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American Gut

The Human Microbiome Project and other microbiome projects worldwide have laid an important foundation for understanding the trillions of microbes that inhabits each of our bodies. However, opportunities for the public to get involved in such research has been limited. Now, American Gut gives you an opportunity to participate and to compare the microbes in your gut to those in the guts of thousands of other people in the US and elsewhere. American Gut is a project built on open-source, open-access principles. Our data are for the good of understanding and will be shared both with participants and with other scientists.




Blue Catfish Watch

Show us your blue catfish catch! Collaborate with scientists at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center to help us track the expanding range of the non-native blue catfish into the upper Chesapeake Bay and into Delaware Bay and the Delaware River.

Native to the Mississippi, Ohio and Missouri Rivers, blue catfish were introduced to Virginia for sport fishing beginning in 1974. Since introduction, these non-native top predators have expanded their range into many of Maryland’s tributaries, including the Nanticoke, Patuxent, Choptank, Susquehanna and Sassafras Rivers. Due to their large size and adult predatory feeding behavior, blue catfish are consuming many native fish species, such as white perch, largemouth bass, American shad, river herring and menhaden. Knowing where and when these catfish are being caught is an important part of understanding their rising impact on the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. Remember that it is illegal in Maryland, Virginia, and Delaware to transport and release live blue catfish.

Identifying Blue Catfish
Blue catfish (Ictalurus furcatus) have a bluish-gray body and a deeply forked tail. Unlike channel catfish, they do not have spots on their body. One feature that distinguishes blue catfish from other catfishes is the prominent straight edge on their anal fin; other catfishes, including the similarly colored white catfish, have a rounded anal fin (see pictures on website).




Search for Mystery Snails in N. Virginia

Mystery snails (Bellamya chinensis and Bellamya japonica) are two non-native snail species from the viviparidae family found within North America, including right here in the Potomac River watershed. Originally transported from Asia to North America, and sold as a food commodity or ornamental garden species over 100 years ago, the snails are now found across the Pacific Northwest, Great Lakes, New England, and Mid-Atlantic coasts.

Despite their widespread distribution in North American freshwater systems, researchers do not fully understand the morphology and possible impacts of B. chinensis and B. japonica on native freshwater systems such as the Potomac River.




Be A Smithsonian Archaeology Volunteer

Join the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) Archaeology Lab as we excavate two sites on SERC property this summer! Work with scientists and students to excavate sites, preserve artifacts, and collect environmental data to understand the ways that people change the land has changed (or not) over the past 200 years.

We request that volunteers serve at least one, and volunteers may volunteer for one or more days. No experience is necessary and training will be provided. This opportunity is suitable for families with older children (13+ directly supervised by a parent/guardian, 16+ may be able to work without having a parent/guardian present)and groups. Volunteers will be working outside and some bending and kneeling is required.

For people who wish to become more deeply involved with the program, we offer a research citizen science track, where volunteers will pursue semi-independent research and may even publish their findings in professional journals. This opportunity is only available to people aged 18+. Research Citizen Scientists must commit to a minimum of 10 hours per month for at least 4 months.

All volunteer activities occur on Wednesdays on the campus of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, MD.




BiodiversiTREE

BiodiversiTREE is an experimental forest on the campus of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, MD. Last fall, staff and volunteers planted around 20,000 trees in 75 plots. Some of the plots have one species, some have 4 species, and others have 12 species. Over the next 100 years, professional and citizen scientists will collect data to better understand the impacts of forest biodiversity on environmental factors such as tree growth, insect diversity, and soil quality.

We are seeking volunteers to help us maintain our forest and to help us collect data! No prior knowledge is required. This opportunity is suitable for people age 16 and over. Younger volunteers (under the supervision of a parent or guardian) will be considered on a case by case basis. Volunteers will be working outside and this work involves a lot of kneeling and bending. Volunteers must come to the SERC campus in Edgewater, MD to volunteer.

As we move forward, we are looking for individuals, families, or groups to "adopt" plots. This would involve continued maintenance of the plots and data collection, involving activities such as measuring trees and collecting soil samples.




National Moth Week

Like moths to a flame? Did you know the US is home to over 11,000 moth species? Head outside during National Moth Week July 19-27, 2014 and find a few. Join existing teams or organize a count in your area! Photograph or record moths spotted in parks, environmental education centers, or fluttering around your porchlight.

Why study moths?
 Moths are among the most diverse and successful organisms on earth.
 Scientists estimate there are 150,000 to more than 500,000 moth species.
 Their colors and patterns are either dazzling or so cryptic that they define camouflage. Shapes and sizes span the gamut from as small as a pinhead to as large as an adult’s hand.
 Most moths are nocturnal, and need to be sought at night to be seen – others fly like butterflies during the day.
 Finding moths can be as simple as leaving a porch light on and checking it after dark. Serious moth aficionados use special lights and baits to attract them.





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