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Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
Smithsonian Environmental Research Center building during open house.

Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
General information on planning and scheduling school visits to the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. Includes links to information on specific on-site trips, electronic field trips, and video conferences

Smithsonian Environmental Research Center Canopy Research

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
Featured in Torch, September 1994

Geoffrey Parker, left, a forest ecologist at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) in Edgewater, MD. and Project Facilitator Sarita Cargas perform leaf experiments high up in the forest canopy with the help of a crane they rented for a week. The canopy, where the atmosphere interacts with the biosphere, has rarely been studied in a temperate forest.

Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

Smithsonian Marine Science

Smithsonian Environmental Research Center Online Databases

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Links to searchable databases useful for research into aquatic ecosystems.

The Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

Smithsonian Institution Archives

With nineteen museums and research centers, the Smithsonian Institution is so much more than just the buildings on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. In fact, if you drive about 33 miles east of the National Mall, you will find the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC), located in Edgewater, Maryland, and this year, the site is celebrating its 50th Anniversary.

SERC was originally established in 1965 as the Chesapeake Center for Field Biology after Robert Lee Forrest bequeathed the land to the Smithsonian upon his death in 1962. The original land donation was 365 acres, but additional grants allowed the Smithsonian to purchase the surrounding land and increase the site to 933 acres by the end of 1969. Further funding and acquisitions have allowed SERC to expand to the 2,650 acres it currently occupies today.

Even though scientists began conducting research on the site shortly after it was acquired, SERC did not hire its first full-time resident scientist until 1974. By that time, more than 15 scientists were already conducting research at the center on everything from tidal marsh plant communities to water quality in Muddy Creek River on a regular basis. In 1975, the visitor’s center, now known as the Reed Education Center, officially opened as the first new building constructed on the site. In the early 1980’s, a laboratory building was constructed as a more permanent facility in which scientists could conduct their research on the area. The area was officially renamed the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in 1985.

A few years ago, SERC began remodeling the original laboratory, and last year they opened the brand new Charles McC. Mathias Laboratory, the Smithsonian’s first LEED-platinum building. The remodeled laboratory includes roof-mounted solar panels to provide hot water for the building, as well as additional panels which provide a portion of the building’s electricity. Also, 100 percent of the water used in the laboratory is recycled with all greywater being processed through an onsite treatment plant and then reused for things such as fire suppression and bathrooms. Additionally, three large cisterns, and a series of cascading wetland pools containing native plants, capture rain water for use in irrigation.  The remodel included expanding the original building to more than four times its original size to make space for the ever-growing number of scientists conducting research at SERC.

In addition to the laboratory and education center, SERC has three different trails for visitors to explore. There is also a floating dock where visitors coming by water along the Rhode River can tie up before coming ashore to visit the facilities. The Smithsonian Environmental Research Center is open to the public Monday through Saturday, so be sure to check it out!

 


The Charles McC. Mathias Laboratory. Behind the sign is a series of cascading wetland pools containing native plants. Photo by Kira Sobers, September 12, 2015.


The Charles McC. Mathias Laboratory. Behind the sign is a series of cascading wetland pools containing native plants. Photo by Kira Sobers, September 12, 2015.


The Charles McC. Mathias Laboratory. Behind the sign is a series of cascading wetland pools containing native plants. Photo by Kira Sobers, September 12, 2015.


One of three cisterns that capture rain water for use in irrigation. Photo by Kira Sobers, September 12, 2015.


One of three cisterns that capture rain water for use in irrigation. Photo by Kira Sobers, September 12, 2015.


One of three cisterns that capture rain water for use in irrigation. Photo by Kira Sobers, September 12, 2015.


Rack of boots used in the wetlands at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. Photo by Kira Sobers, September 12, 2015.


Rack of boots used in the wetlands at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. Photo by Kira Sobers, September 12, 2015.


Rack of boots used in the wetlands at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. Photo by Kira Sobers, September 12, 2015.


One of the new laboratories in the Charles McC. Mathias Laboratory. Photo by Kira Sobers, September 12, 2015.


One of the new laboratories in the Charles McC. Mathias Laboratory. Photo by Kira Sobers, September 12, 2015.


One of the new laboratories in the Charles McC. Mathias Laboratory. Photo by Kira Sobers, September 12, 2015.


Grass specimens currently being studied by a scientist in the Mathias Laboratory. Photo by Kira Sobers, September 12, 2015.


Grass specimens currently being studied by a scientist in the Mathias Laboratory. Photo by Kira Sobers, September 12, 2015.


Grass specimens currently being studied by a scientist in the Mathias Laboratory. Photo by Kira Sobers, September 12, 2015.


View of the Big Island from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center dock. Photo by Kira Sobers, September 12, 2015.


View of the Big Island from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center dock. Photo by Kira Sobers, September 12, 2015.


View of the Big Island from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center dock. Photo by Kira Sobers, September 12, 2015.


A crab shell on an aquarium at the Reed Education Center. Photo by Kira Sobers, September 12, 2015.


A crab shell on an aquarium at the Reed Education Center. Photo by Kira Sobers, September 12, 2015.


A crab shell on an aquarium at the Reed Education Center. Photo by Kira Sobers, September 12, 2015.

Related Resources

Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

Mathias Laboratory Fact SheetThe Smithsonian Environmental Research Center


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Mangroves research by Candy Feller, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center botanist

Smithsonian Insider

Follow botanist Candy Feller of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center as she conducts field work on mangrove ecosystems at Carrie Bow Cay, a Smithsonian field research station in the Caribbean.

The post Mangroves research by Candy Feller, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center botanist appeared first on Smithsonian Insider.

Smithsonian Environmental Research Center Video Conferences

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Interactive videoconferences, 30 to 60 minutes, on topics related to SERC research including animals, plants, and ecology. Students participate in hands-on science demonstrations and interact with SERC staff.

Smithsonian Environmental Research Center Distance Learning Programs

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Gateway to information on SERC's electronic field trips and videoconferences. Provides an opportunity to talk with scientists and educators and possibly venture into places where on-site visitors are seldom permitted.

Shorelines: Life and Science at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Blog follows the ongoing work of the Smithsonian's Environmental Research Center as they investigate climate change, invasive species, food webs, and other environmental issues around the world.

Smithsonian Environmental Research Center Marks 50 Years of Making a Difference

Smithsonian Insider

The world’s coasts are home to more than 70 percent of the human population and experience intense development as a result. The rate of environmental […]

The post Smithsonian Environmental Research Center Marks 50 Years of Making a Difference appeared first on Smithsonian Insider.

Invasive ash borer found in Smithsonian Environmental Research Center forest; ash deaths may impact Chesapeake waters

Smithsonian Insider

A tiny invasive insect from Asia might have an effect on Chesapeake Bay waters. The emerald ash borer is killing millions of ash trees in […]

The post Invasive ash borer found in Smithsonian Environmental Research Center forest; ash deaths may impact Chesapeake waters appeared first on Smithsonian Insider.

A Virtual Field Trip to the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

Smithsonian Education
Take a virtual fieldtrip to the center from the comfort of your computer and interact with Haddon as he describes approaches to teaching climate change using Smithsonian resources. Presented by: Mark Haddon Director of Education Smithsonian Environmental Research Center Original Airdate: September 29, 2009 You can stay connected with the Smithsonian's upcoming online events and view a full collection of past sessions on a variety of topics.: http://www.smithsonianeducation.org/educators/events/online_events.html

Open House at Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC), Maryland

Smithsonian Institution Archives
Glass blowing demonstration.
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