Lee Berger (biologist)

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Lee Berger
Born (1970-01-16) January 16, 1970 (age 50)
Epsom, England
Alma materUniversity of Melbourne
James Cook University
Scientific career
ThesisDiseases in Australian Frogs (2001)
Academic advisorsRick Speare

Lee Berger (born 16 January 1970), is an Australian biologist and veterinarian, who discovered during her Ph.D that the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis was responsible for the decline and extinction of hundreds of amphibian species.

Early life and career[edit]

Berger was born in Epsom, England in 1970, but moved to Melbourne, Australia with her family just a year later.[1] She studied Veterinary Science at the University of Melbourne and received her bachelor's in 1993.[1] She started her Ph.D at James Cook University in 1995 under the supervision of Rick Speare.[2][3][4] In her PhD she aimed to find the cause of the decline of amphibians in Queensland between the 1970s and 1990s.[3] During her PhD she identified the cause as being a chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, which causes a disease called chytridiomycosis.[2][5] She later continued her research part time and was funded by grants of the Australian Research Council.[2] She also served as the Associate Dean of Research within the College of Public Health, Medical and Veterinary Sciences at James Cook University.[2] She is currently an adjunct professor at James Cook University and the University of Melbourne.[2][6][7] In 2018 she received the Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year for her discovery of the fungus.[3][7][8]

Discovery of chytridiomycosis[edit]

Between the late 1970s and the 1990s a mysterious decline in frog species was observed in Australia.[4] Rick Speare theorised that this was caused by an infectious disease and hired Berger to study this.[4] At the time it was thought that infectious diseases could not cause an extinction, as had happened to six frog species.[3][9] However, by applying methods from the medical field, in 1998 Berger was able to identify a fungus, called Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, in the skin of the frog.[5] This fungus disrupts the skin, making the frogs unable to absorb electrolytes and water. This ultimately causes them to die.[5] Her work on this infectious disease has helped to change practices in conservation around the world.[3]


  • 2000 - CSIRO Medal for Research Achievement[10]
  • 2007 - Ian Clunies Ross Memorial Award[1]
  • 2018 - Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year[3][7][8]


  1. ^ a b c "Lee Berger". CSIROpedia. 2015-01-13. Retrieved 2019-12-23.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Research Portfolio: Dr Lee Berger". James Cook University. 2018. Retrieved 23 December 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "The Prime Minister's Science Prizes: all the winners". Cosmos Magazine. Retrieved 2019-12-23.
  4. ^ a b c Morton, Adam (2018-10-17). "Landmark work on frog extinction crisis wins at PM's science prizes". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-12-23.
  5. ^ a b c "This deadly fungus is wiping out amphibians around the world". World Economic Forum. Retrieved 2019-12-23.
  6. ^ "A/Prof Lee Berger". findanexpert.unimelb.edu.au. Retrieved 2019-12-23.
  7. ^ a b c "Prime Minister's Prizes Honour Excellence in Science | Prime Minister of Australia". www.pm.gov.au. Retrieved 2019-12-23.
  8. ^ a b "Saving frogs, and revealing new extinction threats" (PDF). Retrieved 23 December 2019.
  9. ^ Berger, Lee; Skerratt, Lee Francis. "Fighting frog fungus: Lee Berger wins PM's Life Scientist 2018 award". The Conversation. Retrieved 2019-12-23.
  10. ^ "CSIRO Medals 2000 – Research achievement – Amphibian disease team". CSIROpedia. 2000-10-31. Retrieved 2019-12-24.