Curriculum and Research


Todd McLeish '84Todd McLeish '84
Freelance writer, author, and science writer in the University of Rhode Islandís Department of Communications and Marketing.

Todd McLeish ’84 received his degree in Speech Communications and minored in public relations and philosophy. As an undergrad, he was not really involved in sustainability, though Ithaca did fuel his interest in wildlife. Todd has been a freelance writer and author for 25 years, writing about environmental topics, mostly of wildlife and issues affecting wildlife. The first 18 years consisted of mostly magazine articles and essays, but lately it has been almost exclusively books.

Todd has profiled biologists and wildlife artists, and highlighted numerous threatened species. Todd has also written a couple books about endangered species in New England, and has a new book coming out this February about narwhals. This animal is highly vulnerable to climate change, since it is dependent on an ice-covered environment. Todd interviewed climate scientists for the book, and did a lot of research by traveling. Todd traveled high above the Arctic Circle, where he spent three weeks with a team of narwhal researchers camped along a fjord in northern Canada. Later he spent a week at the northernmost town on the planet with a group of Inuit narwhal hunters. Todd is very interested in the protection wildlife habitats and educating the public about wildlife conservation. He has founded a land trust in his town and has served on the boards of several environmental groups in Rhode Island, including the Parks Association of Rhode Island, Recycling for Rhode Island Education, and the Rhode Island Natural History Survey.

Todd has also worked in the public relations office at a small local electric utility, where he advocated for energy conservation initiatives and sustainable land management programs. Todd maintained a five-mile trail of bluebird houses alone one of the company’s power line corridors, and helped get Ithaca College professor John Confer a contract to survey the wildlife along the corridors. Currently, besides freelance writing, Todd is a science writer in the University of Rhode Island’s Department of Communications and Marketing. He writes news articles, press releases, and magazine stories about science programs on campus. He also serves on the university president’s Council for Sustainability.

While at Ithaca, and while working here after he graduated, Todd became a birdwatcher. He began to learn many things that humans are doing that have a negative effect on birds, from loss of habitat, to chemicals in the environment. to the affect of invasive species. After seeing this, he decided to volunteer on sustainability projects, mostly wild life research, and write about those experiences. He has helped on projects to protect bobcats in California, ocelots in Mexico, lynx in Maine, badgers in Wisconsin, tortoises in Nevada, sea turtles in Florida, and many species of plants and animals in New England.

Though he was not involved in sustainability as an undergrad, two things he learned at Ithaca really helped him with his career: public speaking classes, and plenty of opportunities to write. Todd gives 50 public talks a year about his books and related environmental topics; his public speaking classes contributed to making him feel more comfortable in front of a crowd. Whether it was research papers, script writing or press release writing, all have helped him to succeed in his professional writing.

For the future, Todd hopes to retire early and write books full time, continuing to focus on wildlife and the effects humans cause to the health of wildlife populations. Todd advises students at Ithaca to keep their options open; he had never dreamed of being in the career he’s in now. This country has a lot of catching up to do in terms is sustainability, and not a lot of time to do it, “so stay focused and optimistic, and I'm confident that you will be achieving great success for our planet.”

For more information and Todd and his books, visit his website