temperate coastal waters: seasonal changes in nutrients and the microbial community Marine Ecology Progress Series 361:47-58.

Fouilland, E., Leakey, R.J.G., Jones, K., Slater, J., Álvarez Calleja, I. (2007). The response of a planktonic community to sudden mixing conditions in temperate coastal waters: importance of light regime and nutrient enrichment. Journal of Experimental Biology and Ecology 351:211-225

Davidson, K., Gilpin., L.C., Hart, M., Fouilland, E., Mitchell, E., Álvarez Calleja, I., Laurent, C., Miller, A.E.J., Leakey, R.J.G. (2007). The influence of the balance of inorganic and organic nitrogen on the trophic dynamics of microbial food webs. Limnology and Oceanography. 52: 2147-2163.

Pond, W.D., Leakey, R.J.G. and Fallick, A.E. (2006). Monitoring microbial predator-prey interactions: and experimental study using fatty acid biomarker and compound specific isotope techniques. Journal of Plankton Research. 28:1-9

Leakey, R.J.G. (2006). Phytoplankton. In Riffenburgh, B. (Ed.) Encyclopedia of the Antarctic. Routledge Press, New York.

Fileman, E.S., Leakey, R.J.G. (2005). Microzooplankton dynamics during the development of the spring bloom in the northeast Atlantic. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. 85:741-753.

Leakey, R.J.G., Leadbeater, B.S.C., Mitchell, E., McCready, S.M.M. and Murray, A.W.A. (2002). The abundance and biomass of choanoflagellates and other nanoflagellates in waters of contrasting temperature to the north-west of South Georgia in the Southern Ocean. European Journal of Protistology, 38:333-350.

Hop, H., Pearson, T., Hegseth E.N., Kovacs, K.M., Wiencke, C., Kwasniewski, S., Eiane, K., Mehlum, F., Gulliksen, B., Wlodarska-Kowalczuk, M., Lydersen, C., Weslawski, J.M., Cochrane, S., Gabrielsen, G.W., Leakey, R.J.G., Lønne, O.J., Zajaczkowski, M., Falk-Petersen, S., Kendall, M., Wängberg, S., Bischof, K., Voronkov, A.Y., Kovaltchouk, N.A., Wiktor, J., Poltermann, M., Prisco, G., Papucci, C. and Gerland, S. (2002). The marine ecosystem of Kongsfjorden, Svalbard. Polar Research, 21:167-208.

Zubkov, M.V., Sleigh, M.A., Burkill, P.H. and Leakey, R.J.G. (2000). Picoplanktonic community structure on the Atlantic Meridional Transect: a comparison between seasons. Progress in Oceanography, 45:369-386.

Zubkov, M.V., Sleigh, M.A., Tarran, G.A., Burkill, P.H. and Leakey, R.J.G. (1998). Picoplanktonic community structure on an Atlantic transect from 50oN to 50oS. Deep Sea Research, 45:1339-1355.

Zubkov, M.V., Sleigh, M.A., Burkill, P.H. and Leakey, R.J.G. (2000). Bacterial growth and grazing loss in contrasting areas of North and South Atlantic. Journal of Plankton Research, 22:685-711.

Murphy, E.J., Boyd, P.W., Leakey, R.J.G., Atkinson, A., Edwards, E.S., Robinson, C., Priddle, J., Bury, S.J., Robins, D.B., Burkill, P.H., Savidge, G., Owens, N.J.P. and Turner, D. (1998). Carbon flux in ice-ocean-plankton systems of the Bellingshausen Sea during a period of ice retreat. Journal of Marine Systems, 17:207-227.

Sleigh, M.A., Leakey, R.J.G. and Tong, S.M. (1997). Qualitative and quantitative studies of heterotrophic protists in Southampton Water. In Hawkins, L.E. and Hutchinson, S. (eds.) The responses of marine organisms to their environments - Proceedings of the 30th European Marine Biology Symposium. p 107-114. University of Southampton.

