Staff Profile
Photo for Melissa McCormick


Research Interests: The unifying theme behind my research is using molecular techniques to elucidate questions about plant ecology. I primarily study the interactions of plants with their mycorrhizal fungi and the environment and how these interactions affect plant distribution and ecology.

I currently have ongoing projects on orchid ecology and conservation, mycorrhizal interactions, plant invasion ecology, and plant responses to anthropogenic changes.

My ongoing projects spread across three focal areas. I am using population genetics to trace the spread of invasive Phragmites australis and to understand the impacts of eutrophication on Spartina alterniflora. In these projects we (my collaborators and I) are using patterns of microsatellite variation to understand the processes that drive species responses. I also have ongoing projects on orchid ecology in which I am examining the effects of environmental conditions and the abundance and distribution of mycorrhizal fungi as drivers of orchid flowering and distribution. A third focal area for my research is trying to understand how bacteria that live within the hyphae of orchid mycorrhizal fungi affect fungal ability to form mycorrhizae.

Publications: (Note that asterisks (*) denote undergraduate intern authors)

McCormick, M.K., D.F. Whigham, A. Canchani-Viruet*. 2018. Mycorrhizal fungi affect orchid distribution and population dynamics. New Phytologist in press.

Unruh, S.A.,  MR. McKain, Y-I Lee, T. Yukawa, M.K. McCormick, R.P. Shefferson, A. Smithson, J.H. Leebens-Mack, J.C. Pires. 2018. Phylotranscriptomic analysis and genome evolution of the Cypripedioideae (Orchidaceae). American Journal of Botany doi:10.1002/ajb2.1047.

Shefferson P, T. Kull, M.J. Hutchings, K.M. Kellett, E.S. Menges, R.B. Primack, M.-A. Selosse, K. Alahuhta, S. Hurskainen, H.M. Alexander, D.S. Anderson, R. Brys, E. Brzosko, S. Dostálik, K. Gregg, Z. Ipser, H. Jacquemyn, A. Jäkäläniemi, J. Jersáková, W.D. Kettle, M.K. McCormick, A. Mendoza, M.T. Miller, A. Moen, D.-I. Øien, Ü. Püttsepp, M. Roy, N. Sather, N. Sletvold, Z. Stipkova, K. Tali, J. Tuomi, R.J. Warren II, D.F. Whigham. 2018. Drivers and characteristics of vegetative dormancy across herbaceous perennial plant species. Ecology Letters, doi: 10.1111/ele.12940.

Eller, F., H. Skalova, J.S. Caplan, G.P. Bhattarai, M.K. Burger, J.T. Cronin, W.-Y. Guo, X. Guo, E.L.G. Hazelton, K.M. Kettenring, C. Lambertini, M.K. McCormick, L.A. Meyerson, T.J. Mozdzer, P. Pyšek, B.K. Sorrell, D.F. Whigham, H. Brix. 2017. Cosmopolitan species as ecophysiological models for responses to global change: the common reed Phragmites australis. Frontiers in Plant Science 8: 1833.

Hazelton, E.L.G., R. Downard, K.M. Kettenring, M.K. McCormick, D.F. Whigham. 2017. Spatial and temporal variation in brackish marsh seedbanks: Implications for wetland restoration following Phragmites control. Estuaries and Coasts1-17. doi:10.1007/s12237-017-0289-z.

Downing, J.L., H. Liu, S. Shao, X. Wang, M. McCormick. 2017. Contrasting changes in biotic interactions of orchid populations subject to conservation introduction vs. conventional translocation in tropical China. Biological Conservation 212: 29-38.

Rock-Blake, R., M.K. McCormick, H.E.A. Brooks*, C.S. Jones, D.F. Whigham. 2017. Symbiont abundance can affect host plant population dynamics. American Journal of Botany 104: 72-82.

Kim, S., S. Lee, M. McCormick, J.G. Kim, H. Kang. 2016. Microbial community and greenhouse gas fluxes from abandoned rice paddies with different vegetation. Microbial Ecology 72: 692-703.

McCormick, M.K., H.E.A Brooks*, D.F. Whigham. 2016. Microsatellite analysis to estimate realized dispersal distance in Phragmites australis. Biological Invasions 18: 2497-2504.

Sciance, M.B.*, C.J. Patrick, D.E. Weller, M.N. Williams, M.K. McCormick, E.L.G. Hazelton. 2016. Local and regional disturbances associated with the invasion of Chesapeake Bay marshes by the common reed Phragmites australis. Biological Invasions 18: 2661-2677.

McCormick, M.K., D.L. Taylor, D.F. Whigham, R.K. Burnett Jr*. 2016. Germination patterns in three terrestrial orchids relate to abundance of mycorrhizal fungi. Journal of Ecology 103: 744-754.

