About Field Sites
Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) is a terrestrial NEON field site located in Anne Arundel county, Maryland on the Rhode River, a sub-estuary of the Chesapeake Bay. The 10.7 km2 (2650 acre) site is encompassed within and hosted by The Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, a research and educational center run by the Smithsonian Institution. This site is located within NEON's Mid-Atlantic Domain (D02), a densely populated region bounded by the Atlantic Ocean on the east and stretching down the Eastern Seaboard from southern New Jersey to northern Georgia. The Mid-Atlantic Domain includes two other terrestrial sites and two aquatic sites.   
The climate here is temperate and humid, with annual average minimum temperatures of 5-10°C (41-50°F) and average annual maximum temperatures of 16-21°C (61-70°F). Temperatures can often reach 32-35°C (90-95°F) during the hot and humid summer months. In winter, temperatures routinely fall below freezing. The average annual temperature is 13.6°C (56.5°F). On average, this location gets a total of 1075mm (42 in.) of precipitation annually.  
The Smithsonian Environmental Research Center is located on the Nanjemoy Formation, consisting of sand, clay, and mud. The parent material at SERC is primarily fluvial marine deposits associated with a near-shore environment of the late Cretaceous seas, but there are some areas of alluvium and loess that overlie some of the fluvial marine deposits. Glauconite is a common mineral found at the site.  
The major soil series found at SERC include Adelphia, Dodon, Cumberstone, Sassafras, Mattapex, Donlonton, Collington, Holmdel, Annapolis, Wist, Sharptown, Marr, Woodstown, and Hurlock. The parent material at SERC is primarily fluvial marine deposits with some areas of overlying alluvium and loess. Landforms at SERC include backslopes, footslopes, shoulders, summits, and toeslopes, which are consistent with uplands and hills. 
Anne Arundel County, Maryland is partially included in the larger Patuxent watershed which flows into the Chesapeake Bay. The other part of the county belongs to smaller watersheds that drain directly into the Chesapeake Bay. These watersheds are the South River, Rhode, and West River watersheds.  
The SERC site’s land is dominated by coastal hardwood forests, encompassing varying habitat types including terrestrial, estuarine, and wetland habitats. Dominant vegetation within the hardwood forests include tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), American beech (Fagus grandifolia), and American sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua). Cropland also covers a large portion of the landscape. 
Fauna native to the Mid-Atlantic region that encompasses SERC includes red fox (Vulpes vulpes), white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), raccoon (Procyon lotor), osprey (Pandion haliaetus), and American beaver (Castor canadensis). 
Past Land Management and Use
The Smithsonian Environmental Research Center has a complex history that spans over 50 years. In 1962, a Maryland dairy farmer named Robert Lee Forest left his 368-acre farm and other holdings to the Smithsonian Institution in his will. The old farm and holdings along the Rhode river were converted into a biological field site and, in 1965, the Chesapeake Bay Center for Field Biology was established. With an influx of grant money, in 1969 the Smithsonian purchased even more land, bringing the total acreage of the site to 933. Soon after, the center converted an old cow barn from Forest’s original farm into laboratories and a dormitory, establishing the center’s first on-site facilities. In 1970, the center’s name was changed to the Chesapeake Bay Center for Environmental Studies (CBCES) and research activities began to expand. The Smithsonian acquired even more land, increasing the size of the site to a total of 1800 acres, then began building new onsite facilities to support their work. In the 1980s, in addition to their research, the center officially established educational programs for both scientists and the public. In 1985, the center was renamed the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC). SERC continued diversifying and expanding its research activities and now works both locally and globally on important conservation issues. Today, the SERC site is 2650 acres, is home to numerous labs and state-of-the-art facilities, and continues to support a wide array of research and educational programs. 
Current Land Management and Use
The Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) is a research and educational institution based in Anne Arundel County, Maryland on the Chesapeake Bay. Established in 1965, the center conducts research in a variety of different areas, with an emphasis on understanding and conserving coastal ecosystems. SERC works both locally and globally on issues such as fisheries conservation, water quality, land use, and invasive species. In addition to its research, SERC provides environmental educational programs for K-12 students. 
NEON Site Establishment
Plot establishment for NEON’s SERC site was completed in April 2015. The site’s Initial Operations Capability/Capacity Review (IOCR), or when operations were officially approved to start, was June 2015 for terrestrial sampling. The site’s IOCR for tower operations was February 2016.
