Melissa McCormick Liza McFarland Jay O'Neill Jitka Klimesova Dennis Whigham Ingrid Slette Eric Hazelton
AS PLANT ECOLOGISTS, WE ARE INTERESTED in the broad topic of how plants interact with other plants, with animals, and with the physical environment around them. We also strive to understand how these interactions affect ecological processes at multiple scales.Our efforts are evenly divided between terrestrial and wetland ecosystems, including linkages between them.



Dennis Whigham
Senior Botanist
Smithsonian Environmental
Research Center

PO Box 28
Edgewater, Maryland 21037
Phone: 443-482-2226
Fax: 443-482-2380
Curriculum Vitae



Research Highlights

Lauren Emsweller (center- Miami University), Julia Mudd (left- Florida State University) and Eva Kinnebrew (right- University of Chicago) are interning in the Plant Ecology Lab this summer to determine the impact of disturbance, primarily treefall gaps, on the successful  invasion of non-native plant species. Their project includes mapping 5 non-native plant species, including Japanese barberry and stiltgrass, within the 16 hectare Forest Dynamics Plot at SERC to determine how their spatial distributions have changed over a three year interval.

Chris Robinson, is a rising senior at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, with broad interests in mycology, molecular biology and microbial ecology. This summer, Chris is examining the relationship between orchid mycorrhizal fungi and the endobacteria that reside within the fungal cells. He is using molecular tools, including PCR and DNA sequencing, to describe the ecological role of endobacteria in relation to their host fungi. Understanding this relationship will be necessary for the conservation and propagation of North American orchids.

Hope Brooks, an undergraduate student at Penn State University, returns to monitor populations of two federally threatened species, the Small Whorled Pogonia (Isotria medeoloides) and Swamp Pink (Helonias bullata), in conjunction with the U.S. Military and National Park Service. Her research focuses on understanding how canopy thinning efforts and symbiotic mycorrhizal fungi affect I. medeoloides populations. In addition, she is looking at the effects of controlled burns on soil nutrient regimes and forest canopy closure in H. bullata populations.

Wes Hauser, an undergraduate student at Wabash College, returns for a second summer to work on the headwater stream project at the Kachemak Bay Research Reserve in Homer, Alaska. When not working on wetland ecology, he is exploring the area around Homer for orchids to conducting experiments on the reproduction of Platanthera species as well as collecting population data on other orchid species found in the area.

Eric Hazelton, Ph.D. student at Utah State University, joined the Lab as part of the five-year, $5 million NOAA grant. Eric's focus on this project is the impact of Phragmites australis, an invasive species that threatens the sensitive coastal habitats in the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays. His project will include the impact of Phragmites removal on native vegetation and how land use patterns affect the likelihood for restoration success.

     Small Whorled--Big Mission
The Lab has joined forces with the National Park Service and the US Military to evaluate a range of ecological characteristics of Isotria medeoloides (small whorled pogonia) to develop techniques to be used to manage and reintroduce this federally threatened orchid. details

ALIEN ALERT!!! update
Will this Asian invasive earthworm threaten SERC's forest?

Recent Publications

Hazelton, Eric L. G., Mozdzer, Thomas J., Burdick, David, Kettenring, Karin M. and Whigham, Dennis. 2014. Phragmites australis Management in the United States: 40 years of methods and outcomes. AoB Plants, doi:10.1093/aobpla/plu001

Ma, Yini, Filley, Timothy R., Szlavecz, Katalin and McCormick, Melissa K. 2014. Controls on wood and leaf litter incorporation into soil fractions in forests at different successional stages. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 69: 212-222. doi:10.1016/j.soilbio.2013.10.043

McCormick, Melissa K. and Jacquemyn, Hans. 2014. What constrains the distribution of orchid populations? New Phytologist, 202(2): 392-400. doi:10.1111/nph.12639

Verhoeven, Jos T. A., Laanbroek, Hendrikus J., Rains, Mark C. and Whigham, Dennis F. 2014. Effects of increased summer flooding on nitrogen dynamics in impounded mangroves. Journal of Environmental Management, 139: 217-226.

Yepsen, Metthea, Baldwin, Andrew, Whigham, Dennis, McFarland, Eliza, LaForgia, Marina and Lang, Megan. 2014. Agricultural wetland restorations on the US Atlantic Coastal Plain achieve diverse native wetland communities but differ from natural wetlands. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 197: 11-20.