Michael Lemke

lemke_002icon_video_013Professor Lemke on biodiversity



Meet Michael Lemke


  • B.S. Natural Resources: Wildlife Management, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
  • M.S. Zoology: University of British Columbia
  • Ph.D. Biological Sciences – Limnology, Michigan Technological University
  • Post Doctorate:
    1. Wetland Ecology, University of Alabama
    2. Microbial Ecology, Kent State University


  • I grew up in rural Wisconsin on the edge of a lake. This is where my interest in nature began and that interest continues to this day. My wife is wonderful and just good, is a darn fine biologist also. I enjoy fly-fishing, cycling, and woodworking.


Dr. Lemke tests water quality on the Illinois River.

Interesting facts:

  • Still alive; survived being run over by a bus in Canada, a typhoon in the Gulf of Alaska, and nearly drowning in WI; not as much fun as it sounds but always worth a story or two. Have biked from the Rocky Mts. to WI, studied in Brazil, lectured in Japan, taught in AL and NY, did field work in AK, MT and ID. All the other stuff you have heard about me is idle gossip, a lie, or emphatically denied.

Research Interest:

  • Aquatic ecology and microbial ecology. This means I strive to understand natural processes in lakes, rivers, and wetlands with special interest on the role of bacteria in freshwater. My students and I examine questions about microbe populations, nutrient cycling, and decompositional processes. We have a special interest in the complex, fascinating Illinois River floodplain ecosystem.

Major project underway:

  • Restoration of the Emiquon Floodplain. The Nature Conservancy has chosen the University of Illinois at Springfield as their education extension of this historic 7,000 acre restoration project. My role is in establishing and directing the new Emiquon Field Station, where research and education will coordinated for this landscape-level project. There will be lab facilities, classrooms, even a Webcam. Students, researchers, and interested people of all ages are invited to join in the discovery!

Professor Lemke studies biodiversity in Brazil:


  • University Scholar for 2002-2003, one of only 14 named that year throughout the U of I system and the only recipient from UIS. Also, Visiting Scientist and Fellow at the American Museum of Natural History, NYC.

Active Learning Philosophy:

  • It is important for students of the natural sciences to immerse themselves in field ecology because they can feel, smell, hear and sometimes even taste the objects and environment; this gives a very live sense and experience to study. It leaves an impression of the holism that the study of ecological science strives to understand. Coupled with the analytical, logical, and methodical, discipline of science, the parts may be understood so that a comprehension of the whole can be achieved. What more can you ask for than this?

Advice to prospective students:

  • Be taught, and teach each other, in earnest and honestly. This is the most accessible avenue to knowledge for most of us.
  • Work hard and often, but be sure to play when you can.
  • Create and explore new ideas and reflect on their place with established wisdom.
  • Don’t whine unless you are willing to change things for the better. Otherwise shut up and enjoy what you have.
  • Educate to enrich your life so that facts and theories allow you to continuously discover the world you sense before you.
  • Try not to screw up, but realize we all do, and learn from this – then move on.