• Michael Freake
    Dr. Michael Freake

    Since joining Lee’s Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics in 2001, Dr. Michael Freake, an associate professor of biology, has established his reputation not only as an excellent educator, but also as a meticulous researcher.

    He received his bachelor's degree in Zoology at St. Catherine's College, Oxford University in 1990. He then received his doctorate in biology from Flinders University of South Australia on lizard homing behavior in 1996, and continued his research on animal navigation as a post-doctoral research fellow with the Department of Biology at Indiana University.

    Michael Freake - Hellbender 1
    Dr. Michael Freake measuring a Hellbender

    For the past several years, Freake’s research has focused on the population ecology and conservation of eastern hellbenders, a species of giant salamander, and on the potential role of pesticides in amphibian declines. Eastern hellbenders have been declining across their entire range and were selected as a species of greatest conservation need in the Tennessee State Wildlife Action Plan. This research is conducted in collaboration with the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, the National Park Service, and the Cherokee National Forest Service.

    Michael Freake - Hellbender 2
    Dr. Michael Freake holding a Hellbender

    In 2011, Freake was awarded a grant from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency to support his project “Conservation and Landscape Genetics of Hellbenders across Tennessee.” In 2013, he collaborated with Middle Tennessee State University and the Nashville Zoo to win the nationwide State Wildlife Action Plan Partnership Award. For his part of the partnership, he coordinated field surveys in East Tennessee, handled genetic analyses, and worked with Stephen Spear of the Orianne Society to develop a new survey technique of testing river water samples for the presence of the hellbender DNA.

    His research on conservation biology and genetics of eastern hellbenders has been published in journals including Diseases of Aquatic Organisms and the Bulletin of the Florida Natural History Museum and Herpetological Conservation and Biology. He also wrote the section on hellbenders in the McGraw-Hill Yearbook of Science and Technology 2014.

    Freake holds professional membership with the Society for Conservation Biology and serves as an associate editor for Herpetologica.

    Freake is more than a world-class scientist. He is also a respected coach. In his busy schedule, he found time to lead Lee’s women’s rugby team to the national championships for the last five years in a row. He also sponsors Beta Beta Beta, the national biology honor society.

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