Grey, J., Laybourn-Parry, J., Leakey, R.J.G. and McMinn, A. (1997). Temporal patterns of protozooplankton abundance and their food in Ellis Fjord, Princess Elizabeth Land, Eastern Antarctica. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 45:17-25.

Priddle, J., Leakey, R.J.G., Archer, S.D., and Murphy, E.J. (1996). Eukaryotic microbiota in the surface waters and sea ice of the Southern Ocean: aspects of physiology, ecology and biodiversity in a 'two-phase' system. Biodiversity and Conservation 5:1473-1504.

Leakey, R.J.G., Burkill, P.H. and Sleigh, M.A. (1996). Planktonic ciliates in the northwestern Indian Ocean: their abundance and biomass in waters of contrasting productivity. Journal of Plankton Research 18:1063-1071.

Leakey, R.J.G., Archer, S.D. and Grey, J. (1996). Microbial dynamics in coastal waters of East Antarctica: bacterial production and nanoflagellate bacterivory. Marine Ecology Progress Series 142:3-17

Clarke, A. and Leakey, R.J.G. (1996). The seasonal cycle of phytoplankton, macronutrients and the microbial community in a nearshore Antarctic marine ecosystem. Limnology and Oceanography 41:1281-1294.

Archer, S.D., Leakey, R.J.G., Burkill, P.H. and Sleigh, M.A. (1996b) . Microbial dynamics in coastal waters of East Antarctica: herbivory by heterotrophic dinoflagellates. Marine Ecology Progress Series 139:239-255.

Archer, S.D., Leakey, R.J.G., Burkill, P.H., Sleigh, M.A. and Appleby, C.J.. (1996a). Microbial ecology of sea-ice at a coastal Antarctic site: community composition, biomass and temporal change. Marine Ecology Progress Series 135:179-195

Robinson, C., Hill, H.J., Archer, S.D., Leakey, R.J.G., Boyd, P.W. and Bury, S.J. (1995). Scientific diving under sea-ice in the Southern Ocean. Underwater Technology, 21:21-27.

Priddle, J., Leakey, R.J.G., Symon, C., Whitehouse, M.J., Robins, D., Cripps, G.C., Murphy, E.J. and Owens, N.J.P. (1995). Nutrient cycling by Antarctic marine microbial plankton. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 116:181-198.

Leakey, R.J.G., Wilks, S.A. and Murray, A.W.A. (1994d). Can cytochalasin B be used as an inhibitor of feeding in grazing experiments on ciliates? European Journal of Protistology, 30:309-315.

Leakey, R.J.G., Fenton, N. and Clarke, A. (1994c). The annual cycle of planktonic ciliates in nearshore waters at Signy Island, Antarctica. Journal of Plankton Research, 16:841-856.

Leakey, R.J.G., Burkill, P.H. and Sleigh, M.A. (1994b). Ciliate growth rates from Plymouth Sound: comparison of direct and indirect estimates. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 74:849-861.

Leakey, R.J.G., Burkill, P.H. and Sleigh, M.A. (1994a). A comparison of fixatives for the estimation of abundance and biovolume of marine planktonic ciliate populations. Journal of Plankton Research, 16:375-389.

Leakey, R.J.G., Burkill, P.H. and Sleigh, M.A. (1993). Planktonic ciliates in Southampton Water: quantitative taxonomic studies. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 73:579-594.

Burkill, P.H., Leakey, R.J.G., Owens, N.J.P. and Mantoura, R.F.C. (1993). Synechococcus and its importance to the microbial foodweb of the northwest Indian Ocean. Deep Sea Research, 40:773-782

Wynn-Williams, D.D., Ellis-Evans, J.C. and Leakey, R.J.G. (1992). Microbial ecology in Antarctica. Quarterly Journal of the Society of General Microbiology, 19:99-104.

Pilling, E.D., Leakey, R.J.G. and Burkill, P.H. (1992). Marine pelagic ciliates and their productivity during summer in Plymouth coastal waters. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 72:265‑268.

