Dr. Tom Lee | Professor of biology

dr. tom lee

As a child in Virginia Beach, Dr. Tom Lee would sit with his binoculars and watch birds, trying to identify them. He went scuba diving and took trips with his parents to wildlife refuges. His grandparents took him to the Smithsonian and the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. At age 16, he went to the Delaware Museum of Natural History and received a special tour of its shell collection. On another special tour, he saw the Smithsonian's collections of coral reefs and invertebrates.

"I've always been interested in biology," said Dr. Lee, who came to ACU in 1994. "I always liked identifying things, learning their names." 

The first job God gave humans was naming the animals. Some things haven't changed.

His college career focused on biology and wildlife, culminating in a doctorate project for which he studied pronghorn antelope. For his master's project, he had studied desert pocket mice. He worked with a group of bats and renamed a genus. But his favorite project by far is his study of the mammals of Ecuador, conducted along with his students from ACU.

The Ecuador project

The Ecuador project started in 2000, when he went to the area with a friend who was conducting separate research in the Galapagos Islands. After that trip, Tom knew he had to go back. 

He went back - summer after summer - taking students along with him to examine Ecuador's ecosystems and observe the specific mammals they found. Last summer they inhabited the western slope of the Andes (at 1400 feet). The summer before that they covered the eastern slope, 8000 feet above sea level on Volcan Sumaco.

Tom’s fascination with the project stems from the incredible diversity of Ecuador's plant and animal life - and the possibility that there are species yet to be identified.

"There is so much to be discovered," he said.

Understanding God's creation

He also works with a project in Michigan called the Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies. Au Sable, which is French for "on sand," is dedicated to helping the Christian community better understand God's creation and their responsibility for environmental stewardship.

Throughout these opportunities and experiences, ACU has remained Tom's home base. He appreciates the university's emphasis on excellence in the field, its integration of faith and knowledge, and its unique atmosphere.

"It's a comfortable, nurturing environment to work in," he said. "ACU is a wonderful balance."

Tom plans to keep going back to Ecuador for further research. He's excited about hiring a new professor, Dr. Rebecca Hunter, a marine biologist who has worked in Antarctica. But these goals are all part of a much larger vision.

Tom sees his field as part of God's original plan from the beginning, starting at Creation.

"The first job God gave humans was naming the animals," he said. "Some things haven't changed."

During the next half-century, he believes humans will find new medicines in rainforests and coral reefs. We will need to be able to identify pests that destroy crops and induce widespread famine. And as the world changes more rapidly than ever, we will need to discover and identify species and ecosystems in order to restore them before they are lost forever.

Learn more about attending ACU 

  • Explore Majors
    Explore Majors

    ACU's mission is to educate students for Christian service and leadership throughout the world.

    View all majors

  • Visit Campus
    Visit Campus

    Satisfy your curiosity about what it means to live and learn at ACU!

    Schedule a visit

  • Apply to ACU
    Apply to ACU

    Apply Online

    Learn more about our application and admissions process.