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

Joining the lab for the next year is Dr. Yu Zhang, curator of the orchid collection at the Beijing Botanic Gardens and designated an Eric Young Orchid Scholar of the Royal Horticultural Society in the UK. Yu is interested in orchid propagation, primarily the morphological changes of seeds and fungi during the process of germination. Her experience with the Chinese lady’s slipper, Cypripedium macranthos, will support efforts at SI Gardens and US Botanic Garden to develop protocols for growing North American orchid seedlings for conservation and restoration purposes. Yu’s research interests are a great complement to the overall goals of NAOCC.


Lada Klimesova, an undergraduate student at South Bohemia University in the Czech Republic, returns to the Plant Ecology Lab as a summer intern this year. Lada will investigate the ecology and conservation of the federally threatened orchid Isotria medeoloides, including the presence and quantity of mycorrhizal fungi associated with this orchid in West Virginia. She will also participate in SERC’s BiodiversiTREE project designed to investigate the importance of tree diversity for key ecosystem functions. Lada will focus on whether mycorrhizal fungi can become established in an early successional forest and is the success of native orchids related to the tree species and characteristics of the soil.

Samantha Vo is a local undergraduate student from George Mason University in Northern Virginia, and divides her time between the Plant Ecology and Molecular Labs. Her project will explore the world of endobacteria associated with orchid mycorrhizal fungi and the effects the bacteria has on its host, which ultimately ties into the unique tripartite relationship between bacteria, fungi, and orchids. Samantha's work will include many ex situ trials involving Goodyera pubescens seeds grown alongside fungi/endobacteria, as well as inoculation of older fungal cultures with endobacteria isolated from recently cultured fungi.

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.

Whigham, Dennis F., McCormick, Melissa K. and O'Neill, John P. 2014. Ongoing studies of Isotria medeoloides, Small Whorled Pogonia. Native Orchid Conference Journal, 11(4): 6-11.

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.