Leakey, R.J.G., Burkill, P.H. and Sleigh, M.A. (1992). Planktonic ciliates in Southampton Water: abundance, biomass, production, and role in pelagic carbon flow. Marine Biology, 114:67-83.

Leakey, R.J.G. and Proctor, J. (1987). Invertebrates in the litter and soil at a range of altitudes on Gunung Silam, a small ultrabasic mountain in Sabah. Journal of Tropical Ecology, 3:119-129.

Roddie, B.D., Leakey, R.J.G. and Berry, A.J. (1984). Salinity-temperature tolerance and osmoregulation in Eurytemora affinis (Poppe) (Copepoda:Calanoida) in relation to its distribution in the zooplankton of the upper reaches of the Forth estuary. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 79:191-211.


Other publications

Leakey, R. J. G., RRS Sir David Attenborough Science Cruise Planning and Operations Workshop Report. NERC New Polar Research Vessel Programme. May 2017.

Leakey, R.J.G. (2017). The RRS Sir David Attenborough – the UK’s new polar research vessel. Ocean Challenge, 22, 19-21.

Leakey, R. J. G.. Priorities for future UK marine Arctic research. NERC Oceans2025 SOFI Workshop Report (WS 09 01). April 2009.

Leakey, R.J.G., Cottier, F.R., Howe, J.A., Potts, T.W., Turnewitsch, R. and Meldrum, D.T. A review of the current status of UK Arctic research. Report commissioned by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office. March 2008.

Batty, R.S., Cutts, C., and Leakey, R.J.G. (2003). Rearing protocols for Atlantic Halibut larvae during transition from endogenous to exongenous nutrition. Project completion report for Link Aquaculture FIN22, October 2003. 

Black, K.D., Cook, E.J., Jones, K.J., Kelly, M.S., Leakey, R.J.G, Nickell, T.D., Sayer, M.D.J., Tett, P. and Willis, K. (2002).  Review and synthesis of the environmental impacts of aquaculture.  Report for the Scottish Executive Central Research Unit, 80pp. ISSN 0950 2254, ISBN 0 7559 3403 2


2001-10: Guest lecturer, Glasgow University, Aquatic Biosciences BSc

2001-15: Lecturer, SAMS UHI, Marine Science BSc

2001-15: Lecturer, St Andrews University/SAMS, Master course in Ecosystem-based Management of Marine Systems

2013-14: Guest lecturer, Edinburgh University, Ecological Science BSc


Alumni research students

John Grey: Protozooplankton dynamics in the Antarctic Sea. PhD 1995 (Lancaster)

Aditee Mitra: Zooplankton growth dynamics: a modelling study. PhD 2006 (UHI)

Romain Pete: The influence of organic nutrient perturbation on marine microbial community dynamics. PhD 2006 (UHI)

Undine Achilles-Day: Paramecium bursaria and its endosymbionts. MRes 2011 (Aberdeen)

Jennifer Riley: Shipboard studies of the influence of inorganic seawater chemistry on calcareous microplankton and the biological carbon pump. PhD 2012 (Southampton)

Chair CCGS Amundsen Infrastructure Development Committee: 2016-present

Member of CCGS Amundsen Board of Directors: 2015-present

Member of the NERC Changing Arctic Scoping Group: 2015

Invited witness. UK House of Lords Arctic Committee: 2014

Member of the UK Arctic and Antarctic Partnership (UKAAP) Steering Committee: 2014

Member of the NERC New Polar Research Vessel Programme Board: 2014-present

Employment history

Since 2015 Science User Lead. Natural Environment Research Council New Polar Research Vessel Programme

2009-15 Lecturer. SAMS

2005-09 Head of Microbial and Molecular Biology Department. SAMS

1997-2005 Research Fellow. SAMS

1989-97 Higher and Senior Scientific Officer. British Antarctic Survey



1983 BSc Biology. University of Stirling

1990 PhD 'Ecology of planktonic ciliates in Southampton Water' University of Southampton