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Megonigal, Patrick

Fellowship Advisor
Smithsonian Environmental Research Center staff

wetland ecology, microbial ecology, soil ecology, biogeochemistry, climate change impacts; tidal wetland vulnerability to sea level rise

Research Areas research areas

Professional Biography

  • J. Patrick Megonigal is Senior Scientist and Associate Director of Research at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. He is an ecosystem ecologist with research interests in carbon and greenhouse gas cycling in wetlands and forests, particularly as they relate to climate change. He is the Lead Investigator of the Smithsonian’s Global Change Research wetland, a long-term research program focused on the stability of tidal wetlands faced with accelerated sea level rise. Dr. Megonigal has authored over 110 peer-reviewed publications and is a Fellow of both the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) and the Ecological Society of America. Dr. Megonigal was Curator of the major exhibit Dig It! The Secrets of Soils, for which he won a SSSA Presidential Citation, the Smithsonian Institution Secretary’s Research Prize, the Renewable Natural Resources Foundation’s Outstanding Achievement Award, and the Soil and Water Conservation Society’s Merit Award.

awards and honors

Public Biography

  • J. Patrick Megonigal is Senior Scientist and Associate Director of Research at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. He studies the interactions of plants and soil microbes as they impact carbon cycling and greenhouse gas emissions from wetlands and forests. He directs the Smithsonian’s Global Change Research wetland, a long-term research program focused on the stability of tidal wetlands faced with accelerated sea level rise. Dr. Megonigal has authored over 110 peer-reviewed publications and is a Fellow of both the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) and the Ecological Society of America. Dr. Megonigal was Curator of a major exhibit about soils -- Dig It! The Secrets of Soils -- for which he won a SSSA Presidential Citation, the Smithsonian Institution Secretary’s Research Prize, the Renewable Natural Resources Foundation’s Outstanding Achievement Award, and the Soil and Water Conservation Society’s Merit Award.

International Audience Summary of Expertise

  • Pat Megonigal is a biogeochemist who studies the soil ecology of tidal wetlands.

    A member of the Blue Carbon Initiative’s Scientific Working Group since 2011, Pat is also active in several additional working groups to advance scientific questions that are critical for understanding how tidal wetlands store and preserve carbon. In 2013, he collaborated on a project in Abu Dhabi to quantify the carbon storage capacity of tidal wetland systems, or “blue carbon” pools.

    Pat developed a love of wild places during childhood camping trips. He says, “I fell in love with soils later when I learned that they are the most important part of these beautiful and fascinating ecosystems. There wouldn't be a forest or wetland to camp in without the soil beneath the landscape.”

    In addition to his scientific research at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) and his role in international blue carbon working groups, Pat is also committed to public education.

    As a way of sharing his passion for soils with a broad audience, he was lead curator for Dig It! The Secrets of Soil, at the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), which was on display at NMNH before beginning a major U.S. tour.

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