Patrick Megonigal

Patrick Megonigal

Senior Scientist and Associate Director of Research

647 Contees Wharf Road

Edgewater, MD 21037

Phone: 301-412-0629
Photo of Patrick Megonigal
Research Disciplines: Biogeochemistry | Ecology | Wetlands

Research Interests

Carbon and greenhouse gas cycling in wetlands and forests, plant-microbe processes and interactions that regulate methane dynamics, the stability of tidal wetlands faced with accelerated sea level rise, the responses of wetlands to elevated carbon dioxide, warming, nitrogen eutrophication, and invasive species.

Educational Background

  • 1982 B.S. in Biology from Old Dominion University
  • 1986 M.S. in Biology from Old Dominion University
  • 1996 Ph.D. in Botany from Duke University

Biographical Sketch

Dr. Megonigal is an ecosystem ecologist with research interests in carbon and greenhouse gas cycling in wetlands and forests, particularly as they relate to global change. As Lead Investigator of the Smithsonian’s Global Change Research wetland, Dr. Megonigal directs long-term research programs focused on the stability of tidal wetlands faced with accelerated sea level rise, as Director of the Coastal Carbon Research Coordination Network he is organizing a global research community to advance the pace of discovery in coastal wetland carbon  research and application. Dr. Megonigal is Curator of the traveling exhibit Dig It! The Secrets of Soils.

Ongoing and Recent CESU Research

Tidal Wetland Responses to Climate Change. Four long-term experiments and a wide variety of allied mesocosm and field studies at the Global Change Research Wetland (GCReW) facility. Collectively these studies investigate plant-microbe interactions that govern tidal wetland responses to global change to inform and improve forecast models ranging from local to global scales.

Coastal Carbon Network. The Coastal Wetland Carbon Research Coordination Network seeks to accelerate the pace of scientific discovery, advance science-informed policy, and improve coastal ecosystem management. The goals are to: (1) develop an engaged, interactive, international community of research scientists and practitioners to leverage coastal wetland carbon science for basic research, policy development, and management, (2) deepen our understanding of the ecological coupling that links coastal wetlands to estuaries and the atmosphere, and (3) provide access to data and analysis tools that support the diverse needs of scientists, policy makers and managers. A central activity has been to develop an online interactive data portal where the community can discover, download, and use coastal wetland data. The portal presently includes over 4,000 soil profiles.

Methane Emissions from Trees. Forests are ubiquitous features that appear in global methane budgets as either sinks (upland forests) or sources (wetland forests). It was recently discovered that trees produce or transport methane and are generally sources in both upland and wetland environments. Understanding the processes that govern methane dynamics in trees is a focus of several SERC-based projects intended to improve Earth System Models.

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