The Botany of Desire (And How I Got Hooked on Native Orchids), Webinar, August 20th

Photo: Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

Tuesday, August 20, 2024
7 pm
Webinar by Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
Register here.

How do plants make a living? That question has propelled botanist Dennis Whigham for his nearly 47-year career with the Smithsonian. Orchids were especially bewitching. Join Dennis for a journey of discovery through the orchid world. He’ll take you from their unlikely beginnings as “dust seeds,” to the microscopic fungi they depend on to thrive, to their quirky—or downright sneaky—strategies to get pollinated. He’ll also reveal some of the most shocking discoveries, including the realization that more than half our continent’s native orchids are in trouble. Discover how stewards across the continent are rallying to save native orchids through the North American Orchid Conservation Center, and what you can do to help ensure their survival.

Allies in Amphibian Conservation: Leveraging Partners for Success, Webinar, July 16th

Photo: SERC

Tuesday, July 16, 2024
7 pm
Hosted by Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC)
Register here.

From frogs to salamanders, amphibians are secretive but essential to our health and the function our ecosystems. But despite their critical role, amphibians are facing a crisis: Over 40% are threatened with extinction. How can we reduce that loss? Join Kerry Wixted with the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies as SERC dives into the fascinating world of amphibian biodiversity in the eastern United States, a global amphibian hotspot. Learn about the alarming threats amphibians face, from habitat loss to climate change and disease, as well as rays of hope. Kerry will cover the inspiring efforts of Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (PARC) and their dedicated partner network working at local, regional, and national levels to combat these threats and ensure a future for our amphibians.

What a Warming World Means for Plants, Pests and Pollinators, webinar, June 18th

Photo: Courtesy of SERC

Tuesday, June 18, 2024
7 pm
Register here.

How will a hotter planet reshape the insect world? In the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) June evening webinar, join entomologist and author Michael Raupp for a look at the future of insects, both pests and pollinators. He will reveal how climate change is shifting weather patterns around the globe, and what that means for insects and mites in the mid-Atlantic. Learn how rising temperatures impact insect abundance, distributions, seasonal behaviors and the web of interactions among plants, herbivores and their natural enemies.

Michael Raupp

Professor Emeritus·University of Maryland

Mike is professor emeritus at the University of Maryland. He has received more than a dozen international, national and regional awards for writing, scholarship and scientific outreach. Mike has appeared on major television and radio networks in this country and several abroad, and been featured in National Geographic Ultimate Explorer, Science Channel and PBS. He has appeared with luminaries including Jay Leno, Hoda Kotb and Robin Roberts. His “Bug of the Week” website,, and Youtube channel ( reach tens of thousands of viewers weekly in more than 200 countries around the world. His most recent book, “26 Things That Bug Me,” introduces youngsters to the wonders of insects and natural history, while “Managing Insect and Mites on Woody Plants” is a standard for the arboricultural industry.

How a Return to Tribal Management is Restoring Landscapes, Webinar, May 21st

Photo courtesy of SERC

Tuesday, May 21, 2024
7 pm
Register here.

Tribal people have lived in North America for at least 10,000 years, shaping how the landscape evolved and functioned. During that time, they developed cultures and traditions that stressed the obligation tribal people had to the foods, medicines, and places that sustained and defined their way of life. However, disease and settlement disrupted the balance, replacing it with the extractive management approach that has dominated the landscape for the past three centuries. On May 21, discover how a return to tribal practices can help restore that balance. Cody Desautel, executive director of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation in northern Washington State, hosts our next Life on a Sustainable Planet webinar. He’ll reveal how the last 50 years have seen a resurgence of tribal self-determination, and how indigenous knowledge is helping reestablish healthy relationships between people and the land.

Discover stories of hope and resilience every month, at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center’s (SERC) free webinar series! SERC’s monthly science talks highlight the research and conservation that are leading us to a more sustainable future, featuring scientists from the Smithsonian and around the world. They air on Zoom every third Tuesday of the month at 7pm Eastern, January through October, unless otherwise noted. All of their talks are recorded. By signing up online, you’ll be able to watch live and receive a link to the recording after the event. Closed captions available at the event and on the recordings.

View recordings and slides from their past years here.

The Hidden Worlds Within Ice Sheets and Glaciers, March 19th

Photo: Mouth of the Matanuska Glacier in Alaska (Richard Moore, CC-3.0-BY-SA)

Tuesday, March 19, 2024
7 pm
Sign up on Zoom to watch live or on-demand

The world’s ice sheets and glaciers are melting at unprecedented rates. Meanwhile, one of our best tools to quantify what’s happening beneath the surface remains largely untapped. Geophysicist Dustin Schroeder specializes in ice-penetrating radar: a powerful technique for studying ice sheets and glaciers on Earth and other planetary bodies. In this webinar, he will explore the hidden interiors of ice sheets through radar images and radar sounding data. When brought to their full potential, these tools can help us zero in on some of the most urgent questions surrounding Earth’s ice sheets and glaciers: How do they flow? What controls their behavior, evolution, and stability? And how will they impact sea level rise?

