About the Lab                                        

Gregory M. Ruiz/Senior Scientist
Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

PO Box 28
Edgewater, Maryland 21037
Phone: 443-482-2227 Email:

Biological Invasions (the establishment of species beyond their historical range) are a major force of ecological and evolutionary change. Invasions are fundamentally changing the structure and function of most ecosystems around the world and are impacting many dimensions of human society. Moreover, the observed rates and impacts of new invasions have increased dramatically in recent time.

The primary goal of our research is to understand biological invasion patterns and processes in marine ecosystems. We seek to (1) characterize patterns of marine invasion across space, time, and taxonomic groups, (2) develop a mechanistic understanding of those factors that are driving observed patterns, and (3) advance predictive capability about the establishment, spread, and impacts of non-native species in marine ecosystems.

Our research program and activities are divided into several theme areas, which are described in the underlying pages of our lab website. These include the following components:

  • Vector Ecology- The biology, ecology, and patterns of transfer mechanisms (vectors) that deliver species beyond their geographic range. A large component of our work in this area focuses on commercial shipping and ballast water.
  • Population Ecology - The biological and ecological attributes of species in their introduced (non-native) range. Research in this area focuses on individual species, or groups of species, and examines behavior, life-history, demography, habitat utilization, spread, ecological and economic effects. Increasingly, our focus is on comparisons between native and non-native populations of the same species.
  • Community Ecology - The relationships between invasions and their recipient communities. Our work in this area explores (a) effects of invading species on the recipient communities and (b) factors in the recipient community that influence the susceptibility to colonization by non-native species and their subsequent abundance and effects.
  • Biogeography - The geographic distribution of biological invasions. This work examines global patterns of biological invasions and factors that limit (or promote) observed distributions.
  • Databases - The synthesis of information on non-native species and transfer mechanisms. A major portion of our effort involves synthesis and analysis of data on species occurrence and vector operation. We are increasingly developing web-based access to these datasets and promoting the development of portals to access data (simultaneously) from networks of databases, which are distributed among many institutions.
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