Cheryl L Morrison, Ph.D.



Dr. Morrison is a research geneticist at the USGS Leetown Science Center, National Fish Health Research Laboratory in Leetown, WV. Her research involves the application of conservation genetics and genomics techniques to species at risk. Dr. Morrison has worked on a variety of species at risk from aquatic habitats such as freshwater rivers (Atlantic salmon, darters and mussels), deep-sea corals and associated invertebrates (such as squat lobsters), and cold seep habitats (mussels). Ongoing studies include: invasion genetics of giant African land snails; bioassay development to determine sub-lethal stress in corals; and high throughput sequencing to examine the molecular evolution of a herpesvirus that affects sea turtles.


  • Ph.D. 1997, Florida State University

  • B.S., 1991, University of North Carolina, Wilmington, Major: Marine Biology

Current Position

Dr. Morrison is a principal investigator for multiple studies that aim to describe biodiversity, assess taxonomic status, define units of conservation, and determine dispersal pathways of marine invertebrates and invasive species. A focus of Dr. Morrison’s research has been the description of biodiversity and connectivity in vulnerable deep-sea ecosystems on the U.S. continental slope. Such ecosystems remain poorly characterized, yet are vulnerable to natural and anthropogenic disturbances. Studies of genetic connectivity among populations of dominant, habitat-forming coral species may inform marine spatial planning for effective stewardship of natural resources.

Previous Positions

  • Geneticist, USGS Leetown Science Center (2006-2010)
  • Biologist, USGS Leetown Science Center (2002-2006)
  • Post-doctoral Research Associate, Aquaculture Genetics and Breeding Technology Center, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William and Mary (2000-2001)
  • Post-doctoral Research Associate, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William and Mary (1999-2000)
  • Post-doctoral Research Associate, Duke University (1997-1999)


  • The U.S. Department of the Interior's Partnership Conservation Award, 2007 (Chemo III Study: Investigations of Chemosynthetic Communities on the Lower Continental Slope of the Gulf of Mexico)
  • The National Oceanographic Partnership Program’s Excellence in Partnering for 2011 (Lophelia II Study: Exploration and Research of Northern Gulf of Mexico Deepwater Natural and Artificial Hard Bottom Habitats with Emphasis on Coral Communities: Reefs, Rigs and Wrecks).  See:
  • U.S. Department of the Interior's Partners in Conservation Award 2013 (Mid-Atlantic Canyons Study).