View more SERC Life on a Sustainable Planet webinars

Climate Extremes: What’s the Forecast for Invasive Species?, Webinar, January 16th

Photo: Julia Blum

Tuesday, January 16, 2024
7 pm
Register here.

As the planet heats up, non-native species all over the U.S. are pushing north to follow the warmer weather. But the simple narrative doesn’t end there. Dr. Andy Chang, lead marine biologist for Smithsonian Environmental Research Center’s California branch, has tracked the movement of species introduced by human activity to San Francisco Bay and the California coast for the past two decades. In addition to northward and upstream migrations in warmer years, his team has also noticed species getting wiped out in years of intense rainfall. In this talk, he’ll reveal how climate change and extreme weather like droughts and floods are changing the seascape for invaders. He’ll also highlight how countries can use this knowledge to help stop nascent invasions before they get a foothold, in San Francisco Bay, Chesapeake Bay and around the world.

The Mysterious Migrations of Cownose Rays, webinar September 19th

Photo: SERC

Tuesday, September 19, 2023
7 pm
Zoom, hosted by SERC

Register here.

Cownose rays are enigmatic, and sometimes controversial, summertime inhabitants of Chesapeake Bay. Smithsonian Environmental Research Center’s Fisheries Conservation Lab has been tagging cownose rays and tracking their long-distance migrations since 2014. On Sept. 19 Dr. Matt Ogburn, head of the Fisheries Conservation Lab, will reveal some of the discoveries from this 9-year tracking effort. Their studies have uncovered the rays’ overwintering habitat, documented the different migration patterns of males and females, and revealed the environmental cues that help rays know when to start migrating. These findings are helping support conservation and management of this often misunderstood and overlooked stingray.

This webinar will be recorded! Closed captioning will be available during the live event and on the recording. By signing up on Zoom, you’ll be able to join live and receive a link to the recording approximately one week after it airs.

Hope for Humpbacks, webinar July 19th

Photo:  Pacific Whale Foundation

Tuesday, July 19, 2022
7 pm
Register here.

Biologist Stephanie Stack from the Pacific Whale Foundation will share tales from her 10 years of research on humpback whales. Humpback whales are a conservation success story, having largely recovered from the threat of commercial whaling, but they still need our help. Stephanie will discuss the most urgent threats to whales today, why whales are critical for a healthy ocean, and the actions needed to protect these ocean giants.

This is a Smithsonian Environmental Research Center monthly science talk from the Virtual Earth Optimism lecture series.

Advancing Equity in Urban Greenspace, webinar June 21st

Tuesday, June 21, 2022
7 pm
Register here.

Join the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center at their next Earth Optimism webinar and hear from Atiya Wells, founder of the nonprofit Backyard Basecamp in Baltimore City. Atiya will highlight the importance of equity in landscape design, creation and community cultivation. With the Bliss Meadows project, Backyard Basecamp has reclaimed 10 acres of vacant land in their neighborhood to be used for environmental education and community greenspace, and to help communities of color reconnect with nature.


Spring Spectacles: When & Where to Find Jaw-Dropping Birds, Blooms & Beasts in the Mid-Atlantic, March 15th

Photo (c) Barbara J. Saffir

Tuesday, March 15, 2022
7 – 8 pm
Register here.

Learn when and where to find some of the Mid-Atlantic’s most jaw-dropping plant and animal life, with nature photographer and Virginia Master Naturalist Barbara Saffir. In this joyful spring jaunt, she’ll reveal wildflowers worthy of Monet; a bounty of beasts; and close-up encounters with cobalt-blue, sunflower-yellow and ruby-red breeding birds that visit the DMV each spring. More than half of this “virtual safari” will focus on birds, with award-winning photographs of migratory and resident birds that capture their cool behaviors. Other animals and wildflowers will also make an appearance. You’ll learn about curious critters—such as backyard squirrels that “fly” and dazzling bugs typically overlooked by their human neighbors—and wildflower spectacles, including acres of blush-pink blossoms; pink, yellow, and purple native orchids; and miles of perky bluebells meandering along curving creeks.

This webinar will be recorded! By signing up on Zoom, you’ll be able to watch the live event and receive a link to the recording a few days after it airs. Closed captioning will be available at the live webinar and on the recording. The Earth Optimism lecture series through the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) airs live on Zoom every third Tuesday of the month.

See more past and upcoming SERC science talks.