Coffee Hour with Dennis Whigham: Linking watersheds, wetlands, headwater streams and juvenile salmon—Kenai Lowlands, Alaska

Friday, February 16, 2018 - 3:30pm
Refreshments are offered in 319 Walker Building at 3:30 p.m. The lecture begins in 112 Walker Building at 4:00 p.m


About the talk

Alaska is known for salmon and the linkage between returning salmon and nutrients cycling in streams and riparian habitats has been demonstrated and is known as "marine derived nutrients." This interdisciplinary project focusses on linkages between watersheds and first order streams that are upstream of the areas influenced by returning salmon carcasses. More than 60 percent of the nitrogen in juvenile salmon in headwater streams is derived from terrestrial sources. Where is the nitrogen coming from and how does it move between terrestrial habitats and streams? What is the importance of riparian wetlands that are positioned between streams and upland habitats? What nutrients limit stream production across the landscape? Are all headwater streams equal as habitats that support juvenile salmon? How can the knowledge gained from this interdisciplinary project be used to inform the public, stakeholders and management agencies to assure the long-term sustainability of the salmon resources. Whigham will cover these topics and also describe how the Alaska project is linked to Penn State.

About the speaker

Dennis WhighamDennis Whigham, PhD
Senior Botanist, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
Founding Director, North American Orchid Conservation 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.

Contact us

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Coffee Hour