 Minogue, K. (2014, November 13). About Us. Retrieved from https://serc.si.edu/about-us.
 Terrestrial Observation System (TOS) Site Characterization Report: Domain 02. (NEON Doc. #: NEON.DOC.003886)
 Taylor, G., Marshall, B., Verdone, D. (2016) NEON Site-Level Plot Summary Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC). Retrieved from https://data.neonscience.org/documents/10179/2361410/SERC_Soil_Site+Sum…
 U.S. Geological Survey, 2005, Mineral Resources Data System: U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, Virginia. Retrieved from https://mrdata.usgs.gov/mrds/
 Blair, Ryan. (n.d.). Watershed Studies. Retrieved from https://www.aacounty.org/departments/public-works/wprp/watershed-assess…
 Chesapeake Bay Foundation. (n.d.). Major River Watersheds of the Chesapeake Bay. Retrieved from https://www.cbf.org/about-the-bay/maps/geography/major-river-watersheds….
 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (n.d.). U.S. Climate Atlas, National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI). Retrieved from https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/climateatlas/.
 Maryland Department of Natural Resources. (n.d.) Mammals. Retrieved from https://dnr.maryland.gov/wildlife/Pages/plants_wildlife/Mammals.aspx.
 Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. (2014, June 10). History. Retrieved from https://serc.si.edu/history
 PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, http://prism.oregonstate.edu, created 4 Feb 2004.
Remote sensing surveys of this field site collect lidar, spectrometer and high-resolution RGB camera data.
This site has a flux/meteorological tower that is 62 m (203 ft) tall with six measurement levels. The tower top extends above the vegetation canopy to allow sensors mounted at the top and along the tower to capture the full profile of atmospheric conditions from the top of the vegetation canopy to the ground. The tower collects physical and chemical properties of atmosphere-related processes, such as humidity, wind, and net ecosystem gas exchange. Precipitation data are collected by a tipping bucket at the top of the tower and a series of throughfalls located in the soil array.
One phenocam is attached to the top and the bottom of the tower. Here we show the images from the most recent hour. The full collection of images can be viewed on the Phenocam Gallery - click on either of the images below.
Soil Sensor Measurements
This site has five soil plots placed in an array within the airshed of the flux tower. Photosynthetically Active Radiation (PAR) at soil surface, soil heat flux, solar radiation, and throughfall are measured at the soil surface in each soil plot. Soil moisture, soil temperature, and CO2 concentration are measured at multiple depths in each soil plot.
At terrestrial sites, field ecologists observe birds and plants, and sample ground beetles, mosquitoes, small mammals, soil microbes, and ticks. Lab analyses are carried out to provide further data on DNA sequences, pathogens, soils, sediments, and biogeochemistry. Learn more about terrestrial observations or explore this site's data products.
Field Site Data
Site Access Allowed
Site Access Details
Some areas of the site have pre-existing experiments and a high density of markers, equipment, sensors etc. Care should be taken to coordinate and avoid impacting on-going work at the site. All researchers must be accompanied while on-site by at least one individual with an approved Visiting Scientist Agreement. Annual hunting activities may render this area completely inaccessible for short periods of time (1 or 2 days) over the course of the season.
NEON Field Operations Office
Domain 02 Support Facility
NEON Field Operations Address
1500 Remount Road
MRC 5560, Bldg 90
Front Royal, VA 22630
NEON Field Operations Phone
Mean Annual Temperature
Mean Annual Precipitation
Dominant Wind Direction
Mean Canopy Height
Dominant NLCD Classes
Cultivated Crops, Deciduous Forest
Average number of green days
Average first greenness increase date
Average peak green date
Average first greenness decrease date
Average minimum greenness date
Number of Tower Levels
USGS Geology Unit
USGS Geology Name
Pamunkey Group; Nanjemoy Formation
USGS Lithologic Constituents
Dark green to gray, argillaceous, glauconitic, fine- to medium-grained sand; minor gray to pale brown clay; total thickness 0 to 125 feet; Marlboro Clay member at base: Pink to gray, homogeneous plastic clay with local lenses of very fine-grained white sand; thickness 0 to 30 feet; present west of Chesapeake Bay only; total thickness 0 to 125 feet.
USGS Geology Age
Megapit Soil Family
Fine-loamy - mixed - active - mesic Aquic Hapludults
Related Field Sites
Other Domain D02 Field Sites