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Jonathan Lefcheck

Research Scientist, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Smithsonian Institution

Jon is the Tennenbaum Coordinating Scientist for the MarineGEO network. His role is to facilitate science within the network, analyze and publish on data collected as part of MarineGEO activities, and work closely with partners to develop new ideas and experiments.

Broadly, Jon uses experimentation, observation, and synthesis to answer questions about how biodiversity is changing and what that means for the world’s oceans. He is particularly interested in how different components of biodiversity—for example, the traits of organisms or their evolutionary history—might improve our understanding of biodiversity’s effects on coastal ecosystems. He has worked in a wide variety of habitats, including seagrasses, coral and oyster reefs, and deep-sea hydrothermal vents. Jon also develops new statistical methods, principally structural equation modeling. He maintains an open-source package for the statistical software R called piecewiseSEM that implements new advances in this technique.

Before coming to the Smithsonian, he was a post-doctoral researcher at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in East Boothbay, ME, and at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science in Gloucester Point, VA. While in Virginia, Jon synthesized 30 years of monitoring data of underwater grasses in Chesapeake Bay to show one of the greatest recoveries of coastal habitats in recent history. His work has been covered by the Washington Post, New York Times, NPR, and National Geographic.


  • –present
    Research Scientist, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Smithsonian Institution