History of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC)

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  • This five-article series is a history of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC). SERC originated in 1965 as the Chesapeake Bay Center for Field Biology at a site that had been bequeathed earlier to the Smithsonian Institution. Departing Secretary Leonard Carmichael had considered selling the property in 1964, but incoming Secretary S. Dillon Ripley urged formation of a committee to evaluate potential uses by the Smithsonian. Various suggestions were offered, but a decision was made to keep the area, which had a wide variety of habitats suitable for terrestrial, wetland and estuarine field biology, as a site for field collecting trips by scientists from universities and government agencies, as well as the Smithsonian.
  • Dr. Francis Williamson was SERC's director from 1968 until 1976 and led initiatives in three areas: facilities development and land acquisition/protection, research program and staff development, and educational programs, including a very successful Work/Learn internship program. Growth in the Center's research program and its staff dominated the latter part of the 1970's; following some organizational turmoil in the early 1980's, SERC shifted its focus to public education programs while still conducting unique research on how humans affect coastal ecosystems.


  • Williamson, Francis
  • Ripley, Sidney Dillon 1913-2001
  • Carmichael, Leonard 1898-1973
  • Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC)


Smithsonian Institution History Bibliography


A series of five articles published in separate Newsletter editions comprise this SERC history. The author became SERC Director in 1985.

Contained within

On the Rhode Vol. 1, Nos. 1 & 2; Vol. 2, Nos. 1, 2/3 & 4 (Newsletter)

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20024-2520, SIHistory@si.edu


Summer 1991; Fall 1991; Winter 1992; Spring/Summer 1992; Fall/Winter 1992/93


  • Education
  • Secretaries
  • Smithsonian Institution
  • Personnel management
  • Employees
  • Ecology
  • Environmental research
  • Environmental education
  • Smithsonian Institution--Employees

Physical description

pgs. 1 & 12; pgs. 1 & 7; pgs. 1 & 10-11; pgs. 1 & 10; pgs. 1 & 5

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