Staff Profile
Photo for Dennis Whigham


The ecology of plants has been Dennis Whigham’s primary interest and his research has resulted in journeys through forests, fields and wetlands around the world.  Explorations have lead to studies of woodland herbs – including orchids, vines, wetland species, invasive species and studies of forests in the tropics, temperate and boreal zones.  In recent years, studies of interactions between orchids and fungi have lead in new and exciting directions.  Whigham’s current focus is on wetlands, including the role of wetlands associated with juvenile salmon habitat in Alaska; the rarest terrestrial orchid in eastern North America; and invasive species.  His current passion is to establish the North American Orchid Conservation Center (NAOCC), an initiative of the Smithsonian and the United States Botanic Garden.  NAOCC will be based on continentally focused public-private collaborations that will result in the conservation of the genetic diversity of native orchids, initially in the U.S. and Canada.


Whigham obtained an undergraduate degree from Wabash College and a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina.  He joined the Smithsonian in 1977.  Whigham and his collaborators have published more than 235 articles in journals and books and he has co-edited 10 books.


  • Callahan, Michael K., Whigham, Dennis F., Rains, Mark C., Rains, Kai C., King, Ryan S., Walker, Coowe M., Maurer, Jasmine R. and Baird, Steven J. (2017). Nitrogen Subsidies from Hillslope Alder Stands to Streamside Wetlands and Headwater Streams, Kenai Peninsula, Alaska. JAWRA Journal of the American Water Resources Association,
  • Kornis, Matthew S., Breitburg, Denise, Balouskus, Richard, Bilkovic, Donna M., Davias, Lori A., Giordano, Steve, Heggie, Keira, Hines, Anson H., Jacobs, John M., Jordan, Thomas E., King, Ryan S., Patrick, Christopher J., Seitz, Rochelle D., Soulen, Heather, Targett, Timothy E., Weller, Donald E., Whigham, Dennis F. and Uphoff, Jim. (2017). Linking the Abundance of Estuarine Fish and Crustaceans in Nearshore Waters to Shoreline Hardening and Land Cover. Estuaries and Coasts, , 1-23.
  • Rock-Blake, Rachel, McCormick, Melissa K., Brooks, Hope E. A., Jones, Cynthia S. and Whigham, Dennis F. (2017). Symbiont abundance can affect host plant population dynamics. American Journal of Botany, 104 (1) , 72-82.
  • Hosaka, Naomi, Kachi, Naoki, Kudoh, Hiroshi, Stuefer, Josef F. and Whigham, Dennis F. (2016). Compensatory growth of the clonal understory tree, Asimina triloba, in response to small-scale disturbances. Plant Ecology, 217 (5) , 471-480.
  • McCormick, Melissa K., Brooks, Hope E. A. and Whigham, Dennis F. (2016). Microsatellite analysis to estimate realized dispersal distance in Phragmites australis. Biological Invasions, 18 (9) , 2497-2504.
  • McCormick, Melissa K., Taylor, D. L., Whigham, Dennis F. and Burnett, Robert K. (2016). Germination patterns in three terrestrial orchids relate to abundance of mycorrhizal fungi. Journal of Ecology, 104 (3) , 744-754.
  • McFarland, E. K., LaForgia, M., Yepsen, M., Whigham, Dennis F., Baldwin, A. H. and Lang, M. (2016). Plant biomass and nutrients (C, N and P) in natural, restored and prior converted depressional wetlands in the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Plain, U.S. Folia Geobotanica, 51 (3) , 267-283.
  • Whigham, Dennis F., Mirenda, Tom, O'Neill, Jay and McCormick, Melissa K. (2016). A chance for orchid lovers to benefit conservation. ORCHIDS, January , 32-35.
  • Yesilonis, Ian, Szlavecz, K., Pouyat, Richard, Whigham, Dennis F. and Xia, L. (2016). Historical land use and stand age effects on forest soil properties in the Mid-Atlantic US . Forest Ecology and Management, 370 , 83-92.
  • Callahan, Michael K., Rains, Mark C., Bellino, Jason C., Walker, Coowe M., Baird, Steven J., Whigham, Dennis F. and King, Ryan S. (2015). Controls on Temperature in Salmonid-Bearing Headwater Streams in Two Common Hydrogeologic Settings, Kenai Peninsula, Alaska . JAWRA Journal of the American Water Resources Association, 51 (1) , 84-98.
  • Kettenring, Karin M., Whigham, Dennis F., Hazelton, Eric L. G., Gallagher, Sally K. and Weiner, Heather M. (2015). Biotic resistance, disturbance, and mode of colonization impact the invasion of a widespread, introduced wetland grass. Ecological Applications, 25 (2) , 466-480.
  • Hazelton, Eric L. G., Mozdzer, Thomas J., Burdick, David, Kettenring, Karin M. and Whigham, Dennis F. (2014). Phragmites australis Management in the United States: 40 years of methods and outcomes. AoB Plants, (6)
  • 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.
  • Whigham, Dennis F., McCormick, Melissa K. and O’Neill, John P. (2014). Ongoing studies of Isotria medeoloides, Small Whorled Pogonia. The Native Orchid Conference Journal, 11 (4) , 6-11.
  • Yepsen, Metthea, Baldwin, Andrew, Whigham, Dennis F., 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.