Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
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 research projects focus on the role of wetlands associated with juvenile salmon habitat in Alaska headwater streams; the rarest terrestrial orchid in eastern North America; and an invasive wetland species that is rapidly expanding across the country. 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’s mission is to secure the genetic diversity of native orchids for future generations. The NAOCC model for orchid conservation is based on public-private collaborations and there are currently more than forty collaborating organization distributed across the continent from Florida to Alaska.
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 250 articles in journals and books and he has co-edited 10 books.