Leigh grew up in South Africa and developed a love for nature that shaped her career. After completing a bachelors and honours in ecology and zoology, she did her masters in conservation biology, with her thesis focusing on the use of barn owls as biocontrol agents in South African wheat fields. Following this, she spent over 10 years in the conservation non-profit sector focusing on leopard conservation, farmer outreach and species re-introductions.
Leigh decided to further her studies part-time in 2014, when she embarked on her PhD on the ecology of the endangered Southern Ground-hornbill in the Kruger National Park towards informing conservation decisions regarding their reintroduction outside of protected areas. She will be starting a post-doctoral fellowship looking at patterns and consequences of microbiome ontogeny in African buffalo at Oregon State University in the fall.