Ecological Genomics Core

The Ecological Genomics Core is a multi-user facility located in SERC’s Mathias Laboratory. Several of SERC's labs and scientists conduct research here, using DNA to solve some of the environment's most pressing issues and mysteries: conserving endangered plants, combating invasive species, exploring parasite ecology and understanding microbial functioning in coastal ecosystems. The Ecological Genomics Core is part of the wider Smithsonian Institute for Biodiversity Genomics. This network connects Smithsonian researchers and other scientists around the world in using genomics to understand, explore and sustain the diversity of life on Earth.

Multiple independent labs conduct research in this facility. For more information on projects, please contact the appropriate individual listed in the Labs & Contacts tab below for the particular research question of interest. 

The Ecological Genomics Core is equipped for modern molecular analyses, including robotic DNA isolation, PCR, gel electrophoresis, cloning, quantitative PCR, DNA shearing, and the equipment needed for library preparation for high throughput sequencing. The laboratory facility has dedicated spaces for RNA, pre-PCR, and post-PCR molecular work along with two sterile workspaces. Some key pieces of equipment include:

  • DNA and RNA Isolation: Qiagen BioSprint, Qiagen TissueLyser (x2)
  • Thermocyclers: 2 ABI Veriti (96 well), 2 BioRad C1000, 3 BioRad S1000 (96 & 384)
  • Quantitative PCR:  ABI ViiA7, Quantstudio 6 Flex
  • DNA quantification: Agilent TapeStation 4150, Qubit 3.0
  • DNA Shearing: Covaris M220 focused ult​rasonicator

EGC users work closely with the National Museum of Natural History's Laboratories of Analytical Biology (LAB) in Washington, DC. SERC researchers also have access to the Smithsonian’s computing cluster Hydra, which currently encompasses 93 compute nodes, 5,088 CPUs, and 39TB of RAM.


Simone Evans, Dennis F. Whigham, Ida Hartvig, Melissa McCormick. Hybridization in the Fringed Orchids: An Analysis of Species Boundaries in the Face of Gene Flow. Diversity.



Sunghyun Kim, Hojeong Kang, J. Patrick Megonigal, Melissa McCormick. Microbial activity and diversity vary with plant diversity and biomass in wetland ecosystems. Estuaries and Coasts.

Melissa McCormick, Robert Burnett, Dennis Whigham. Protocorm-supporting fungi are retained in roots of mature Tipularia discolor orchids as mycorrhizal fungal diversity increases. Plants.

Dennis Whigham, Melissa McCormick, Hope Brooks, Brian Josey, Robert Floyd, Jason Applegate. Isotria medeoloides, a North American threatened orchid: fungal abundance may be as important as light in species management. Plants.


Katrina Pagenkopp Lohan, Ruth DiMaria, Daniel Martin, Cliff Ross, Gregory Ruiz. Diversity and microhabitat associations of Labyrinthula spp. in the Indian River Lagoon SystemDiseases of Aquatic Organisms.

Jason Downing, Hong Liu, Melissa McCormick, Jay Arce, Dailen Alonso, Jorge Lopez-Perez. Generalized mycorrhizal interactions and fungal enemy-release drive range expansion of orchids in southern Florida. Ecosphere.

Daniel Geiger, Benjamin Crain, Melissa McCormick, Dennis Whigham. Ten new synonyms of Oberonia equitans (G. Forst.) Mutel indicated by morphology and molecular phylogeny. Lindleyana.

Melissa McCormick, Dennis Whigham, Jared Stapp, Eric Hazelton, Eliza McFarland, Karin Kettenring. Shoreline modification affects recruitment of invasive Phragmites australis. Wetlands Ecology and Management.


Eric Griffin, Joshua Harrison, Melissa McCormick, Karin Burghardt, John Parker. Tree diversity reduces fungal endophyte richness and diversity in a large-scale temperate forest experiment. Diversity.


Jason Downing, Hong Liu, Shicheng Shao, Xilong Wang, Melissa McCormick. Contrasting changes in biotic interactions of orchid populations subject to conservation introduction vs. conventional translocation in tropical China. Biological Conservation.

Rachel Rock-Blake, Melissa McCormick, Hope Brooks, Cynthia Jones, Dennis Whigham. Symbiont abundance can affect host plant population dynamics. American Journal of Botany.



Melissa McCormick, Hope Brooks, Dennis Whigham. Microsatellite analysis to estimate realized dispersal distance in Phragmites australis. Biological Invasions.


Eric Hazelton, Melissa McCormick, Matthew Sievers, Karin Kettenring, Dennis Whigham. Stand age is associated with clonal diversity, but not vigor, community structure, or insect herbivory in Chesapeake Bay Phragmites australis. Wetlands.