Catherine LEIGH

Postdoctoral Researcher

Domaine de compétence

Research background and areas of expertise:

Dr Catherine LEIGH is a post-doctoral researcher within the IRBAS project, based at Irstea, Lyon, France. Her research background focuses on riverine ecosystems and the responses of aquatic biota to natural or human-induced changes in river flow, land use and water quality. She has worked on temporary, dryland, tropical and floodplain river systems throughout Australia, but has also studied highly modified rivers in China. She is particularly interested in understanding hydrological and biodiversity trends in river systems to assist in their future management and restoration. Her main research areas, interests and accomplishments as an aquatic ecologist are in:

  • Ecology of temporary, dryland and tropical rivers
  • Ecological responses to flow disturbance and human activities
  • Aquatic macroinvertebrate ecology and community analysis
  • Aquatic ecosystem assessment

Dr Leigh has been studying the ecology of intermittent rivers for over 10 years. The majority of river systems in Australia are intermittent and she became interested in their ecology during her undergraduate degree at Griffith University, Australia. She conducted a field-based study exploring the development of hyporheic indicators for ecological assessment of temporary rivers. She has since combined her field data with data from the international literature to conduct a meta-analysis investigating the global applicability of hyporheic bioindicators in intermittent river assessment. Dr Leigh’s interest in intermittent river systems continued throughout her PhD and post-doctoral research on the ecology of wet-dry tropical rivers in northern Australia. Many rivers in this region are seasonally intermittent, drying to a series of disconnected pools for several months each year. She has published and presented widely on this work. More recently, Dr Leigh was a key participant in an Australian National Water Commission project assessing ecological responses to flow intermittency and low-flow conditions.


IRBAS (Intermittent River Biodiversity synthesis and Analysis) is a 3-year long project funded jointly by the FRB and ONEMA. Starting in June 2013, IRBAS gathers a team of 8 international, knowledgeable and productive scientists twice a year in the CESAB research facility (

IRBAS aims to discover and quantify biodiversity patterns and relationships in intermittent rivers (IRs), provide policy-makers and resource managers with tools they need for effective management and restoration, and raise awareness about the importance of IRs with scientists, managers, and the public.

Membership of professional and other scientific bodies:

  • Australian Society for Limnology
  • Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography
  • Society for Freshwater Science (formerly North American Benthological Society)



Published, in press and accepted

  • Datry T, Pella H, Leigh C, Bonada N, Hugueny B. (In press) A landscape approach to advance intermittent river ecology. Freshwater Biology.
  • Leigh C, Boulton AJ, Courtwright JL,Fritz K, May CL, Walker RH, Datry T. (2015) Ecological research and management of intermittent rivers: an historical review and future directions. Freshwater Biology, Online Early.
  • Leigh C, Watkinson A, Burford MA. (2015) Effects of extreme inflows on the water quality and phytoplankton of seven reservoirs in subtropical Australia. Inland Waters 5, 240-252
  • Rolls RJ, Leigh C, Langhans SD. (2015) Improving science through improved acknowledgment of reviewers. Conservation Biology 29, 307-308.
  • Leigh C, Bush A, Harrison ET, Ho SS, Luke L, Rolls RJ, Ledger ME. (2014) Ecological effects of extreme climatic events on riverine ecosystems: insights from Australia. Freshwater Biology, Online Early.
  • Leigh C, Reis TM, Sheldon F. (2013) High potential subsidy of dry-season aquatic fauna to consumers in riparian zones of wet–dry tropical rivers. Inland Waters 3, 411-420.
  • Leigh C, Burford MA, Connolly RM, Olley JM, Saeck E, Sheldon F, Smart JCR, Bunn SE. (2013) Science to support management of receiving waters in an event-driven ecosystem: from land to river to sea. Water 5: 780-797.
  • Leigh C (2013) Dry season changes in macroinvertebrate assemblages of highly seasonal rivers: responses to low flow, no flow and antecedent hydrology. Hydrobiologia 703, 95-112.
  • Leigh C, Stubbington R, Sheldon F, Boulton AJ (2013) Hyporheic zone invertebrates as biomonitors of temporary rivers: a global analysis. Ecological Indicators 32, 62-73.
  • Bunn SE, Leigh C, Jardine T (2013) Diet-tissue fractionation of δ15N by consumers from streams and rivers. Limnology and Oceanography 58, 765-773.
  • Leigh C, Stewart-Koster B, Sheldon F, Burford MA (2012) Understanding multiple ecological responses to anthropogenic disturbance: rivers and potential flow regime change. Ecological Applications 22, 250-263.
  • Rolls RJ, Leigh C, Sheldon F (2012) Mechanistic effects of low flow hydrology on riverine ecosystems: ecological principles and consequences of alteration. Freshwater Science 31, 1163-1186.
  • Leigh C, Burford MA, Roberts DT, Udy JW (2010) Predicting the vulnerability of reservoirs to poor water quality and cyanobacterial blooms. Water Research 44, 4487-4496.
  • Leigh C, Burford MA, Roberts DT, Udy JW (2010) Cyanobacterial blooms: assessing reservoir vulnerability. Water 37: 71-75.
  • Leigh C, Burford MA, Sheldon F, Bunn SE (2010) Dynamic stability in dry season food webs within tropical floodplain rivers. Marine & Freshwater Research 61, 357-368.
  • Leigh C, Sheldon F, Kingsford RT, Arthington AH (2010) Sequential floods drive 'booms' and wetland persistence in dryland rivers: a synthesis. Marine & Freshwater Research 61, 896-908.
  • Leigh C, Sheldon F (2009) Hydrological connectivity drives patterns of macroinvertebrate biodiversity in floodplain rivers of the Australian wet/dry tropics. Freshwater Biology 54, 549-571.
  • Leigh C, Sheldon F (2008) Hydrological changes and ecological impacts associated with water resource development in large floodplain rivers in the Australian tropics. River Research and Applications 24, 1251-1270.


Irstea - Centre de Lyon - Villeurbanne
5 rue de la Doua - CS70077
+33 (0)478477875
+33 (0)472201087