Paudel, S., T. Longcore, B. MacDonald, M.K. McCormick, K. Szlavecz, G.W.T. Wilson, S.R. Loss. 2016. Belowground interactions with aboveground consequences: Invasive earthworms and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. Ecology 97: 605-614.

Hazelton, E.L.G., M.K. McCormick, M. Sievers*, K.M. Kettenring, D.F. Whigham. 2015. Stand age is associated with clonal diversity, but not vigor, community structure, or insect herbivory in Chesapeake Bay Phragmites australis. Wetlands 35: 877-888.

Kowalski, K.P., C. Bacon, W. Bickford, H. Braun, K. Clay, M. Leduc-Lapierre, E. Lillard, M.K. McCormick, E. Nelson, M. Torres, J. White, D.A. Wilcox. 2015. Advancing the science of microbial symbiosis to support invasive species management: A case study on Phragmites in the Great Lakes. Frontiers in Microbiology 6: article 95.

McCormick, M.K., H. Jacquemyn. 2014. What constrains the distribution of orchid populations? New Phytologist 202: 392–400.

Whigham, D.F., McCormick, M.K. O'Neill, J.P. 2014. Ongoing studies of Isotria medeoloides, Small Whorled Pogonia. Native Orchid Conference Journal, 11: 6-11.

Ma, Y., T.R. Filley, K. Szlavecz, M.K. McCormick. 2013. Controls on wood and leaf litter incorporation into soil fractions in forests at different successional stages. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 58: 56-68.

Krupnick, G.A., M.K. McCormick, T. Mirenda, and D.F. Whigham. 2013. The status and future of orchid conservation in North America. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 99: 180-198.

Ma, Y., T.R. Filley, C.T. Johnston, S.E. Crow, K. Szlavecz, M.K. McCormick. 2013. The combined controls of land use legacy and earthworm activity on soil organic matter chemistry and particle association during afforestation. Organic Geochemistry 58: 56-68. doi:

McCormick, M.K., K.L. Parker*, K. Szlavecz, D.F. Whigham. 2013. Native and exotic earthworms affect orchid seed loss. AOB Plants. DOI: 10.1093/aobpla/plt018.

Szlavecz K., S.L. Pitz, M.J. Bernard, L. Xia, J.P. O’Neill, C.-H. Chang, M.K. McCormick, D.F. Whigham. 2013. Manipulating earthworm abundance using electroshocking in deciduous forests. Pedobiologia 56: 33– 40.

Meyerson, L.A., C. Lambertini, M.K. McCormick and D.F. Whigham. 2012. Hybridization of common reed in North America? The answer is blowing in the wind. AoB Plants pls022; doi:10.1093/aobpla/pls022.

McCormick, M.K., D.L. Taylor, K. Juhaszova*, R.K. Burnett*, D.F. Whigham J.P. O’Neill. 2012. Limitations on orchid recruitment: not a simple picture. Molecular Ecology 21: 1511–1523.

McCormick, M.K. 2012. Research advances and conservation of small-whorled pogonia. Native Orchid Conference Journal 9: 31-34.

Kettenring, K., M.K. McCormick, H.M. Baron*, D.F. Whigham. 2011. Mechanisms of Phragmites australis invasion: feedbacks among genetic diversity, nutrients, and sexual reproduction. Journal of Applied Ecology 48, 1305–1313.

Innis, A.F., I.N. Forseth, D.F. Whigham, M.K. McCormick. 2011. Genetic diversity in the invasive Rubus phoenicolasius as compared to the native Rubus argutus using inter-simple sequence repeat (ISSR) markers. Biological Invasions 13: 1735–1738.

Shefferson, R.P., M.K. McCormick, D.F. Whigham, J.P. O’Neill. 2011. Life history strategy in herbaceous perennials: inferring demographic patterns from the aboveground dynamics of a primarily subterranean, myco-heterotrophic orchid. Oikos 120: 1291–1300.

Szlavecz, K., M. McCormick, L. Xia, J. Saunders*, T. Morcol*, D. Whigham, T. Filley. 2011. Ecosystem effects of non-native earthworms in Mid-Atlantic deciduous forests. Biological Invasions 13:1165-1182.

Whigham, D.F., K.M. Kettenring, M.K. McCormick, H. Baron. 2010. The invasion of common reed (Phragmites australis) in Chesapeake Bay, US. Australasian Plant Conservation 18: 17-18.

McCormick, M.K., K.M. Kettenring, H.M. Baron*, D.F. Whigham. 2010. Spread of invasive Phragmites australis in estuaries with differing degrees of development: Genetic patterns, Allee effects and interpretation. Journal of Ecology 98: 1369–1378.

