Polychaetes and marine invertebrates have been Leslie's passion for over 30 years. While in college she started working at the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project. Soon she found that actually working with critters through hands-on research was far more fascinating than classes and dropped out. After 10 years there she worked at consulting companies learning more all the time and was eventually hired as Collection Manager of Polychaetes at the Allan Hancock Foundation (University of Southern California, Los Angeles), a world-renown center for marine systematics. Alas, USC got out of the biodiversity business and gave away the bulk of its collections to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. The polychaete specimens and Leslie transferred over in 1988; both have been there ever since.
Leslie's long-time area of expertise is the polychaete fauna of the west coast of North and Central America. Other areas of interest are the Caribbean and tropical Pacific worm faunas and invasive species. She has participated in numerous expeditions and faunal surveys in these regions, contributing her skills in identification, macro- and micro-photography (through a microscope) to document the little known small animals that inhabit sediments and reefs. In fact, Leslie tries to spend as much time as possible collecting & photographing & as little as possible in the office.
She is currently working on the polychaetes of French Frigate Shoals, Northwest Hawaiian Islands, a near pristine marine environment recently designated as the largest marine sanctuary in the world.
Despite not being a diver Leslie has developed close ties in the underwater photography world and has been the critter id expert on both Wetpixel and Digital Diver since 2005.
Leslie Harris has helped Nudi Pixel verifying identification of 40 specimens.