Savannah River Ecology Laboratory

Opportunities for field research

The SRS offers:
•    Landscape scale: 803 km2
•    Diversity of ecosystems
•    Natural and impacted areas
•    Well-characterized habitats
•    Long history of research
•    Protected access
•    30 Research Set-Aside Areas

Since 1951 the Savannah River Site (SRS) has served as an invaluable outdoor laboratory for SREL scientists and colleagues. The geographic diversity of the SRS offers visiting researchers many opportunities to study human influences on ecosystems, or natural ecological processes. Researchers may also benefit from SREL's variety of long term and historical data sets (described below). For additional information about field research opportunities at the SRS, contact Margaret Wead at 803.725.5733 or email wead(at)

Habitat diversity on the SRS. Greens = loblolly (Pinus taeda) and slash (P. elliottii) pine forests; light blues = longleaf pine (P. palustris) forests; oranges/reds = upland hardwoods; pink/violet = forested wetlands; dark blue = water.

SRS vegetation map

Ninety percent (~720km2) of the site is not impacted by SRS operations. These natural areas encompass a diversity of Upper Coastal Plain ecosystems, from floodplain forests to fall-line sandhills, blackwater streams, upland hardwoods, pine forests, old fields, and over 300 geographically isolated wetlands. Some areas are managed for forestry or wildlife by USDA Forest Service and SC Department of Natural Resources. Other areas (~7% of SRS) are maintained exclusively for non-manipulative research as part of the DOE Research Set-Aside Program. The DOE Set-Aside Program was officially initiated in 1972, although some of these areas were designated as SREL research reserves prior to then. Information on soils, vegetation, sensitive species, site history/influences, and research history are readily available for each Set-Aside.

Researchers interested in human effects on ecosystems may study both chemical and radiological contaminants in some of SREL's other permitted research sites. SREL currently has ~75 permitted field sites across the SRS, including the 30 DOE Set-Asides. Some of these areas have been studied for decades.



SREL's research archive currently contains data from over 500 studies, many of which were conducted on the SRS. Some examples of data sets include soil, groundwater, and contaminant studies; Carolina bay hydrology; GIS land use and vegetation layers; population dynamics of herpetofauna; population dynamics and toxicology of fish; numbers and radionuclide distribution of overwintering waterfowl; deer herds; furbearers; vegetation. Many additional datasets are maintained by the individual investigators. In all cases, decisions about releasing data to third parties remain with the individual investigators.