Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi

Dr. Lee Smee

An Outstanding Islander

Outline photo of Dr. Lee Smee
Understanding Our World

Dr. Lee Smee has successfully led masters, doctoral, and countless undergraduate students through the swamp lands of biology, and into blossoming careers. Smee’s main concern is to assist students in the expansion of their minds by means of critical thinking and becoming more knowledgeable about the world we live in.

“I am fascinated with how the natural world works,” said Smee, Associate Professor in the Department of Life Sciences. “I want students to have an inquisitive mind, and to also be observant of the natural world around them.”

Smee has built a successful research program that has trained two doctoral, seven masters, and many undergraduate students. Smee’s research team, known as the Marine Ecology Lab, has produced 22-peer reviewed publications that have been featured in several notable science journals including Oecologia, and Ecology. The group has also given more than 75 presentations at national scientific meetings. Smee’s progressive studies have produced more than $1 million of University funding to continue their forward-moving research.

One of Smee’s most recent studies focused on the decline in oyster reefs due to overharvesting and poor water quality. The three-year study concluded that maintaining a higher level of oyster reef diversity could make oyster reefs healthier, and possibly help worldwide oyster populations that have declined by more than 85 percent. 

“This was a major discovery,” Smee said. “Our study was the first to demonstrate that diversity within a single species was important for ecological functions in a habitat-forming animal.”

Last fall, Smee received the Coastal Bend Bays Foundation’s Conservation & Environmental Stewardship Award for Outreach and Education for mentoring students about the importance of protecting the natural resources, habitats, and native species of the Coastal Bend.

During the most recent Maymester, Smee led a 10-day ecology class through the wilderness trails of Big Bend, to engage students by comparing diversity, abundance, and types of organisms across different habitats.

“Students got out of the classroom and were able to see firsthand what they learned in their books,” said Smee. “You can talk about it in class, but until you go out into the desert and the mountains and see it with your own eyes, you don’t truly understand.”
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