Shefferson, R.P., C.C. Cowden, M.K. McCormick, T. Yukawa, Y. Ogura-Tsujita, T. Hashimoto. 2010. Evolution of host breadth in broad interactions: mycorrhizal specificity in East Asian and North American rattlesnake plantains (Goodyera spp.) and their fungal hosts. Molecular Ecology 19: 3008–3017.

McCormick, M.K., K.M. Kettenring, H.M. Baron*, D.F. Whigham. 2010. Extent, and mechanisms of Phragmites australis spread in the Rhode River subestuary of the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland (USA). Wetlands 30: 67-74.

Kettenring, K.M., M.K. McCormick, H.M. Baron*, and D.F. Whigham. 2010. Phragmites australis (Common Reed) Invasion in the Rhode River Subestuary of the Chesapeake Bay: Disentangling the Effects of Foliar Nutrients, Genetic Diversity, Patch Size, and Seed Viability. Estuaries and Coasts 33:118–126.

McCormick, M.K., D.F. Whigham, J.P. O’Neill, J.J. Becker*, S. Werner*, T.D. Bruns, D.L. Taylor. 2009. Abundance of Corallorhiza odontorhiza (Orchidaceae) within an established population reflects abundance of ectomycorrhizal root tips and fungal community composition. Ecological Monographs 79: 619–635.

Crow, S.E., T.R. Filley, M. McCormick, K. Szlavecz, D.E. Stott, D. Gamblin, G. Conyers. 2009. Earthworms, stand age, and species composition interact to influence particulate organic matter chemistry during forest succession. Biogeochemistry 92: 61-82.

Øien, D.-I., J.P. O’Neill, D.F. Whigham, M.K. McCormick. 2008. Germination ecology of the boreal alpine terrestrial orchid Dactylorhiza lapponica (Orchidaceae). Annals Botanici Fennici 45: 161-171.

Whigham, D.F., M.K. McCormick, J.P. O’Neill. 2008. Specialized Strategies II – Epiphytes, orchids, insectivores, and parasites.  In:  Leck, M.A., T.V. Parker and R.L. Simpson.  Seedling Ecology and Evolution. Academic Press.

Filley, T.R., M.K. McCormick, S.E. Crow, K. Szlavecz, D.F. Whigham,  D.L. Taylor, C.T. Johnston, R. van den Heuvel*. 2008. Comparison of the chemical alteration trajectory of Liriodendron tulipifera litter among forests with different invasive earthworm activity. JGR Biogeosciences 113: G01027.

Taylor, D.L., M.K. McCormick.  2008. Internal transcribed spacer primers and sequences for improved characterization of basidiomycetous orchid mycorrhizas. New Phytologist 177: 1020-1033.

Shefferson, R.P.,  D.L. Taylor, M. Weiß, S. Garnica, M.K. McCormick, S. Adams, H.M. Gray, J.W. McFarland, T. Kull, K. Tali, T. Yukawa, T. Kawahara, K. Miyoshi, and Y.-I. Lee. 2007. The evolutionary history of mycorrhizal specificity among lady’s slipper orchids. Evolution 61(6): 1380-1390.

McCormick, M.K., D.F. Whigham, D. Sloan*, K. O’Malley*, B. Hodkinson*. 2006. Orchid-fungus fidelity: a marriage meant to last?  Ecology 87(4): 903-911.

Whigham, D.F., J.P. O’Neill, H.N. Rasmussen, B.A. Caldwell, M.K. McCormick. 2006. Seed longevity in terrestrial orchids-potential for in situ seed banks. Conservation Biology 129: 24-30.

McCormick, M.K., D.F. Whigham, J.P. O’Neill. 2004. Mycorrhizal diversity in photosynthetic terrestrial orchids. New Phytologist 163: 425-438. Subject of a Commentary by D.L. Taylor. 2004. Myco-heterotroph-fungus marriages – is fidelity over-rated? New Phytologist 163: 217-221.

Whigham, D.F., J. O’Neill, M.K. McCormick, C. Smith, H.R. Rasmussen, B. Caldwell, T. Daniell. 2002. Interactions between decomposing wood, mycorrhizas, and terrestrial orchid seeds and protocorms. In P. Kindlmann, J.H. Willems, and D.F. Whigham, eds. Underlying mechanisms of trends and fluctuations in terrestrial orchid populations. SPB Academic Publishers, The Hague, The Netherlands, pp 117-132.

McCormick, M.K., K.L. Gross, R.A. Smith*. 2001. Danthonia spicata and Atkinsonella hypoxylon: environmental dependence of a symbiosis. American Journal of Botany 88: 903-909.